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Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat and are the “most important pollinator worldwide” (United Nations Environment Programme). But for reasons including colony collapse disorder, invasive mites (varroa destructor), and pesticides, honey bees are “disappearing at an alarming rate. Approximately 90 percent of the wild bee population in North America has died out” (Delk, 2013). The U.S. Pollinator Health Task Force aptly summarizes the business case for bees: “pollinators are critical to our Nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year” (2015, p. ii). In 2013, George Mason University launched the Honey Bee Initiative with 16 hives to address this important national, economic, and food security issue. Today, with over 600 hives, domestic teaching and research programs in the Northern Virginia Region, thriving international programs in Colombia and Perú, and dynamic public-private partnerships, we aim to expand our focus on the SDGs framework and create measurable impact. The initiators and students have used and are piloting qualitative and quantitative metrics such as: 1. Institutional Measures of Success (e.g., hive expansion, # students enrolled in courses, # visitors to apiaries, $ raised, # articles published, # community partnerships, amount of honey/wax/candles produced and sold); 2. Changing environmental habits/behaviors (e.g., decreased pesticide use, planting native plants, awareness of threats to bees); 3. Growth, health, and variety of pollinators (e.g., bee counts, pollen analyses); 4. Models that empower women and communities (e.g., program evaluation of Colombia women’s program focused on economic self-sufficiency, knowledge of business practices, self-confidence), and 5. Interviews and focus groups with HBI stakeholders. Our Colombia project has experienced significant growth, including an increase from 20 families to 160 families participating and from 3 municipalities to 9 participating municipalities, an increase in honey production and sales, a doubling of funds raised, and extensive coverage in more than 120 news stories. The Honey Bee Initiative focuses on the following SDGs: #1 No Poverty, #2 Zero Hunger, #3 Good Health and Well-Being, #4 Quality Education, #5 Gender Equality, #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, #10 Reduced Inequalities, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, #13 Climate Action, #15 Life on Land, #16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and #17 Partnerships for the Goals. Every partnership, course, research project or funding appeal is tied directly to one or more of these goals. For example, our Colombia project works with stingless bees to enhance women’s empowerment in the community, provide an additional source of income, improve gender equity, and reduce poverty and hunger. A recent successful grant application for a 100,000 Strong in the Americas Grant was called Bees for Peace and focused on the role of sustainable beekeeping and gender equity as a means for building just and peaceful communities.

Level of Education: Continuing vocational education and training

Lead Organisation: George Mason University

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