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In the floral valleys of Cuba's Matanzas province, old fashioned farming means bees can swarm without the threat of pesticides that have decimated populations across the world.
Life is sweet for Cuba's winged wonders, and Europe's honey-lovers are catching on.
Bee - Areas - Areas - Mountains - Rogelio
"The bee is made neither for urban areas nor rural areas. It is made for the mountains," says Rogelio Marcelo Fundora, surveying a lush mountain valley east of Havana where his bees are thriving.
Fundora, 51, is a mechanical engineer by trade. His 54-year-old brother Santiago Esteban is a teacher. But both have become Cuba's best-known beekeepers by passion, owning 600 hives in the valley.
Valley - Hours - Capital - Year - Tonnes
In this idyllic valley a few hours drive from the capital, "last year we produced 80 tonnes of honey," said Santiago, his face covered by a black net to avoid stings while bees swarmed in agitation as he manipulated a hive.
Shrinking bee populations around the world have caused scientists and conservationists to sound the alarm over the effects of intensive agriculture, disease and pesticides.
Cuba - Communist-run - Island - Nation - Kind
But not in Cuba, a Communist-run island nation that has become a kind of apicultural paradise, thanks to the purity of its countryside.
That environmental integrity dates back to Cuba's crippling economic crisis of the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which once provided the island with thousands of tonnes of pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.
Deprived - Support - Cuba - Choice - Alternatives
Deprived of that support, Cuba had no choice but to develop natural alternatives. In the process, it reduced to almost zero the use of chemicals, so harmful to bee populations and the quality of their honey.
Average production is 51 kilograms (112 pounds) of honey per hive, a level considered high.
Fundora - Brothers - Nation - Kings - Yields
However, the Fundora brothers, considered the nation's beekeeper kings, show yields of up to 160 kilos of honey per hive—triple the national average.
"There's no miracle, just a lot of work," said Santiago....
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