Pollinating Change: Beekeeping, Youth and Social Innovation in Jamaica



For this month’s Startup profile, we highlight the work of Honai Beez Apiary in Jamaica. Honai Beez Apiary is part of UNLEASH, a global innovation program for the SDGs – and a collaboration and network partner of HelloScience.


What problem(s) or challenge(s) is Honai Beez Apiary working to solve? How are you innovating to solve those challenges?

Honai Beez Apiary is approaching the challenges of:

1. Bee foraging space reduction caused deforestation in two ways:

(a) replanting trees where and when it can in both urban and rural areas through the creation of greenspaces. (b) educating the Jamaican society about biodiversity and the roles of both pollinators (bees) and forestry whether it be urban or rural. This includes providing beekeeping training to young people.

2. Reducing timber and production time waste in the bee hive making process by:

(a) utilizing digitized beehive designs and CNC-Routers to precision cut the hives out of a single sheet of ply in a matter of hours where it would otherwise take a full 1-2 days and 2 plywoods sheets worth of timber.
(b) utilizing bamboo ply instead of timber due the 4-5 year maturity time of bamboo vs the 15-30 year maturity time based on the species being used. The added benefit is bamboo used from a managed plantation sequester twice the amount of carbon vs its counterpart in a managed timber forest and one does not kill the entire bamboo colm in the harvest, just the mature section vs cutting an entire tree which permanently stops its carbon sequestration due to the death of the tree and wasting and release of carbon due to discarding the unsuitable sections.

3. Jamaica’s youth unemployment rate has averaged around 33% over the past decade. Young people in Jamaica both qualified and unqualified are finding it harder to find jobs and thus have adopted unsustainable environmental practices similar to their parents. Which is why Honai Beez Apiary is creating a sustainable beekeeping training programme targeting young people ages 18-35 years old. Honai Beez Apiary was able to pilot the beekeeping training in partnership with 22 students at The Village Academy School of Agriculture who were from low income homes, young persons who may have come in conflict with the law and wards of the state in transition from state care.

Honai Beez Apiary works at a unique intersection of both social and environmental challenges – trying to create a holistic approach to respond to climate issues, that rejuvenates urban areas and engages youth in the process. How do you see the connection between the social and environmental aspects of innovating around climate issues? What is the importance of engaging youth in these processes and what change do you hope to see brought about through engaging youth in this way?

“The protection of the environment will alleviate the social ills associated with pests, diseases, and disasters such as pandemics, strife and famine. It is important to engage youth in environmental issues as it is the future of youth and children that will be lost if we do not address the environmental issues of today.”

Innovations that protect our ecosystems and our climate will protect our food systems ensuring food security, water security, and sanitation. The protection of the environment will alleviate the social ills associated with pests, diseases, and disasters such as pandemics, strife and famine. It is important to engage youth in environmental issues as it is the future of youth and children that will be lost if we do not address the environmental issues of today. The decision of each to bring each child into the world was made by their parents and it is up to the current generations to leave the next with a livable world to live in including the youth themselves.

I hope that by engaging youth today, that we have a higher degree of equitable access to social funding for young people and those who would employ youth (including those outside the scope of being youth) to start their own eco-business, a restoration of the earth’s biodiversity especially in SIDs countries and fragile ecosystems, a higher number of start-up social enterprises, a more realistic and equitable valuation of ecosystems and its contribution to maintaining society and attitude change in how we handle our natural resources.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for creating entrepreneurial collaborations at the intersections of biodiversity, climate and youth empowerment? Are there any specific areas where you are interested in exploring collaborations with Honai Beez Apiary that others in the HelloScience ecosystem (startups, researchers, corporations, etc) might be able to support you?

There are a few big areas that provide opportunities for creating entrepreneurial collaborations at the intersections of biodiversity, climate and youth empowerment. These include:

1. Possibly creating a sustainable development fund for social enterprises, eco-businesses and youth development programmes, which can use a results based financing approach to continually assess the efficacy of the fund.

2. Creating or assisting in the creation of makers-spaces or fablab type incubators spaces that targets micro, small,medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), Social Enterprises and Eco-businesses to help them prototype their products, build out their businesses.

3. Looking at sustainable consumption and production mechanisms to what currently exist today such as alternative climate smart materials that do not contribute to biodiversity loss. Example: replacing timber with bamboo for furniture, beehive and housing construction.

4. Creating environmental skills training programmes where the curriculum includes a similar methodology to the Unleash innovations lab process but with content around 4 main pillars, Biodiversity, Climate/Atmosphere, Earth and Oceans with an overall combined umbrella of conservation, sustainable consumption and production.

The type of collaboration with Hello Science that would enhance my work through Honai Beez Apiary that I am hoping is possible includes:

1. Accessing a FabLab/makerspace to help me create a digital design of a Langstroth Hive in .dxf format that can be used to produce hives here locally.

2. Creating other alternative types of beehives in the same .dxf format

3. Gaining access or being connected to funding where I can build out a local CNC-Router workshop that is fuelled by the power of the sun.

4. Further building out the beekeeping training into a training kit inclusive of a beekeeping work/resource book, powerpoint training/student interactive training manual/textbook and a ToT training manual that is based on scientific research.

5. Creating a communication plan which also details the brand and story of Honai Beez Apiary.

6. Being connected to an affordable supplier of bamboo ply as the Bamboo industry in Jamaica is just being developed in Jamaica, spearheaded by Bureau of Standards Jamaica and the Bamboo Industry Association of Jamaica.

7. I want to be able to design and protocol for safe urban beekeeping based on scientific data.

I would eventually be able to include science based research through Honai Beez Apiary as a beekeeping social enterprise at some point because research in the apiculture industry in Jamaica is extremely low.

The SDGs have a target of being reached by the year 2030. What would you like to see achieved by 2030, in terms of biodiversity, climate and the environment? What change are you aiming to create through Honai Beez Apiary by 2030?

“For Honai Beez Apiary’s role I would love to be able to eventually create a pollinator friendly eco-village that uses both contemporary technology and old school permaculture and agro-biodiversity/agro-forerstry techniques”

For Jamaica I would love to see an expansion of our forests stock island wide,a greening of our urban areas, reduction of flash floods and droughts, Jamaica and the world adopting ecosystem based adaptation approaches to disaster prevention and ecosystem based designing of our urban centers and rural spaces especially with regards to our infrastructures and building.

For Honai Beez Apiary’s role I would love to be able to eventually create a pollinator friendly eco-village that uses both contemporary technology and old school permaculture and agro-biodiversity/agro-forerstry techniques (good agricultural practices) that showcases sustainable living with beekeeping at the heart of rebuilding biodiversity and reducing climate impact.

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