Honey: it’s as good as gold for the Maijuna people of the Peruvian Amazon. The Maijuna are one of the smallest and most endangered indigenous groups in Peru, and one of the community’s most critical needs has been a sustainable source of income that also helps to conserve their cultural traditions and their heavily forested ancestral lands.

Michael Gilmore, Ph.D., has worked with the Maijuna for 20 years, and his experiences with indigenous peoples inspired him to found OnePlanet, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting indigenous and traditional communities in the creation of sustainable development projects that generate income without jeopardizing their environmental and cultural resources.

Native to the Amazon rainforest, stingless bees produce a honey that is highly prized regionally and nationally in Peru for its unique taste and medicinal qualities. The Maijuna have collected honey from stingless bees for millennia—but not in a sustainable way. Working in collaboration with the community and with Asociación La Restinga, OnePlanet launched a stingless beekeeping project with the goal of raising and harvesting stingless bee honey and other hive products sustainably.

The project began with a pilot in one of the Maijuna communities. A typical Maijuna household consists of multiple generations earning, on average, a total of about $500 a year. Because the bees are stingless, everyone in the family—from children to the elderly—can be involved in the beekeeping process, without the need for protective gear. According to Mike, the project proved so successful, it has expanded outward to two other communities with the support of Grand Circle Foundation. More and more families are becoming involved, and there are now more than 120 stingless beehives in three Maijuna communities, with more on the way.

To demonstrate the success of the program, Mike cites one star beekeeper who earned $400 in six months, essentially doubling the family income. “That makes a substantial difference for all generations in the household. Now there’s more money for school supplies or health emergencies or basic necessities, while also providing alternatives to other more destructive economic activities like logging and hunting,” he says. “I’ve done dozens of projects over the years with the Maijuna, and this is one of the most exciting and fun projects I’ve had the pleasure to work on. This is sustainable development in action.”

Your contribution to Grand Circle Foundation will help OnePlanet in its mission of empowering the indigenous people of Peru. Donate now to support this important work.