The region of Bregalnica is a treasure trove. With its rich biodiversity and climate, this mountainous region offers ideal conditions for beekeeping. Yet, beekeeping remains under-developed, although it could provide self-employment opportunities for some of the unemployed youth of the region.
Realizing the opportunity, the Swiss supported Nature Conservation Programme trained young people from the Bregalnica region to develop beekeeping as a new source of income. The training modules were developed by the Swiss expert Ruedi Ritter and adapted to the Macedonian environment. “I think that beekeeping for the young people of this region is very attractive. It also makes them consider as possibility to stay in this region, where opportunities for gaining income remain limited” says Ruedi Ritter.
Thirty-six unemployed young people, out of which one third were women, were trained by experienced beekeepers on a pilot apiary near Kocani. Each participant received three beehives of Macedonian autochthonous honeybees at the end of the training, as a support in their challenge to form their own apiaries. “Thanks to the program I’ve started to deal with a new business – beekeeping, initially with 3 beehives received as a grant from the programme and now extended to additional 35” – said Goce Ruzinski from Berovo who is 32 years old and is an unemployed graduated professor of mathematics. He produced around 300 kg of honey until today, and started to sell honey first to his family and friends, and now to more customers. He plans to buy more beehives next year, and to rely on beekeeping as his main source of income.
In addition to the basic beekeeping training, an advanced training for production of other bee products was conducted this spring for seven beekeepers from the region. Participants had the opportunity to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge to prepare value-added products. This will allow young beekeepers to expand their offer, be more competitive on the market, and thus further develop their business. One of the trainees was Natasha Velkovska from Pehcevo. Before joining the training she gave modest assistance to her husband in beekeeping, but since last year she started her own beekeeping activities. “This support meant a lot to me because it allowed me to have a new occupation besides my housework activities and to earn my own income. Next year I plan to extend the range of the products into other bee products than honey. That’s something I learned from the advanced trainings,” says Velkovska.
Although the trainings ended, the trainers continue to support the new beekeepers by providing advice on different issues that beekeepers come across. Moreover, young beekeepers in the beginning of 2018 established a core group of beekeepers from the Bregalnica region “Meden Istok”. Besides sharing their ideas, knowledge and experience, the members of the association plan to market their products and supply inputs in coordinated manner. The Nature Conservation Programme will support the association to further extend the sustainable beekeeping practices throughout the Bregalnica region in the coming years.