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Italian Program Prepares Immigrants for Jobs as Beekeepers

2017-09-08

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[00:00.00]
  • A group in Italy is preparing immigrants, mostly from Africa, for jobs as beekeepers.
  • [00:09.46]
  • The group then helps to set-up meetings between these migrants and honey producers who need employees.
  • [00:19.89]
  • International aid groups say European Union (EU) efforts to reduce the flow of migrants entering Europe is leaving some businesses short on workers.
  • [00:34.32]
  • The aid group Oxfam says Italy alone will need over 1.6 million workers over the next 10 years.
  • [00:45.65]
  • To deal with this issue, the Italian Cambalache Association created a project called “Bee My Job.”
  • [00:57.57]
  • It trains migrant workers and refugees in beekeeping and finds them jobs in Italy’s agriculture industry.
  • [01:08.75]
  • Since being launched in 2014, the program has trained over 100 people, mostly from African nations south of the Sahara Desert.
  • [01:22.87]
  • Bee My Job has helped people like Abdul Adan.
  • [01:28.00]
  • He had never worked with bees before he migrated to Europe.
  • [01:33.35]
  • In fact, his only interaction with a bee was when he was stung by one as a child back home in Senegal.
  • [01:45.17]
  • The insect stung Adan in the mouth while he was eating fresh honey.
  • [01:52.33]
  • Today, he has become one of the program’s most successful trainees.
  • [01:59.28]
  • He now seems very much at ease with the bees.
  • [02:04.75]
  • He doesn’t cover his hands as he touches the insects’ homes and inspects their progress.
  • [02:13.61]
  • “I said I have never done bee work, I was really scared that the bees would sting me and people would laugh and look at me, but afterward I… said I will learn, and maybe one day I can do it in my country.”
  • [02:33.14]
  • Adan now works as a beekeeper in Alessandria, Italy.
  • [02:39.31]
  • Mara Alacqua is the head of the Italian Cambalache Association.
  • [02:45.23]
  • She says the Bee My Job project is never short on trainees.
  • [02:53.61]
  • “Our beds are always full,” Alacqua said.
  • [02:57.95]
  • “Every time a person leaves the project, and so we have a spare place, that place is covered straight away within two days’ time.”
  • [03:09.52]
  • As part of the program, the migrant workers also take language classes.
  • [03:17.22]
  • This has been helpful for Adan who now speaks Italian.
  • [03:21.94]
  • Almost 95,000 immigrants and refugees have arrived in Italy this year.
  • [03:29.39]
  • However, in the past two months, the number of new-arrivals has dropped to more than 50 percent of what it was last year.
  • [03:42.10]
  • Some observers have linked the drop to increased action by the Libyan coast guard to stop boats carrying immigrants to Europe.
  • [03:52.13]
  • Before arriving in Italy, Abdul Adan lived Libya.
  • [03:57.87]
  • While there, Adan says, he was held hostage, tortured, and forced to work as a slave. He later escaped on a boat to Italy.
  • [04:11.15]
  • “To do our work with bees, it’s not a work that is hard,” he says.
  • [04:16.54]
  • “I had already passed through stages that are harder than working with bees. If I tell you the Libyans who took us for work, you know how much we had to eat? One piece of bread a day, and we worked hard.”
  • [04:35.83]
  • Francesco Panella is president of a group called Bee Life EU.
  • [04:41.91]
  • Panella has worked as a beekeeper for more than 40 years.
  • [04:46.20]
  • He feels that migrant workers are important for Italy.
  • [04:51.16]
  • “In reality, we have a huge problem in our country,” he says.
  • [04:56.82]
  • “On one side, there is a huge problem with unemployment. But the other issue, it’s not at all easy to find workers for agriculture.”
  • [05:09.90]
  • Panella added that Italian agriculture is based on the work of foreigners.
  • [05:17.28]
  • Both of his children are immigrants.
  • [05:21.81]
  • One works in Great Britain, while the other is in the United States.
  • [05:28.15]
  • He says that he thinks about this when he offers work to migrants.
  • [05:34.10]
  • One of the main threats to the training program is a drop in honey production.
  • [05:41.46]
  • Panella notes that Italy’s honey production this year is down 70 percent from average harvests.
  • [05:51.01]
  • He thinks rising temperatures and chemical pesticides are partly to blame.
  • [05:57.87]
  • While the program is helping migrants find work, life far from home can still be hard.
  • [06:07.35]
  • “I feel very lonely,” said Adan. “Sometimes when I think of my family, it makes me want to go back home, but that’s the story of immigration. … Maybe one day I can go back to my country, or one day I can bring my family. No one knows what the future holds.”
  • [06:33.11]
  • I’m Dan Friedell.
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