IN THE Baviaanskloof, Patensie and Addo – business is buzzing. With R350000 from the Global Equity Fund (Gef) and a further R250000 applied for, farm workers and members of half a dozen impoverished communities have become fully-fledged bee-keepers, producing the finest organic honey and a raft of other honey-based products.
The skill they have acquired gives the beneficiaries a sustainable new revenue stream which is helping to uplift their extended families and thereby their entire communities.
Their industry is also extra eco-friendly as water-sapping, invasive alien trees are being felled to make the hives, saving water, and protecting indigenous biodiversity. And it adds another arrow to the quiver of ecotourism, which is a mainstay of these areas.
Friends of Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area (Fobwa) chairman Mervyn Brouard, who is co-ordinating the initiative, said beneficiaries include workers on five different farms spread through the central and western kloof, led by pioneers Cedrik Oktober and Willem Maganie, plus seven members of Zaaimanshoek community.
With money from Gef channeled through the UN Development Programme, the project is managed by Fobwa and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. The beneficiaries received training and protective gear plus “brood chambers” and “supers”, key structural parts of the working hives they had to build.
About 70 hives have now been established and the co-ordinators are trying to acquire more funding to enable them to expand this number. Alien black wattle, poplars and pine trees are being felled to harvest planks to make the casing of the hives.
Dr Garth Cambray of Makana Meadery in Grahamstown – a Herald Citizen of the Year – was commissioned to help train the new beekeepers. He taught them to produce not only honey but also unusual products like honey mustard, honey vinegar, honey marmalade and mead.
It’s not a money for jam quick turnover big bucks industry. But it is sustainable and, because there are little or no running costs, any money made is profit, Brouard notes.
“Getting to the point of actually producing honey for sale takes many months. Extracting honey too soon from a hive will slow its growth and can lead to loss of the swarm. That said, so far two of the older beneficiaries have sold over R10000 worth of honey this past season.
“They have sold it locally in outlets such as Veros’ and Babes se Winkel and to a commercial beekeeper on Bokloof farm. Their success points to the others achieving similar results.”
The same partnership model is being rolled out on the eastern edge of the kloof near Patensie, where a relationship has been established with Honeyville Private Nature Reserve and Die Berg and Kruisfontein communities. Basic training is already done, funds for protective gear have been approved and the gear will be supplied next month, Brouard said.
Lastly, Fobwa has been working with SANParks and the Nomathamsanqa community near Addo. The agreement here is that, as an additional income stream for these formerly jobless residents, who are now fully fledged beekeepers, SANParks will use them to catch bee swarms that invade cottages in the park.
With SANParks’ blessing, the hives have been established in a cordoned-off “botanical reserve” just inside the park fence. Large game are kept out of these areas to help the park managers to evaluate the impact of especially the browsers and grazers. So the reserves are especially rich in flowering plants for the bees – and they allow the beekeepers to work on their hives secure from the big predators. The beekeepers are able to walk to work, accessing the reserve through a special gate, adding another aspect of sustainability to the project.
The production of the raw honey has triggered a complementary, entrepreneurial industry involving the wider Nomatamsanqa community, as other residents are buying the honey in bulk and then bottling and selling it, Brouard said.
Both the beekeepers and the co-ordinators on the three different projects are learning all the time, he noted.
“What I have learnt is that honey taste is very dependent on what is blooming at the time. In addition, if the swarms are used for pollination or are located near crop farming, taste will be affected.”
Besides being delicious and organic, none of the Fobwa partnership hives are affected by American Foul Brood Disease. AFB does not change the taste of honey or make it dangerous for human consumption, but it kills the larvae which ingest it when they hatch. Once larvae start dying, numbers plummet, bee foraging teams are depleted and the hive starves and eventually collapses.
The recent breakdown in the honey production and marketing system which allowed AFB to enter South Africa stems from the situation where not enough honey is being produced in South Africa to satisfy the domestic market. So honey is imported from overseas, including countries like China, which is cheap but of poor quality. And sometimes this imported honey is not properly irradiated to remove AFB.
But there are none of these problems with the Gef Baviaanskloof, Patensie and Addo projects which are all producing delicious, truly home-grown Eastern Cape honey, Brouard said.
“It’s very exciting. The plan now is to expand out to Paterson.”
Article source: http://www.peherald.com/news/article/8239