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Sateré-Mawé Native Bees’ Honey - Slow Food Presidia

Sateré-Mawé Native Bees’ Honey


According to ancient native legend, when Anumaré Hit, a figure in Sateré-Mawé mythology, went to heaven, he transformed into the sun and invited his sister to follow him. She initially hesitated, but eventually decided to stay on Earth in the form of a bee so that she could look after the sacred forests of guaranà together with the Sateré-Mawé people. The legend was handed down over generations, describing what the ancient Mawé already knew and what we are now rediscovering: that wild stingless bees (Meliponinae belonging to dozens of species, classified in two large genera, the Melipona and the Trigona) are responsible for pollinating at least 80% of the plant species of Amazonia. Without their patient work, the forest would risk disappearing. The colonies have always been targeted for their valuable honey - its liquidity not only makes it easier to use but also enables it to retain a large array of flavors and aromas from the original plant species. The honey is rare (many of these bee species do not even produce one liter per year) and highly sought after, also for medicinal purposes. However, an entire colony is destroyed for every half liter of plundered wild honey.
Many years ago the Sateré-Mawé decided to follow the ancient traditions of Mayan meliponiculture, but using some more modern techniques. The Mayans protected the bees by raising them in tree trunks, while the Sateré-Mawé keep them in hives of stacked drawers made of local wood. Their territory is home to a variety of the canudo bee (scientific name Scaptotrigona, but not yet officially catalogued), which is very hardy and relatively productive: it can produce up to 8 liters per year of an extraordinary honey with a strong wild flavor. It produces a particularly digestible acidic pollen and also (fairly uncommonly for Meliponinae bees) accumulates a significant amount of propolis obtained from the resin of dozens of tree species in the virgin forest. This product has various therapeutic properties of great importance in a place where there is no medical assistance available.

Honey from the canudo bee is produced by the Sateré-Mawé Indigenous peoples, who have already a Presidium for waraná that was set up by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity several years ago. There is a very close link between the two projects since the honey is mainly obtained from Waranà flowers. About 30 villages are involved in keeping canudo bees but it is aimed to expand the practice to all 100 Sateré-Mawé villages. Current production is still nearly exclusively used for family and community consumption, but the Presidium wants to go further and make production a viable economic option for Sateré-Mawé. The main aim now is to promote legislation in Brazil and Europe which covers these products and can facilitate its production and commercialization.

Production area
Andirá-Marau Indigenous area, Amazonas and Parà river basins
50 families belonging to the Sateré-Mawé tribe in the Andirá-Marau Indigenous Area
Presidium coordinator
Maurizio Fraboni
tel. +55 9232137368/9291405728


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