LAHAINA - Prompted by an initiative of the Lahaina-based Cheetah Alliance, students at Sacred Hearts School this month are embarking on a project to adopt a beehive in Kenya and monitor it through the Cheetah Alliance website and Facebook throughout the remainder of the school year.
The effort is a partnership between the school, Prince Sam Bansah of Kenya and the Cheetah Alliance, founded by Lahaina resident Bonnie Blackmore (formerly Bonnie Nelson) after several of her trips to Africa on safari.
Blackmore started the Cheetah Alliance based on her love of cheetahs and established a website "to bring the children of the world together with one another and its creatures" three years ago.
Lahaina resident Bonnie Blackmore is linking Sacred Hearts School students with children in Africa through “bee farming.”
"Educating youth around the world is our only hope, and it begins here and now. These students need to communicate with one another to solve the problems they have inherited from us," she said.
Blackmore met Prince Sam (the "Pauper Prince") during her 2008 safari in Africa, where she spent two weeks with Mary Wykstra of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and Daktari Kariuki of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Daktari discussed the problems associated with bees taking tainted water from cattle dips to cool their hives. Prince Sam spoke of moving his family back to the slums of Nairobi due to the drought and other issues of life in the bush.
When Blackmore returned from Kenya, she sent $50 through Wykstra, so Sam could feed his family. He took part of the money and bought a beehive.
This first hive led to many more and the development of Cheetah Bee Honey, a program established by Wykstra and her new organization called Action for Cheetahs in Kenya.
This organization became actively involved in providing bee hives for local villagers and training them on how to maintain them.
"Bee farming" (as Sam calls it) isn't for everyone, and the African bees are very aggressive. Sam has become integral in teaching proper bee farming techniques.
So when Bradley Mason, a seventh grade teacher at Sacred Hearts School, caught wind of Blackmore's work, he suggested that the students might raise the money to adopt a hive.
Sam will teach students here through the children of his own daughter's school. When Blackmore was in Kenya in May 2011 on her "Soul Safari," she assisted in harvesting honey from the original hive she bought for Prince Sam.
Several educational videos made from this safari are currently running on Akaku: Maui Community Television.
"The bee situation in the United States and in Europe is very dire," said Blackmore.
Practices of domesticating bees during the past century have weakened the species.
"What people don't realize is that we have lost 90 percent of our bees in only five years in the U.S. The remaining 10 percent cannot maintain the pollination of our food. The bee is unique and crucial to the web of life. Without the bees, we are dust."
Blackmore feels that the bees are successful in Africa because they haven't been domesticated, and their aggression has guaranteed their survival.
"They will fight to their death and will chase down a threat to their food source," she said. "They are fighting for their very survival, and if they lose, we all lose.
"Educating the youth around the world is our only hope, and it begins here and now. These students need to communicate with one another to solve the problems they have inherited from us."
In April, one of the initial members of the Cheetah Alliance, a young man named Emmanuel Michael, will visit Maui from Tanzania. Blackmore met Emmanuel on her first night in Tanzania in 2008, where he was working as a waiter.
She began a conversation with him that led to his interest in the need for wildlife education. Through his determination and intelligence, Emmanuel managed to attend and graduate with high marks from MWEKA Wildlife Management College, the best wildlife management school in Tanzania.
Although the Cheetah Alliance handles no money, its members helped Emmanuel with tuition, money for books, refurbished computers and encouragement, which got him through many nights in the field without food so he could get his diploma.
A member of the Cheetah Alliance will sponsor Emmanuel's visit to Maui in April through a cultural exchange program.
He will visit about three weeks, staying with people around the island and giving presentations on wildlife management at Sacred Hearts and other schools.
Everyone is encouraged to visit the CheetahAlliance.com website, where more than 160 videos have been posted on the environment, education and just plain fun.