World Bee Day 2024: Engaging young people as future beekeepers and stewards of the environment

Castel Porziano/Rome – Marking World Bee Day 2024, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) QU Dongyu today urged young people to learn more about bees and pollinators, including traditional and high-tech beekeeping, and thus help to safeguard the vital role these small creatures play in agriculture, ecological balance, and biodiversity preservation.

Qu made the remarks at a World Bee Day 2024 celebration held at the Italian Presidential Estate in Castelporziano, Rome, with the participation of the President of APIMONDIA, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, Jeff Pettis.

The ceremony included the inauguration of educational panels on the path leading to the center dedicated to the study of bees located within the Estate. In the context of this year’s World Bee Day theme, “Bee engaged with Youth” a group of young students also attended the event.

Small creatures with enormous potential, bees and other pollinators play a crucial role for life on earth. Through their meticulous pollination work, they help increase the quantity, quality and diversity of our food, with about 75 percent of the world’s crops dependent on it. Hence the need to value and protect them.

The FAO Director-General explained that for producers, this translates into replacing harmful agricultural practices with pollinator-friendly practice. For beekeepers, it means promoting the sustainable use of locally adapted bees and plants. For governments and policymakers, implementing policies that ensure harmony between agriculture and bees, and for consumers, it means being careful and informed when choosing products, checking where and how food was produced.

“Young people, the protagonists of World Bee Day 2024, can make a key contribution through increased awareness of the importance of bees that can turn into entrepreneurial engagement as beekeepers. We need young farmers and beekeepers who can address the many current challenges and who can contribute to innovation in the production chain,” said Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy’s Minister of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry, in the speech read on his behalf by Stefania Costanza, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Nations in Rome.

“Pollination is critical to our diets,” said Jeff Pettis, President of Apimondia, in his remarks during the ceremony, “if we really want to protect 30 percent of our planet by 2030, we need to act on the importance of protecting bees to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change.”

During the ceremony, FAO and APIMONDIA extended their Memorandum of Understanding, which builds on more than 60 years of collaboration and is set to strengthen the collaboration between FAO and Apimondia for sustainable beekeeping.

FAO worked in synergy with the Tenuta staff to develop five educational panels that illustrate the importance of sustainable beekeeping and the vital role pollinators play in nature, such as ensuring the survival of many plants, enabling forest regeneration, and facilitating adaptation to climate change. Each panel has a QR code that facilitates access to the translation in all official FAO languages; around the educational installations are flowerbeds showcasing an assortment of flora dear to bees and other pollinators.

Experts from the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio e della Toscana (IZSLT) present at the ceremony shared their knowledge and experience with the young audience.

Beekeeping, an activity beyond honey production

World Bee Day this year with its focus on young people aimed to convey the message that investing in youth-led beekeeping initiatives accelerates innovation, creativity, and technological advancement that can help address the emerging challenges facing small pollinators, including extreme weather events, the use of pesticides in agriculture, and the spread of pests.

World Bee Day was established in 2017 by a United Nations resolution, at the proposal of the Government of Slovenia to promote actions that governments, the private sector, organizations, civil society, and citizens can take to protect bees and other pollinators and their habitats, promote their diversity, and foster sustainable beekeeping practices.

Beekeeping is an activity that goes beyond honey production and contributes to the achievement of many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since it can be practiced with limited resources and locally available materials, beekeeping provides a source of income for those living in extreme poverty, helping to improve the resilience and livelihoods of rural and indigenous communities.

FAO’s role

FAO has a long-standing commitment to promoting policies that support biological control of plant pests and limit pesticide use, through the Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture, with the goal of building greater habitat diversity in agricultural and urban environments. Through new technologies such as TECA – an online platform that brings together successful agricultural technologies and practices – FAO is working to promote knowledge exchange and sustainable rural transformation, contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. Launched by FAO in 2002 and managed by FAO’s Research and Extension Unit (OIN), the TECA platform addresses the need for a systematic and user-friendly online repository of technologies, practices and innovations on traditional agriculture.

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