Honey hunter Pak Jahuri, 50 m high in a Boan tree collecting wild forest honey from a colony of Giant Asian Honeybees (Apis dorsata) in West Sumbawa, Indonesia.
Honey hunter Pak Jahuri, 50 m high in a Boan tree collecting wild forest honey from a colony of Giant Asian Honeybees (Apis dorsata) in West Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Why it’s about ‘more than just bees and honey’

WHEN we think of bees and bee pollination, we often only think of the honey that arrives on our table top.

Rarely do we stop and reflect on how honey and bees could improve the quality of life for farmers in Indonesia or PNG.

But that is exactly what Dr Schouten is focused on as Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods (B4SL) project manager at Southern Cross University.

"What we are learning about honey bees in places like PNG, Indonesia and Fiji is that beekeeping establishes a viable income source for landholders, feeds into research more generally for understanding and improves outcomes for honey bee biosecurity and conditions to safeguard food security here in Australia," he said.

Dr Schouten is the Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods (B4SL) project manager at Southern Cross University.
Dr Schouten is the Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods (B4SL) project manager at Southern Cross University.

"Our research and extension seek to provide best practice beekeeping information based on leading applied scientific evidence with the goal of optimising success within beekeeping development programs and achieving sustainable and equitable outcomes for marginalised beekeepers."

Dr Schouten's work has attracted the curiosity and interest of both undergraduate and postgraduate students at Southern Cross much like when he travelled to Timor Leste with Associate Professor Lloyd as an undergraduate eight years ago.

"It's more than just bees and honey.

"It is about people, it's about friendships and finding meaning in your work by helping others.

Climate change, deforestation, bushfires, tropical cyclones, floods, droughts and now COVID-19* have all had major impacts on beekeepers in the Australia-Pacific region.

"Without pollinators, many of our food crops would be significantly affected. Yet beekeeping is often on the periphery of agricultural development priorities," said Dr Cooper Schouten, as he celebrates World Bee Day (May 20).

"World Bee Day is not just about honey bees and honey, it's about recognising the role of all bees as important pollinators and their value in supporting natural ecosystems and communities."

Recently, more than $250,000 has been raised as part of the Hive Aid campaign to help Australian beekeepers and their honey bees.

Corinne Jordan, Vice President of the Australian Queen Bee Breeders Association, is one thankful beekeeper who has taken advantage of this support to cover essential costs to keep her bees and family bee business alive at this difficult time.


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