Last year, the French cosmetics house Guerlain announced a partnership with the actress Angelina Jolie and the program women for bees, by UNESCO to help combat the declining rates of the world’s bee population. Now, a year later, the 50 women who were educated as beekeepers by the initiative have graduated and will enter beekeeping training programs, with Jolie’s help and the second donation of €1 million. 5.2 million) made by Guerlain.
At this stage, the Cambodian phase of the program will be launched. 12 of the new beekeepers that were chosen by the UNESCO team in Phenom Pen, Cambodia’s capital, along with Jolie’s charitable foundation in the region, the MJP Foundation will enter six months of training.
The program has two general objectives: to create entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for women, while working to repopulate dwindling populations of bees, an insect that plays an important role in pollination and, as a result, food security.
According to the IPBES Pollinator, Pollination and Food Production Assessment Report Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services)about 75% of all cultivated plants and 90% of wild flowering plants depend on pollinators, which includes bees. “In 2021, we joined forces with UNESCO and actress and philanthropist Angelina Jolie to launch the Women for Bees program with significant targets for 2025 – 2,500 beehives installed in the heart of 25 UNESCO biosphere reserves, 125 million repopulated bees and 50 women trained and supported to establish their own beekeeping operations,” says Cécile Lochard, sustainability director at Guerlain.
Angelina Jolie in Cambodia
Earlier this year, Jolie – who is the muse of the French house and godmother of the bee program – visited Cambodia to launch the 6-month training program for the 12 beekeepers. With the support of the actress, beekeeper Angelina Kanellopoulou, a graduate of the inaugural class of the initiative, acted as a mentor to the new interns and shared her experiences.
As part of the visit, the two went to Siam Reap, in the northwest of the country, to the district of Samlot and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Tonle Sap, which is part of the Archaeological Park of Angkor. Jolie has also visited local high schools, a conservation forest and biodiversity research sites within the reserve, as well as having participated in a beekeeping session at the Guerlain Bee School in the Samlot district.
It was the actress who took Guerlain to the Southeast Asian nation in 2019 as the place to start her work with the French house. Cambodia was the backdrop for her first commercial for Mon Guerlain perfume. During the visit, Jolie and the Guerlain team met members of the MJP Foundation as well as people who benefit from the work the foundation is doing.
Jolie’s passion for Cambodia is due, in part, to a tribute to her son Maddox’s country, who hails from there (the MJP in her foundation’s name is the initials of her son, Maddox Jolie Pitt). Jolie chose to host the foundation in the Samlot region because it is the area of the country that was most impacted by the Cambodian Civil War.
The MJP Foundation aims to combat the extreme poverty that exists in rural Cambodia. The organization’s goals include improving health and health services, education, agriculture and the empowerment of women. There is also a strong emphasis on protecting the environment and conserving wildlife in the area. In addition, the foundation educates farmers on how to get the most production and utility from their livestock, land and other resources. They are also being trained to raise bees for honey production.
honey in Cambodia
Both the MJP Foundation and the Women for Bees program need to combat strong Cambodian cultural values linked to wild honey to fulfill their missions regarding the preservation of bees. The use of wild honey is extensive in Cambodia’s traditional medicines and beeswax for blessing ceremonies is deeply rooted in the culture, so much so that honey hunting is considered a long-standing ancestral tradition.
This honey hunt, along with deforestation and pesticides, are the main threats to Cambodia’s bee population. Therefore, the goal of all parties involved is to transform the values around wild honey in Cambodia through education, outreach, and training, which extends beyond the interns of the bee program.
Tour guides are also being educated as part of a pilot program that uses them as disseminators of information to the general public, including tourists, about the importance of conserving native bees.
In addition to these long-term efforts, Guerlain is calling on its supporters, customers and anyone who wants to help preserve bees to purchase their products between May 20th. (World Bee Day) and May 22 (International Day for Biological Diversity) during which all sales will be donated to the program.
Sales of the limited edition Huile-en-Eau Abeille Royale oil, whose bottle was decorated with artwork designed by famous designer and artist Tomáš Libertíny, will also go towards the bee program. Guerlain has also taken a digital initiative in which €20 (R$ 104) will be donated for each repost (with the hashtags #GuerlainForBees and #WorldBeeDay) of Tomáš Libertíny’s art created for the social media.