Sofia, Bulgaria Local Initiative

We are a group of young people born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria who want to keep bees in the city. Our country is a small piece of land in the Southeastern corner of Europe bordering Greece, Serbia, Romania, the Black sea, Turkey, and Macedonia. While our country is relatively small (111 000 sq. km. / 42 855 sq. mi. ) and a host of a bit over 7 million people, the capital city of Sofia is growing into a big metropolitan center.  While the city center is still the main residential area, the surrounding apartment block settlements host nearly 200 000 people. Compared to other big cities we’ve visited in Western Europe or North America, here we have fewer public areas, parks and gardens. Often parks shrink, giving way to the expanding built environment, and the open areas in between block buildings are more often than not abandoned and overrun by weeds.

There has been an informal movement in the city aiming to improve the living conditions, the public space, and overall aesthetics of the city in a sustainable and entertaining manner. Taking a stab at that goal, we got together with the idea to create an open-access green space in the city and engage others in the art and fun of beekeeping.

Bulgaria is known for its innumerous indigenous herbs and aromatic honey. In fact we export tons of organic honey in the EU every month. Yet, until now urban beekeeping has remained unexplored. We want to offer Sofians, young and adults, an urban beekeeping resource: a place with 2-3 hives and a garden that they can visit to learn or play, and help others to set up their own hives. We have won a small amount of money, enough to get us started through a contest organized by the non-profit For the Earth and CEE Bankwatch. The jury selected our idea to best demonstrate the need for EU funding for small citizen-led projects in Bulgaria. We will present our idea to the European Commission in January and hopefully demonstrate that little incentive and monetary support for local initiatives with high added value will encourage and empower individuals and neighborhoods to get together and take a stab at the issues their communities are facing.

Our idea in more detail:

Themes of the project

  • Urban beekeeping
  • Local foods
  • Community formation
  • Youth participation
  • Biodiversity
  • Bee diseases and problems
  • Local economy

Goals of urban beekeeping demonstration project

  • Interested folks to learn about the process and get some experience; empower them to create value for themselves and their neighborhoods
  • Creating space where people of all age can get acquainted with the bees, their role in the ecosystem, the most common threads to their survival, and of course get inspired by their hierarchy, organization, and efficiency
  • Interaction between professionals, teachers, young people, and neighbors

Target group

  • Apartment buildings communities, neighborhoods
  • Young adults interested in beekeeping
  • Children 2nd -5th grade

Timeline- One year

  • Nov.2012- Jan. 2013- finding a place, securing hives and equipment, finding partners (mentors, school teachers, organizations, professionals), finding interns, finding lecturers, securing funding, securing legal documents
  • Jan.2013- March 2013- setting up the space, fixing the schedule of activities
  • April 2013- May 2013- the first activity should take place
  • May 2013- September 2013- main season, 8 lectures, 10 groups of kids, 100 work hours for interns
  • July 2013- mid-term report, adaptation
  • Sept. 2013- Oct. 2013- closing the hives, winter preparation, closing activities
  • Nov. 2013- review of the process, funding, planning for next year

Activities

  • Setting up an area in the city with two-three operating beehives
  • Creating a safe space where children can learn about bees, honey, and ecosystems
  • 1-2 interns (13-18) will be involved with all parts of the process (selection, pay?) and will receive the necessary training to start their own beehives (perhaps they can each have an individual project to find another possibility for urban beekeeping—on a roof, other garden, zoo, etc)
  • Hold events such as: workshops for children, lectures and talks about bees, and potlucks
  • Workshops: have groups of 5-10 children visit the site and hold a talk and games with them; depending on the season, we will engage them with different activities:
    • At the beginning of the season we will do together the first spring examination of the hives and check the temperature, the humidity, and any possible damages to the hive; feed the bees honey, or syrup; clean the hive; applying medicine that is not antibiotics; extract honey; bottle/jar the honey; etc. for more detail (http://agronet.bg/agro-calendars/apiarist-calendar.html)
    • Go on a walk and explore the local environment: Can you see blossoming trees or flowers? Can you see insects? What are they doing? Discuss those findings and play a game.
    • Start a campaign to inform people in the neighborhood about the project, see if there are any concerns to be addressed, hold a community meeting if necessary
      • Facebook, video, etc.
      • Training experience: Grand Aspirations will help us create a strong and motivated team, launch the team, additional fundraising, etc.

Public Benefits

  • One of the main goals of the local foods movement is to support local economies, strengthen the bonds between the participants of the communities, and to increase their economic and social resilience. The bee project will foster these goals by allowing young people to learn a skill they can exercise on their own, something that can bring them additional income or food without a change of profession or an extensive time commitments.
  • development of the public sphere: improves the outlook of an area, creates open public space

Benefits to community

  • The core of the project is fostering the local community. Visitors’ first impression of Sofia is often that of unanimity, apathy, coldness. The micro-communities of each large apartment building or neighborhood, or even groups of people sharing a resource (such as a children’s institution, park, garden, parking lot) have a great potential to become a more sustainable, interconnected, close-knit support network. The bee project will not have the capacity to involve the whole city, and it will focus on the people who live/work/play in the adjacent areas. Thus, depending on the site we find for the project, we will recruit local interns, and distribute the information we gather as we go first to the adjacent communities.
  • The project aims at developing public goods such as education and the environment. In order to serve its purpose effectively and foster economic development, it needs to be open to a large number of people, offer them the resource without additional restrictions (fees). It will also be located on public space, thus it cannot exercise private business operations and collect revenue. Finally, this is a pilot project for the cooperation of young people of all ages, professionals, public officials and other organizations, including and international one, as such it requires an initial public support to fulfill its mission effectively without jeopardizing the economic and social stability of the involved individuals.

Benefits to the environment

Categories: BEES and URBAN Environment

  • The benefits of the pollinators; bees are the major pollinators
  • Pollinators strongly influence ecological relationships, ecosystem conservation and stability, genetic variation in the plant community, floral diversity, specialization and evolution. Bees play an important, but little recognized role in most terrestrial ecosystems where there is green vegetation cover for at least 3 to 4 months each year.
  • Bees and most flowering plants have developed a complex interdependence during millions of years.
  • An estimated 80 percent of flowering plants are entomophilous i.e. depending more or less on insect pollination to be able to reproduce.
  •  Some plants need several successful visits from bees to ensure that all the flower’s eggs Usually a honeybee can visit between 50-1000 flowers in one trip, which takes between 30 minutes to four hours. In Europe, a bee can make between seven and 14 trips a day. A colony with 25,000 forager bees, each making 10 trips a day, is able to pollinate 250 million flowers.
  • many species of plants and animals would not survive if bees were missing. Without bees there would be no flowering plants, and without flowering plants there would be no bees. Without bees biodiversity would not be so great.
  • http://www.fao.org/index_en.htm food and agriculture organization of the UN

The project aims to explicate the role of the bee in the ecological world. But also to emphasize how crucial she is to the agriculture and human sustenance in general. By eliciting problems concerning bees and beekeeping, more people will be aware that this species is important for all spheres of life and needs to be protected, and will be equipped with the information necessary to make consumer choices regarding bee products and other (pesticides etc).

In terms of developing the urban environment and creating a more sustainable urban landscape, the presence of bees in the area will be immediately recognized. The bees will enhance the existence and thriving of many plants in the area, thus encourage people to care for more plants, their communal gardens, etc. While the urban environment aims to deliver adequate housing and services to those who inhabit them, we should not forget that beautiful and healthy green space is essential to the well being of local communities.