Samaritan’s Purse is helping Yazidis return to their homeland of Sinjar by training them in beekeeping.
The prized black honey from the bee hives of Sinjar is known to be the best variety in Iraq and among the rarest honey anywhere. It has to do with the flowers that grow at the base of the Sinjar Mountains in an area of the country where few flowers grow—a desert region marked with a history of brutality toward the Yazidi religious minority.
But the bees thrive here. And they are able to yield a unique product that can be found nowhere else in the world. Beekeeping and honey production date back centuries in this region.
Samaritan’s Purse is taking advantage of this regional delicacy to help equip the Yazidis to generate income in their war-torn homeland. To date, 1,400 beehives have been given to some 200 families to help them begin again, and these hard-working people have grown this local industry with their own creativity.
One Yazidi man, named Roni*, often can be found strumming his tambura next to the hive Samaritan’s Purse provided for him. He believes the beautiful chords and melodies he plays on the stringed, guitar-like instrument will help his bees produce more honey. Whether the music is good for the bees is debatable, but it is definitely healing for him. There are many wounds still that needed to be healed, though he only speaks vaguely of this region’s violence.
He used to be a shepherd faithfully caring for his sheep, relying on the animals to provide for his basic needs. However, when ISIS invaded Sinjar in 2014 with their reign of terror, they stole his flock and robbed him of his very livelihood.
Fleeing with his family more than 150 miles away to Kurdistan, Roni lived in meager conditions for four years before he was able to move back to his beloved Sinjar. The beehives from Samaritan’s Purse that he now cares for have given him a livelihood to return to, making his move back home possible. As he began to care for the valuable little insects, he was able to support his family.
Roni is grateful for all the bees do for him. Despite their potential to sting, he doesn’t fear the bees. In fact he finds that they make him feel comfortable and at peace.
By concentrating on the tasks required to care for them and then seeing them create something valuable, he finds himself forgetting many of the troubles from his people’s painful past. And, he says, there’s nothing that can compare with Sinjar honey.
“It’s like gold from God,” he said. With the honey valued at nearly $50 per kilo, the bees have become a good source of income for the beekeepers of Sinjar.
Restoration in Sinjar
Samaritan’s Purse is working through some of Roni’s fellow Yazidis, such as a lifelong beekeeper named Keko*. Keko is assisting beekeepers like Roni in caring for and multiplying their hives. In collaboration with Samaritan’s Purse, he helped start an association that supports the beekeepers and markets their reputable honey to broader locales.
Keko grew up with bees and remembers being fascinated, even as a 10-year-old boy, as he watched the bees carry the nectar of the rare local flowers that give the region’s honey its unique flavors. He’d help his uncles raise and multiply their hives and to this day still says “There’s nothing like it in the whole world.”
Keko is helping beginners learn the basics of beekeeping while also caring for his own hives. With the proceeds from his honey, he buys food for his family, but he seeks to do even more.
“I hope, if I have a good income, I’ll be able to buy sheep,” he said, expressing gratitude for the partnership with Samaritan’s Purse. “We pray and thank God for you. Thank you for your support.”
We praise God for how bees have become a source of livelihood and a symbol of hope for Roni, Keko, and many the many other Yazidis like them working to rebuild their lives in Sinjar.
*Name changed for security