A FAIRTRADE HONEY FARMER from Chile joined forces with a local beekeeper to visit Newcastle High School for Girls.  Girls learned about the habits of bees, heard the challenges facing beekeepers in this country and the developing world and then enjoyed the fruits of their work in a honey tasting session.

The event was organised by Shared Interest, an ethical lending co-operative and Newcastle High.  The day was aimed at widening the girls’ understanding of the world and the importance of Fairtrade and ethical practice.  It also highlighted how essential bees are not just for the production of honey but for the entire food chain.

Honey and blueberry farmer Juan Eduardo Henriquez (more widely known as Chino), Apicoop General Manager, is in the UK to visit Shared Interest which is based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Chino said: “Shared Interest was one of the first businesses to lend to us so we could improve our honey processing facilities.  We borrowed funds again a few years ago to diversify into blueberry production.

“Our Fairtrade honey and blueberries are now sold across the UK and are the main ingredients in Traidcraft Geobars.

“I have really enjoyed explaining about our work and lives to the children in the school.  My main message to the pupils is how bees play an important role in the environment benefitting the entire community.

“We should learn from the bees who work back to back, shoulder to shoulder.  If we are capable of putting into practice one percent of the way that bees in a hive work together, I believe we could solve 99 percent of the world’s problems.”

Shared Interest Managing Director, Patricia Alexander, said:  “It is always rewarding to hear about how our investors’ funds are helping to change lives in the developing world.

“Apicoop has been a customer of ours for over a decade and we are delighted to have Chino join us as we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year.”

Local beekeeper and former Biology teacher from Ponteland, Dave Cowings, took up beekeeping three years ago when he retired and now has five hives. He said: “The decline in bees in recent years has been significant and I wanted to play my part in protecting them by having my own hives.  It was great to share my knowledge with the girls at Newcastle High and was so impressed by their knowledge and interest in bees.”

As part of the girls’ introduction to  beekeeping, the girls were shown all the components of a bee hive and learned about the roles of the Queen Bee, Workers and Drones within the hive.

Nylah said: “I really liked finding out how bees make honey and was amazed when Chino told us how he helped to look after 55,000 beehives in Chile – that’s a lot of honey!”

Hilary French, Headmistress at Newcastle High, said: “The girls were absolutely fascinated by the importance and complexity of beekeeping both at an amateur level and for the large scale production of honey in Chile. The event was a fabulous opportunity to endorse messages about protecting our environment and supporting developing countries through ethical trading.”

Shared Interest uses money invested by people in the UK to lend to fair trade organisations across the globe.  Apicoop has been a customer with Shared Interest since 2002, and is made up of nine producer groups containing 600 individuals.  They have continued to grow, counting Traidcraft and Oxfam as sustainable customers and can now claim to be the world’s main supplier of Fairtrade honey. Nylah learns about bees

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