Land use change is one of the main causes of loss of tropical forests and their rich biodiversity in Mexico. With this forest loss, the mainly Mayan peasants in the SGP region of southern Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula become impoverished.
Beekeeping is an important aspect of Mayan culture. Kabi Habin is a Mayan beekeeper organization comprised of 43 beekeepers working in the Southeast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The organization started its activities in April 1996 and the conversion from traditional to certified organic honey production began in 2000. At the same time, the organization initiated the process of knowledge sharing regarding the ecological importance of organic apiculture in tropical forests. The organization obtained a quality standard that allows the organic certification from IMO Switzerland in 2001, entering the Fair Trade network the same year.
Organic apiculture requires the conservation of the vegetation cover and with it the conservation of biodiversity. It further slows the growth of the agricultural and cattle raising grass land border and reduces the use of fire, hence contributing to climate change mitigation by decreasing green house gas emissions to the atmosphere. It also significantly strengthens the involvement of local and indigenous people in the conservation of the tropical forest and biodiversity, integrating social dimensions and reducing rural poverty.
GEF SGP in Mexico facilitates relationships among grant organizations. The GEF SGP financed apicultural groups communicate and share experiences on a regular basis. Consequently, Kabi Habín generates valuable experiences and knowledge for other beekeeper organizations, which can replicate this example of apicultural use of flora to improve livelihoods and expand conservation areas of tropical forests.
In order to increase their technical knowledge, the organization cooperates with "Honey –Making Development and Consultancy", a group of technical consultants. Kabi Habin also collaborates with a NGO dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development, the "Asociación Civil Educación Cultura y Ecología". This partnership allowed the organization to improve their internal organizational management, diversify their donors and commercialize the organic honey with higher prices.
By introducing organic apiculture with improved price stability, the members of Kabi Habin were able to generate higher revenues and improve the livelihoods of their families. During the first three years of the SGP / Kabi Habin relationship, the revenues of organic honey producers increased from US$ 35,700 in 2000/01 to US$ 301,906.40 in 2002/03, while the quantity produced increased from 17 tons to 22.48 tons over the same time period.
Furthermore, each ton of organic honey purchased on the market constitutes a good indicator of the conservation of tropical forest, corresponding to around 29.78 hectares of tropical forest conserved. Consequently, Kabi Habin with its current annual organic honey production of 22.48 tons protects 669.45 hectares of tropical forest.
With the funding of the GEF Small Grants Programme and the rate of diffusion of the production of organic honey among Mayan beekeepers, we can anticipate that in two years from now 700 beekeepers will obtain the organic certification with a total production of about 400 tons. This amount of honey produced would correspond to 11,912 hectares of tropical forest conserved.
Through this approach, the GEF SGP has funded 14 organizations in Mexico to convert traditional beekeeping methods into organic apiculture. As a result, another 800 beekeepers not yet certified are currently protecting additional 9,700 hectares of tropical forest.