Having finished her Master’s degree in International Development in Amsterdam, Thai-Italian Giada Chitto came to Thailand about three years ago as an intern for Unesco and later worked for parliamentary advocacy. In November, she joined Raitong Organics Farm (ROF) which works with farmers in Si Sa Ket, Wang Nam Khieo, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Bangkok and is known for its "CSA Munching Box", a community programme that delivers a weekly supply of organic fruit and vegetables to subscribers. ROF’s newest project, "BeeKK - Urban Beekeeping in Bangkok", aims to raise awareness of bees as an important part of the food chain. Giada tells us what the buzz is about.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF BEEKK?
We want to educate people about the importance of bees as wild pollinators and as being important to the food chain. Cities can form an interesting refuge for the environment; they have the possibility to restock the rural environment. Also, kids are not used to the natural world, so beekeeping is a great and easy way to learn about the environment.
WHY ARE HONEYBEES IMPORTANT?
They pollinate quite a lot of what we eat. They are also almost magical insects. Without them a lot of places would only have rice, corn and wheat to eat. They contribute a lot to agricultural diversity - and they also give us honey, of course.
WHY ARE BEES IN DANGER THESE DAYS?
Firstly because of diseases and viruses that affect European honeybees [the most common bee used in commercial beekeeping] way more than Asian honeybees. Also because of pesticides and herbicides that are used for farming, in addition to the problem of monocultures, which is when you grow the same crop over a vast area of land. It doesn't give bees the floral diversity they need to feed and get pollen so they are stuck with a very small window of time to pollinate.
WHY IS BEEKEEPING GAINING MORE ATTENTION?
In Europe and the US, it has gained a lot more attention than here. For one, it is because of Colony Collapse Disorder where bees mysteriously started disappearing by the millions a couple of years ago and nobody knew why. Several factors were blamed including pesticides and monocultures. In London and New York, many major hotels keep hives on their rooftops, collect their own honey and give it to guests. This gives them a green image. I think people are starting to care more about that because everybody wants to go organic. It's responsible, and it's also a bit trendy.
WHAT ARE SOME ADVANTAGES OF URBAN BEEKEEPING?
It provides a lot of variety in terms of food sources for bees, a lot of different flowers and also food sources that are available all year round, as opposed to seasonally. Here, you have a little bit of everything. They are pretty effective at finding food sources.
WHY IS BEEKEEPING A GREAT HOBBY?
It's pretty amazing how bees work and communicate with one another and how intelligent they are as a collective. They have been around for much longer than we have and in so many ways they're fascinating. Also, if you wear beekeeping gear there is no threat of being stung.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED IN URBAN BEEKEEPING?
Contact us and we'll provide you with the tools and knowledge you need [firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/BeeKKUrbanBeekeeping].G