Haitian beekeeper learns from Salt Spring trip

Hives for Haiti group aims to empower community through women

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The dream of self-sufficiency is one step closer for Salt Spring Island-based NGO Hives for Haiti, as a Haitian beekeeper and partner in the organization visiting Salt Spring learns advanced beekeeping techniques, business and communication skills to bring back home.

Maxence Perpignand has been living with Salt Spring beekeeper David MacDonald since July 24. Perpignand has learned advanced beekeeping skills like queen rearing, which he will bring back to Haiti at the end of the month. Perpignand will then teach other Haitian beekeepers the skills with the goal of building beekeeping as a national industry in the Caribbean nation.

“What I’m learning right now is going to be extremely valuable when I go back to Haiti,” Perpignand said. “Our goal is to turn beekeeping into a great tool for community development . . . The honey, that is important, but there are other products that come from bees that we can use. We want to turn that into a national industry. Bees, pollen, royal jelly, propolis, we want that to happen.”

Perpignand started working with Hives for Haiti three years ago after learning about the group while working with another NGO. He has visited Salt Spring before, when he stayed with MacDonald and learned more basic techniques. After his visit, Perpignand will bring home skills like PowerPoint, which will help with presentations and lessons for other beekeepers, and Excel, to assist with bookkeeping and the business side of things.

MacDonald started Hives for Haiti in 2012 after he and Brian Coombs travelled to the country to give assistance after the 2010 earthquake. MacDonald’s experience in beekeeping gave him the idea to promote the practice as a way to build local resilience in the country. Since then, MacDonald has been running the entire operation from Canada, but he would like to change that.

“I think we are on the way towards independence,” Perpignand added. “David has been working really hard to help us understand the whole of it, not only keeping bees, but also knowing how to deal with people, to do administration so when he’s not there with us, we can move on by ourselves.”

Hives for Haiti has been focused on building skills with local people in Haiti. They have been particularly interested in empowering local women. Perpignand explained that women are the backbone of Haitian society, and that with skills and wherewithal to work for themselves, the women will in turn empower the whole community.

“If they start keeping bees, selling honey, processing wax and doing any other things that have to do with bees, it will not only help them but help the children. In fact, it’s going to impact the whole community. When you empower women, you empower the whole community,” Perpignand added.

For more on this story, see the August 14, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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