Jonas and the bees: Stingless beekeeping (meliponiculture) in the indigenous village of Barreirinha (TI Araribóia) – PART 1

I am Jonas Guajajara and I would like to tell you my story: How I started my work on stingless beekeeping in the village of Barreirinha and the challenges I had to overcome.

Author: Jonas Guajajara

Leia em Português.

I was born in 1993 in the indigenous village of Marajá TI (Indigenous Territory) Araribóia, close to the municipality of Calumbi/Arame, in the State of Maranhão. I grew up in Marajá as the son of Raimundo Guajajara e Rosilene Guajajara until I turned 11 years old. I would like to tell you a bit of my experience.

My childhood in the indigenous village of Marajá and Barreirinha (TI Araribóia)

Like all parents, my parents were always concerned to give us children the best that they could. Formerly, when they were young, there was no school or, more precisely, there was a school, but it was a long way away from the place where they lived, and they did not have the opportunity to go to school in those days. They therefore decided to take advantage of the possibility of putting us in school since they did not want us to suffer from the disadvantages that they had experienced. They enrolled us in the public school (state school) in the town. Due to the lack of transport, since we lived eight kilometres from the town, our parents made the decision to move with us to the place where we live today.

We moved from Marajá to the indigenous village of Barreirinha, which had been founded by my grandfather, Crispino Guajajara.

Initially, the village had been called Coelho (rabbit) since it was a place where there were many rabbits, and it still is today. As time passed, things changed and a bathing spot appeared on the river where people from the town would come to swim, and there is also a small dam (“barreirinha” in Portuguese) at this location. Therefore, since that time, the place became known as the “Barreirinha” (Small Dam) and we kept this name.

The year in which we departed from the Marajá indigenous village, the year 2000, I was 11 years of age. Already at the beginning of the year my father registered me at the Municipal High School “José Maria Albuquerque”, in the district of Olaria, at the edge of the village. This district is some 200 to 300 metres away from the river (Zutiua), which separates the village from the town. In the winter it was bad, because of the river. We had to cross the river to get to the school. My grandfather sometimes would build us a canoe, but it wouldn’t resist for long. So that was our route when we went to school and to the town to make purchases. It was only easy to cross over on foot during the dry season.

All of those years in my childhood were spent studying, playing, going to the farmstead, fishing, birdwatching, etc. But all of this only after getting our homework done. After finishing basic education at “José Maria Albuquerque”, I had to transfer to a State School called “Bem-Ony Gomes”, where I did my first year of secondary education and started the second year, which I wasn’t able to complete. At the end of 2012 a course of studies began in the town of Arame, IFMA (Federal Institute of Education in Science and Technology in Maranhão). It was there where I completed my secondary education.


Learning about stingless beekeeping (meliponiculture) in Arame

One of the first people here in the village to discover that this course of studies was taking place in Arame and that the open registration was being held was my father, who registered us before letting us know, because he knew that the course was good and also free of charge. He asked us if we wanted to do it, and after he had explained to us how the course would be held and everything else about it, we accepted. He had already put our names down for it but he needed a document to conclude the registration. However, he did everything right that day, so it worked out very well. My father was still studying, since even at an adult age he had managed to study a little and thus knew how to read and write and was now a bilingual assistant in the language Tenetehara-Guajajara.

In the course we learned about various fields of fish-farming (pisciculture), horticulture, poultry-farming (aviculture), recovery of degraded areas, animal husbandry (zootechny), stingless beekeeping (meliponiculture), fruit cultivation, etc. The course lasted for three and a half years, and we completed it in 2015.


Our passion for stingless beekeeping and our final presentation

My brother and I very much enjoyed the field of stingless beekeeping (meliponiculture). Because we knew that there were various types of these bees on our reserve. The course was of novel value for us with regard to bees, and our final thesis also dealt with the raising of stingless bees in the indigenous village, an activity that we had already begun after learning how to handle the hive boxes during the course. We started off with just two boxes of Uruçu amarela (yellow) bees that we had captured close to the village.

Our topic was:


After presenting our work we attained second place with a mark of 8.8 out of 9 points (which one group had attained). There were 116 students altogether, if I am not mistaken. I can’t remember exactly but there were more than 100 students, and only four indigenous students managed to complete the course.
For us, as indigenous students of this course, it was a great achievement to have completed it. It was a day never to be forgotten. Our colleagues congratulated us on the presentation, and this was very good for us because all of this instilled in us our passion for stingless bees.


…Jonas will tell us more about his story very soon! Follow us to learn more!

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