Pollinating a Healthier Future
More than 160 years ago, Saint John Bosco recognized an opportunity: to teach unemployed youth in Turin, Italy, the skills they needed to lead productive, dignified lives. Drawing upon this heritage—and leveraging the Salesians’ vast collective experience in matching existing needs to complementary educational programs—missionaries in that very same city recently launched an innovative new beekeeping initiative.
The program serves another purpose also. Since Pope Francis first issued his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, our missionaries have sought opportunities to evolve the Salesian educational model into one that honors its spirit. At a time when communities all over the world are recognizing the importance of bees for a healthy ecosystem, this new initiative provides a tangible example of practical training in the environmental sector—one that missionaries hope can be replicated in other countries.
“Teaching youth the art and science of beekeeping prepares them with sought-after skills that can help them find employment in a particularly tough economy,” says Father Gus Baek, Director of Salesian Missions. “More than that, graduates of the program will emerge with the knowledge they need to be true environmental stewards, which is integral to the care of our common home.”
Bees in Italy suffer the same challenges as they do the world over. Extreme weather, widespread use of pesticides, and emerging diseases all threaten the health and viability of these pollinators—and those threats ripple far beyond the hive. Small farmers and large agricultural enterprises alike need bees to grow crops; without them, both food security and employment in this sector are at risk.
Recognizing this, missionaries at the Salesian Agricultural School of Lombriasco, Italy partnered with a variety of stakeholders to begin addressing this complex issue in a holistic manner. This past November, “Lombriasco Beekeeping 2020” was born.
This three-phased project began with a specialized training course for 5th-year students who, together with area professionals, studied the basics of raising, nurturing and protecting honeybees. Next, participants will establish a flowering meadow where they can hone their practical skills by setting up and maintaining a system of working hives. Ultimately, missionaries and their program partners intend to create a global network of beekeeping professionals, technicians and students to support ongoing collaboration as well as elevate knowledge in the field.
In the meantime, “Lombriasco Beekeeping 2020” is helping to alleviate another crisis much closer to home. Youth unemployment in Italy has soared to a high of nearly 41 percent—its highest level since the 1970s. By expanding vocational training opportunities into emerging fields like beekeeping, our missionaries create effective bridges between school and work, which in turn provides pathways out of poverty for youth and their families … exactly what Don Bosco envisioned many years ago.
Our mission trains youth as stewards of their own futures and our shared planet. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in Italy.