Blossoming Hope: Aral Sea's Dried Bed Unleashes Healing Power through Beekeeping

Author: Gulnur Kaypnazarova

January 22, 2024
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Have you ever dreamed of cultivating your own apiary amidst an environmental disaster like the Aral Sea region? At first glance, it seems improbable due to the harsh conditions, especially the lack of flowering plants crucial for beekeeping. However, a unique feature distinguishes the Aral Sea's surreal landscapes – a diverse vegetation cover fostering the growth of medicinal, forage, fruit, tannin, essential oil, and bee plants.

Venturing into the Muynak district, near the dried-up Aral Sea bed and its haunting ship cemetery, tourists are drawn to the area. It's here that our beekeeper heroines, like Zamira Zhaulybayeva, reside.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan
A Life-changing discovery

Zamira's day begins with the fragrant, rich taste of honey collected by bees from wild medicinal plants in the Aral Sea desert landscapes. This honey, a life-changing discovery, becomes the main treat on her family's table. Her family, aware of the honey's healing properties, sees it as a panacea for many diseases.

The story traces back to 1997 when Zamira's husband, Zhenis Boldykov, assisting beekeepers in Bukhara, developed a fascination for beekeeping. The family's dream of a bee apiary took root, and by 2022, within UN Joint programme (UNDP, UNFPA and FAO) funded by the United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security, Zamira's family received the necessary equipment for beekeeping in the Aral Sea region.

Despite the challenges of a harsh climate, Zamira's family perseveres, leaving most honey to help the bees adapt. Zamira's dedication extends beyond beekeeping to plant-growing, contributing to the unique fodder base for bees. The honey obtained from desert plants, including sandy Acacia and Cistanche, possesses a special flavor and aroma, serving as a natural medicinal collection.

Zamira envisions promoting the unique honey of the Aral Sea globally, capitalizing on Muynak's popularity among tourists. She believes that the natural bee product, collected in this extraordinary region, is a step into the future for environmental sustainability.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan
Finding hope in tiny bees

Another beekeeper, Alimash Myrzayeva, faced life challenges, including a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. The Joint Programme by UNDP, UNICEF, and FAO “Empowering youth towards a brighter future through green and innovative development of the Aral Sea region” provided an opportunity for her to venture into beekeeping. The initiative not only helped her rebuild her life but also provided her with a newfound purpose and a way to combat her illness.

She did not immediately decide to participate in the project, "my husband nudged me into it, fortunately he had the experience in the family," she recalls. Then Alimash successfully turned over a new leaf of her fascinating life. "These amazing tiny creatures literally cured my soul, allowed me to forget about my illness," recalls Alimash.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Alimash's journey into beekeeping, guided by experienced beekeepers, resulted in successful honey extraction, highlighting the potential of the Aral Sea region. Like Zamira, Alimash aims to develop beekeeping in the region, leveraging its rich flora. The honey they produce is not just a treat but a form of prevention against diseases.

In conclusion, Zamira and Alimash, along with other participants in the Joint Programme, emerge as trailblazers in beekeeping, harnessing the rich flora of the Aral Sea region. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that honey from medicinal plants could be the panacea for many diseases, offering hope and prosperity to the community, the region, and the country.

Note: The analysis in the Aral Sea region revealed that 161 species of medicinal plants grow in the Amu Darya delta, 85 species of medicinal plants grow on the Ustyurt Plateau. The data has not been updated in recent years.