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The embassy's handover of beehives and beekeeping equipment to the Afghan Refugee School in Iran

The Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Tehran has handed over six urban beehives to the school for Afghan girls, children of refugees in Karaj, Iran, which will be used by the fostered children for educational purposes and practical training. The purpose of the project, which began in 2019, is to familiarize the most vulnerable parts of the Iranian society, especially street children and children of Afghan refugees, with the opportunities offered by beekeeping and the production of honey and honey-based products.

Refugees and their families will use the acquired knowledge as a basic or additional source of income upon a possible return to Afghanistan, or to improve their living standards in their host country of Iran.

The project provides conditions for a faster return of Afghan refugees and economic migrants when the security situation in Afghanistan will allow it. At the same time, it is reducing Iran's burden in addressing the refugee problem that poses a challenging question for the country in the face of deteriorating economic conditions and increasing influx of new refugees from Afghanistan. The project is carried out in accordance with the outlined priorities of public diplomacy, and is part of the multi-year efforts of the Republic of Slovenia and the Embassy to amalgamate knowledge transfer in the field of beekeeping, education, women's empowerment and greater recognition of Slovenia in the international community. The funds were partly obtained from the Honey Diplomacy project of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

The first part of the education of Afghan girl refugees in the city of Karaj, about 50 km from Tehran, was conducted by the embassy in December 2019. Further courses and practical training exercises were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as were other similar projects in cooperation with local and international organizations planned for 2020 across the country.

Thirteen girls, children of Afghan refugees in Iran, between 13 and 17 years of age, attended a twenty-hour educational seminar and beekeeping workshop two years ago. The theoretical training took place in four four-hour sets, in which the girls were introduced to the basics of beekeeping, beekeeping methods and bee life, as well as the structure of beehives. Further training included the necessary knowledge for beekeepers of ways to increase bee colonies and pest control. Special attention was paid to finding the best pasture for bees in Iran and Afghanistan, and the seasonal migration of hives, in spite of the fact that practical work is focused on the field of urban beekeeping.

The second part of the education of Afghan girl refugees started on October 25, 2021, and is focused on practical training and independent work with bees, obtaining honey and the production of honey-based products; this includes the learning of the basics of marketing. For this purpose, the embassy handed to the school 6 traditionally operating beehives, in which the Embassy enabled the settlement of a Carniolan Lavender brood. The Embassy intends to install typical Slovenian AZ beehives in a refugee settlement in the province of Fars, which, with the support of international organizations, will serve as a pilot project for the implementation of a beekeeping education program for the entire territory of Iran.

In addition to educational and vocational training projects for Afghan refugees, the Embassy has designed a program of professional cooperation aimed at connecting experts from Slovenia and Iran, with the aim of transferring knowledge and technologies in beekeeping, bee health, and professional education of beekeepers. The projects are based on the letter of intent signed in January 2020 between the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association and the Iranian Beekeepers' Association. The agreement envisages cooperation in the exchange of technical knowledge and experience in all areas of beekeeping, organization of professional training workshops, exchange of experience in exporting bee products and the establishment of joint ventures in this field, exchange of experience in equipment and technology, and the organization of seminars and joint activities.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the projects stalled immediately before their implementation, however, the Embassy organized a video conference aimed at connecting experts from both countries in the field of beekeeping, bee health care, and professional education of beekeepers. In addition to the initiator of the event, Ambassador Kristina Radej, the two-hour event was attended by representatives of the Slovenian Beekeepers' Association, the Apimondia World Beekeeping Organization, the Slovenian Beekeeping Academy of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Ljubljana, and about 50 Iranian beekeeping experts and veterinary educational experts.

The long-term projects of the Embassy in the field of promotion of beekeeping and other pollinators were met with a great response in Iran and provide an incentive to start urban beekeeping on a professional basis in Tehran and other urban areas. Close cooperation with state institutions, beekeeping associations at various levels, research and professional organizations, while coordinating with international and other local organizations, enable the continuation of projects and their upgrading beyond the planned framework.