A beekeeper arranges a honeycomb at the community of Chengue.
"I am in the process of returning to the land, to love and to earn my independence.
Ortiz, a young girl then, survived the attack on her village of Chengue in the northern Montes de Maria region. But she lost several members of her family as well as close friends.
More than a hundred families fled in the wake of the atrocity, leaving behind a ghost village.But nearly two decades later, life has slowly returned to the dusty village, in part because of the lure of bees.
"Thanks to beekeeping, people have united, returned, they enjoy taking care of the bees," she said, working the handle on a device called a bee smoker to fumigate and calm the swarming bees.
For Ortiz, apiculture is a way of "trying to heal the wounds" left over from the war, but it also represents a hope of survival for farmers whose mixed crops of tobacco, yam and cassava are gradually drying up because of global warming.
Merino is known here as "the last widow of Chengue" because she was the only one who returned to the village where she lost her husband. Workshops allowed her to "turn these sources of pain" into "spaces of goodness, to heal wounds and recover the social fabric that had fragmented," she said.
Merino says she shared her experience with other women, mounting the Honey venture to spark "economic change" in the village.
"I am in the process of returning to the land, to love and to earn my independence," said Merino, convinced that the women and their bees will yet become "the masters of the territory."
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