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Bees in Syria: More than honey, hope

A Syrian beekeeper rebuilds his life and business thanks to WFP’s beekeeping programme.
, Hussam Al Saleh

A Syrian beekeeper rebuilds his life and business thanks to WFP's beekeeping programme.

Six years ago, Adnan Al-Outani owned land with 500 beehives, 40 blooming apricot trees, and one very successful honey shop. They were his passion and source of income. Every year, his beehives would produce around 3,000 kilos of honey. From their annual revenue, Adnan was able to put his children in good schools and provide them with everything they asked for.

"These bees were like family," he said, explaining how he would travel across Syria to protect them against the harsh winter — a journey he happily made every year, which exposed him to the flourishing beekeeping industry in his country and allowed him to meet other beekeepers.

"I struggled to wake up in the morning and lost all my energy. My kids complained that I stopped smiling or laughing like I used to in the past," Adnan Al Outani, 56-years-old. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al saleh

The year 2012 would have marked his twentieth year in the beekeeping trade. Yet unfortunately, the chaos of the Syrian conflict caught up with him and he lost all 500 hives overnight after he was barred from reaching them after security deteriorated in a town in eastern Ghouta where his land was located.

Losing his life-long efforts so suddenly was devastating for Adnan, who fell into depression as he struggled to keep shelter for his family in a tiny apartment in Damascus.

"I struggled to wake up in the morning and lost all my energy. My kids complained that I stopped smiling or laughing like I used to in the past."

A helping hand

Through his hard work, Adnan managed to multiply the beehives he received in August 2016 from three into 15 by July 2017. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

Adnan's is just one story among many in Syria, where the rich beekeeping industry had been significantly damaged by war. WFP recognized this loss and, in cooperation with Syrian agricultural chambers federation and the Arab Beekeepers union, developed the beekeepers livelihood project.

Last year, Adnan was one of the very first participants of the project. Along with 750 other beekeepers, he received three beehives, related supplies, and food parcels for six months until the bees produce enough honey to make them self-sufficient again.

"In August, I received a call that changed my life. I couldn't believe I was going to get my hands on some bees again!" he said.

Busy as a bee

WFP is working to revive Syria's beekeeping sector, so far assisting 3,000 Syrian beekeepers across the country. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

This summer, Adnan is as busy as his bees as he works to re-establish his once prosperous business. After losing his bees to the chaos of the Syrian conflict, Adnan found hope in the hives he's managed to cultivate, thanks to the World Food Programme's beekeeping livelihoods project.

"The most important thing about this gift is that I felt like I'd gotten my life back. I wake up early to monitor the bees. I suddenly have energy because I have something to look forward to," he said.

So far the project has been a great success with over 85 percent of the hives multiplying and generating money between August 2016 and April 2017. As a result of this success, the Syrian Agricultural Chambers Federation and the Arab Beekeepers Union announced in May this year a second grant of beehives which will be distributed to 1,750 newly affected beekeepers in seven governorates including Aleppo, Swaida, Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Tartous and Lattakia.

Soon, trees will be blooming all around Syria. By providing beehives, supplies, and training, WFP is helping many Syrians get back on their feet again with a steady source of livelihood and hope.

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