Thabo Madlala, Southern Drakensberg Crane Conservation Project Eco-Ranger, African Crane Conservation Programme
It is my privilege to be one of the pioneer beekeepers who received training in beekeeping through the Healthy Catchment Alliance Programme, a partnership between the EWT, Conservation South Africa and Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa. After being trained in 2016, I designed my first hive. Encouragingly, the bees colonised it after only a month. This was a learning experience for me as it enabled me to gain new knowledge about bees and their foraging habits. In my spare time, I train people on beekeeping and permaculture. I also conduct general environmental education and awareness in my community through my hiking club.
Topics covered during the beekeeping training workshop
Earlier in 2017, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop in Pretoria hosted by the SEED Initiative, a global partnership for action on sustainable development and the green economy. It provides technical and financial support for small-scale businesses that help improve livelihoods and protect the environment. The workshop goal was to improve participants’ skills in business plan development, building on experiences of originators who have been successfully implemented beekeeping projects. The focus of the workshop was on four themes, generally referred to as the 4Ds – Detect, Determine, Discover and Develop. The 4Ds represent the steps followed when starting a beekeeping project. Participants were introduced to all four steps, with practical examples being given. The first step is to Detect, which entails identifying challenges in your area and brainstorm on possible solutions. The second is to Determine, which involves identifying customers are that you are targeting and the benefit you expect. The third, Discover, involves the process of identifying a proven business model and adapting it to suit your local market. The last focus point is Develop, which focuses on adopting a business idea and developing your business prototype. During the workshop, value chain analysis was also covered.
Registration and insurance requirements
To be a beekeeper in South Africa, one needs to register with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO). In terms of Control Measures R858, published on 15 November 2013, all beekeepers and bee removal service providers must register with DAFF annually. SABIO facilitates a special group insurance policy for its members as part of its agreement with Van Der Laan Insurance Brokers. This special insurance policy was specially designed for the beekeeping community because beekeepers may be accused of liability for damages caused by their bees. Our beekeeping group is currently registered with DAFF but still needs to register with SABIO before we expand our business operations.
Tips for enhancing success
In order for beekeeping projects to be successful in communities, there is a need to focus on the initial beekeeper selection process. A lack of passion and understanding of beekeeping has been identified as a major constraint for many of the communal beekeepers in South Africa. Many beekeepers are under the impression that they will make money though keeping a handful of beehives. They then get discouraged when they find out that it calls for commitment and ability to run the project as a full time business. There are documented cases of beekeeping projects that grew and became successful through effective business planning and management. It is important to select people who have a passion for similar business activities such as vegetable gardening or care for the environment. It is critical to ensure there is enough food for the bees during the cold winter months. Placing the hives near winter flowering plants or planting winter flowering plants is beneficial. We are currently planning to plant more rosemary flowers in our area to attract bees.
Our apiary is situated on a fenced piece of land on the outskirts of our community near a eucalyptus plantation. We encountered challenges during the baiting period, with the bees coming and going without colonising the hive permanently. We also had problems with ants during the baiting process, which made the bees abscond the hives. We solved the problems by applying grease around the poles to deter the ants. This resulted in successful colonisation of the hives. We now have five hives, three of which are colonised.