Unemployed West Virginian Coal Miners Are Being Retrained As Beekeepers To Aid Unemployment And The Environment


By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

A non-profit, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, hopes to bring the eco-friendly beekeeping industry in West Virginia where the coal industry used to reign. The coal industry in the US is no longer a thriving one and lead to the unemployment of thousands of miners. James Scyphers, having spent 20 years of his life mining coal, believes beekeeping has quite a lot in common with the process of mining. Both require physical labor, discipline, and proper training.


Image: Facebook/AppelationBeekeepingCollective

Appalachian Beekeeping Collective was built with the funds received from a lawsuit settlement against Alpha Natural Resources, a coal mining company that violated the terms of water pollution laws. The charity has used the money for restoring the environmental condition of the region and developing economic opportunities for the rural population.

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On graduating from the “Introduction to Beekeeping” class, one receives free or low-cost bees along with equipment. They can also avail the continuous training programs and find mentors. These graduates can choose to maintain 2 to 20 beehives. Appalachian Beekeeping Collective collects the honey, packs and sells it for the trained beekeepers who receive $7 per pound. On average, one can earn around $700/hive.

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Image: KevinJohnson/NPR

The charity offers professional courses in making other products such as candles and lip balms to diversify employment opportunities. Their work not only makes them independent but also gives the declining bee population a place to thrive. Beekeeping helps to maintain the rural ecosystem but starting it can be a costly affair. The training is offered to the homeless coal miners and other associated people who struggle to make ends meet. According to Cindy Bee, a master beekeeper of the organization, the decline of the coal mining industry affected other local industries too. The new beekeeping industry is in a way boosting the economy of the town. More than 28% of people of West Virginia live in dire poverty and for them, free training is a good way to start a career as a beekeeper. 

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Modern agriculture has paved the way for the decline of the honey bee population. Large stretches of land, that used to provide pollen and nectar for the bees, now grow one variety of crop. Woodlands are disappearing at an alarming rate which again robs the honey bee of a home. Organized beekeeping thus helps to preserve honey bees and provides means of income to those who need it the most.

Featured image: KevinJohnson/NPR

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