By Celso Roger Baldo

WAIPA, Cambridge – As the beekeeping season comes to an end for most beekeepers working in Aotearoa it is also time for them to reflect on how they can pay it forward to their communities.

Alumni members from the Beekeeping Research and Services Center of the Saint Louis University Extension Institute for Small-Scale Industries Foundation, Inc. in Baguio City, the Philippines, came together recently to support the on-going projects of their Alma Mater.

BRSC-SLU-EISS is a foundation that has been honing the skills of beekeepers in the Cordillera and other regions of the country for the past 20 years.

One of the foundation’s projects includes erecting wall retainers and making structural repairs to the training centre and apiary site to provide more space for future beekeepers to conduct demonstrations and on the job training.

Future projects include the widening of the woodwork area, the planting of bee friendly plants,  and increasing and upgrading carpentry tools and equipment, thereby enhancing the trainees’ knowledge and skills.

In a text interview Edmund Benavidez, Director of the Foundation relayed that “the Foundation is not currently in a position to fund the project itself because of financial constraints caused by the current pandemic”.

He appealed to the Alumni for their voluntary donations to advance the cause of the Foundation as well as to engage in a continuing partnership.

He also thanked all the beekeepers and hoped that they will continue to be blessed and stay safe amidst this lingering pandemic.

Vincent Mayaen, who is the Queen Breeding Team Leader of Settlers Honey, based in Taranaki, is responding to the appeal of the Alumni by creating a group chat.

“There are about 140 beekeepers who either graduated from or have an affiliation with the institution. They are grateful for their opportunity to work overseas because of the knowledge, skills and experience they gained from the beekeeping centre,” he said.

“It was in the training centre where we learned most about keeping bees, thus it’s our time to pay it forward through our financial aid,” he exhorted.

An initial amount of 111,000 pesos (and counting) was donated by beekeepers from different companies working here in Aotearoa.

Mateo Magno Jr., who is also with Settlers Honey, set up a bank account and arranged for the transfer of the money collected for the foundation to kick start the project.

Meanwhile, as the season is ending and travel restrictions are still in place because of the pandemic, most beekeepers have to stay put and continue exploring the beauty New Zealand has to offer.

Some activities to look forward to are attending the National Beekeepers Conference from June 24 to 26 at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre, participating in the local sports league, sea fishing, mountain biking and going around tourist spots.

It goes without saying that the beekeepers will also be in close contact (virtually) with their families way back home.