Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Slow Food Movement and Bees


Slow Food is an international organisation started in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Together with a group of friends, he set up Slow Food to counteract the fast food culture and provide an alternative vision of food production.
It has more than 1,500 branches worldwide in both developed and developing countries. The Slow Food motto “Good Clean Fair Food” is just one of the seven pillars of an ethos which also promotes agricultural and food biodiversity; small-scale food production; food sovereignty; language, culture and traditional knowledge; environmentally responsible food production and fair and sustainable trade.

One branch of Slow Food is The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity whose aims are to protect the environment, defend food biodiversity, promote sustainable agriculture, support small-scale food producers, their values and their traditional knowledge. It aims to do this by encouraging the setting up of presidia.

The objective of a presidium is to support a group of small scale producers who carry on a quality production at risk of extinction or safeguard native breeds or local plant varieties.

Some Presidia of interest to beekeepers:

The Sicilian Black Bee Presidium was set up by Slow Food Sicily to preserve the native Sicilian bee, Apis mellifera sicilaina, which was/is at risk of extinction
The Sicilian black bee has a dark abdomen, yellow down and small wings. Sicily has been its home for millennia, but it risked extinction after being abandoned in the 1970s, as beekeepers got rid of their traditional rectangular beehives made from dried fennel stalks and began importing the Italian bee (“Apis mellifera ligustica”) from northern Italy. The Sicilian bee is docile and very productive, even in hot weather. It can withstand temperatures over 40°C, when other bees stop working and can tolerate sudden temperature changes.  One beekeeper preserved the last three genetic lines surviving and shared them with a small group which now numbers eight. Currently a re-introduction project is underway involving Slow Food, local government and the local university.

Ethiopia has the Tigray White Honey and the Wenchi Volcano Honey Presidium. http://slowfoodfoundation.com/presidia/details/775/wenchi-volcano-honey
http://slowfoodfoundation.com/presidia/details/774/tigray-white-honey
Brazil has the Satere Mawe Canudo Nectar presidium
http://slowfoodfoundation.com/presidia/details/584/sater%C3%A9maw%C3%A9-native-bees-honey


The Puebla Sierra Norte Native Bees Honey presidium is located in the Puebla Sierra range in central Mexico The farmers make their living by cultivating coffee, pepper (Pimenta dioica), vanilla, cinnamon and macadamia nuts and gathering wild fruits. Within this system, the native bee, Scaptotrigona Mexicana, plays a fundamental role as a pollinator and dispenser of a flavorful honey, which according to Náhuat tradition also has medicinal properties. Locally known as pisilnekmej, the bee is one of 46 species of Melipona (stingless bees) known in Mexico, and is endemic to the Sierra Norte. Its domestication dates back to the pre-Hispanic era. In other parts of the country, the native bees have been replaced by more aggressive African bees brought by the Conquistadors, while in the Sierra Norte the native people have managed to protect them and still breed them in traditional mancuernas. These hives are made up of two terracotta pots, sealed with a damp ash mixture. Honey production takes place between 400 and 1,300 meters above sea level. The producers prepare the mancuernas and position them in the forest near their homes. The honey is collected from April to June, on sunny days during the full-moon period. The producers separate the two pots using a machete, select the combs and manually extract the honey, then separate the hive’s other products (pollen, propolis and wax). They then reseal the mancuerna. The collected honey is left to ferment for a few months, and then used by the families as a food and as a medicine. Traditionally it is used as a natural antibiotic for the respiratory tract and recent analyses have proven the honey’s anti-microbial effect.


Slow Food Galway is the local branch (convivum) with approximately 130 members including consumers, chefs, food producers, restaurants, farmers, food lecturers and a couple of beekeepers. The branch aims to promote local food and food producers and educate both members and the general public about food. It does this mainly by running at least 6 events every year including mushroom hunts, seashore forage, fishing trips, visits to farms and food producers as well as a school project. It could also be a platform for promoting the native black bee if more Galway beekeepers joined the organisation.
To join Slow Food Galway contact leader Maria Mc Neela
at galway@slowfoodireland.com or check out the website http://www.slowfoodgalway.com/ and facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Slow-Food-Galway/221844304514960

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