Commitment, expertise and attention to environmental and social sustainability can lead to virtuous models of success.
Over the past few months, we followed three female entrepreneurs who launched their business in the agri-food sector financed by Innovagrowomed start-up hub.
Thus were born AgroMini, A’Naca – Vita in Natura e Nivura, new start-ups supported by the project, experiences of sustainable economic and social development in the Sicilian rural world where women are protagonists. In this article, Irene Russo shares her sustainable beekeeping project built around the protection of the Sicilian Black Bee.
I am Irene, always with my nose up or down, scanning and discovering some flying, buzzing, hopping creature. It is not rare to find me leaning over, on the pavement, studying, photographing an insect or a small flower. Observing nature, understanding it, is a need and at the same time it is the key that puts me in harmony with the world. Taking care of bees was a spontaneous evolution of my constant interest in nature.
When I learnt about the InnovAgroWoMed project, I did not hesitate to participate, being certain that it would give me the necessary tools and show me the right way to make my idea possible, which, before being an entrepreneurial idea, was a small dream.
The training experience I had was fundamental because it led me to understand that dreams, in order to become reality, should not only be strongly desired but they have to be clear, well-organised and carried out with dedication and perseverance. It gave me basic and advanced knowledge to be able to outline my project with more confidence and allowed me to meet women and organisations that have helped me to grow, to get to know people who have believed in me right from the start.
People who, during the meetings, enriched my path with advice, points for reflection, laughter and even a helping hand in the most difficult moments, just when I needed some encouragement the most. And so, one step at a time, day after day, lesson after lesson, my business idea took shape more and more clearly: Nivura, with the Sicilian black bee.
My dream became a project and is now a reality, thanks to the support of InnovAgroWoMed and the support of CESIE. I chose to safeguard biodiversity by protecting the uniqueness of Apis mellifera siciliana, the Sicilian black bee. From this intent was born Nivura, a sustainable beekeeping built around the circularity of the pathway to safeguard biodiversity: the Sicilian black bee, besides being itself a genetic resource to be protected, plays a key role in the pollination of the region’s endemic flora.
Sicily, as well as being an island of extraordinary beauty, is in fact a treasure chest containing unique species. My homeland, thanks to its insularity, has allowed the development and has preserved endemic species that have thrived here. This uniqueness can continue to exist only thanks to the presence of pollinators.
For me, taking care of my beehives means acting personally to protect this natural balance. Within an endless cycle, flora and bees create a unique world, which sustains itself through a continuous exchange of kind gestures. The blossoming of flowers, the pollination, the ripening of fruits, the renewed miracle of honey.
InnovAgroWoMed made it possible for the arrival of my first beehives and much more. The bees, it is as if they had always been there in my life and I cannot explain this feeling in words, somewhat like a rediscovery. Who knows if, after all, they have waited for me as long as I have waited for them.
To become the guardian of a precious treasure chest, of the lives of living beings, excites me in no small way and at the same time frightens me: the responsibility is so great. I consider it a privilege to be surrounded by the scent of flowers and of the wet ground after a rainfall, to be able to enjoy the nuances of the colour of the tree trunks and to be fascinated by the microcosm every day. Giving a home to the bees it’s welcoming life like a dance.
Every day I witness the show of a world in miniature, where each small gesture creates an infinite chain of other gestures, performing the miracle of biodiversity. I follow the flight of bees and listen to the times of nature, and it is by respecting the circularity of the seasons that Nivura becomes a thread connecting the urban context to biodiversity.
In forgotten places that are rediscovered, in spaces that have been returned to the community, enriched by the buzzing of bees and the scent of flowers.The city of Palermo hides forgotten treasure troves of nature and I have chosen to place my apiaries in these very places, whose beauty we often ignore.
Through the flight of bees, I try to link nature to the city and the city to its inhabitants. The Nivura educational social apiary, the only one in the city, is located at the Circolo della Natura Sokult, which stands on a property confiscated from the Mafia. A large green space, in the Ciaculli suburb known for the Mandarino tardivo presidio Slow Food, which will host workshops and educational activities, either for schools or in a non-formal setting.
I have chosen to combine this respectful approach with the most modern technology, which allows for continuous monitoring of the beehives to ensure the well-being of the bees. Thanks to the sensors, I receive continuous updates and, if you choose to Adopt a Nivura Beehive, you will also get the opportunity to directly follow the life of a beehive.
Everyone, as Danilo Dolci said, only grow if dreamed for, and for me as for Emily Dickinson,‘the revery alone will do, if bees are few’. To make a prairie, Emily reminds us, it is not enough to have a relationship between the elements but you really need to dream about a possible new world: this dream is Nivura.
The goal of the project InnovAgroWoMed is to boost women employability and entrepreneurshipin the Agri-food sector, an industry closely linked to the cultural identity of the Mediterranean region and showing a significant level of untapped potential in terms of innovation and growth. InnovAgroWoMed is a project funded by the European Union under ENI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.
- Università di Roma Tor Vergata (Italy, coordinator)
- Jovesolides (Spain)
- Centre of Arab Women for Training and Research – CAWTAR (Tunisia)
- Palestinian businesswomen’s association – ASALA (Palestine)
- CESIE (Italy)
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