The Wichi indigenous people live in the arid zone of the central Chaco, a land characterized by little rain for much of the year and intense downpours in the month of November. One of the most important products for the community is honey gathered from wild bees, known in the indigenous language as twatsaj. The Wichi are not beekeepers; they do not rear the bees in hives, but collect the honey from hollow trees. Two months after the start of the flowering season in the middle of August, honey starts to accumulate in the wild hives. The best time for harvesting it is in November, when the rains start. The local people observe the bees’ activity and identify the tree trunks or hollow branches where the honey can be found. As they extract it, they leave a share, often containing pollen, for the colonies to feed on. They extract the honey and wax together, then press the mixture to separate out the honey. The honey is then filtered to remove impurities, passing it three times through a cloth, before being packaged for sale.
Gender roles are well defined in the community: The men harvest the honey, hunt and catch fish, while the women cultivate and gather fruits from many different arboreal species, including carob, chañar, mistol, quebracho blanco, palo borracho, palo santo and chaguar. The safeguarding of these plants is very important, because in addition to fruits, they also provide the flowers for the bees, fodder for animals and even natural dyes for textiles. The Wichi women are skilled at working the fiber obtained from the chaguar plant, turning it into textiles used to make typical bags called yicas, which are sold locally and used by the men to hold their fishing catch.
The Presidium’s objective is to network together producers, chefs, gastronomes, specialists and institutions who are interested in preserving and promoting the wild products harvested by the Larguero community, as well as the local knowledge, culture and traditions. With the honey, work will be done to improve the harvesting and the cleanliness of the facilities where it is pressed and filtered, and to promote its marketing. Though the project has been started in Larguero, a second phase will see the involvement of other communities.
Salta province, central Chaco
Presidium supported by
IFAD – International Fund for Agricultural Development
Juan Ignacio Pearson
Tel. +54 93873543801