In 2005, Andrew Coté found himself in northern Iraq, walking hand-in-hand with a Kurdish beekeeper. This was not some Bush-era publicity stunt to put a gloss of false friendship over the country’s violent reality. Coté and Khorsheed Ahmed, his new friend, shared rich common ground: They both practice the noble but endangered craft of beekeeping. Coté was on Ahmed’s territory to work with the Kurds to improve their operations and enrich their livelihoods.
For more than 10 years, Coté and his nonprofit, Bees Without Borders, have traveled the developing world, finding ways for beekeepers from Nigeria to Moldova to Fiji to increase their profits by making simple changes. For instance, Ahmed and his fellow beekeepers had too many colonies crowded in one area without adequate sources of nectar or water to support them all, leading to weak hives and poor crops. Or, said Coté, “Most beekeepers discard valuable byproducts such as wax and propolis from their hives. These represent a great cache of value-added products,” and can be a key supplement to income from honey and pollination services, especially for families living close to the edge.