The beauty of the bee business

The beauty of the bee business

QACHA’S NEK – THEY at times can be a real nuisance.
When cornered they can sting, buzz around and crawl inside the house.
And when they irritate us we call the experts to fumigate them or remove them from our houses.
Without them, there would be no life as we know it.

Researchers say at least a third of our global food supply is pollinated by bees. Without these small insects, our crops would not be pollinated.
That would spell disaster for humanity, they say. Yet, for Tšeliso Moeti, 34, from Qacha’s Nek, bees are neither a nuisance nor an irritation.
That is because Moeti’s bee project is helping put bread on the table for him and his family.

Moeti believes that the time is coming when commercial farmers will hire beekeepers to bring bees to their farms so that they can help with cross pollination.
This practice is already being implemented in commercially advanced farming countries such as the United States where an online magazine says “bees provide essential pollination services to US fruit, vegetable and seed growers”.

The magazine says this adds “$8-14 billion annually to farm income, ensuring a continuous supply of healthy and affordable foods for the consumer”.
“About 2 million colonies are rented by growers each year to service over 90 crops,” it says. “Over the past five years, the percentage of income from pollination services has increased and overtaken honey,” the magazine says.

Moeti, who only went to school as far as Form E, may not be aware of the ground-breaking research on pollination in the Western world.
His focus at present appears to raising bees, collect honey and sell it to his neighbours.

He says after he finished school, he could not secure a job because he did not do too well in his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) exams.
He says he bumped into the bee-keeping business accidentally after he attended a training programme run by the Ministry of Forestry in 2007.
While he was taught how to catch bees, he was still to master the art of rearing bees so they could stay in his hives.
He would go out in the countryside to catch the bees, bring them home but soon after they would be gone, back to the wild.
“That was tiring but I never lost hope,” Moeti says.

“I never lost hope as I had nowhere to go because I’m not educated and our country does not have enough jobs for everyone.”
With time, through a personal study of how bees build their combs, their activities and the arrangement of their dwellings Moeti became a successful bee charmer.
Today, those who aspire to run a similar business go to him and buy bees to keep at their homes or farms.

Moeti charges M500 for fetching bees from the wild if a customer has spotted where they are, and M1 000 if he is the one to search for a hive.
He also charges an additional M500 for making a special hive in which a colony will feel comfortable to build its nest.
He says he has so far trained 15 bee farmers countrywide some of whom are now keeping bees for commercial purposes.

“Beginning in 2009 things went well. I use good techniques of collecting these bees and even the way I keep them is very different from the way I did before,” he says.
He says the good thing about bee farming, if you know how to catch and bring them to your home, is that you do not need any capital except your hands and brains.
All you have to do is to plant a lot of flowers around the hive, have water nearby, and that is all.

He says his only challenge is when flowers wither in winter and the bees have less to eat because they live on nectar.
“They do not have much honey and sometimes they die,” Moeti says.
“Also, they die when it is rainy and they are not well sheltered. They are not able to search for nectar when it is raining for several consecutive days,” he says.
“The less they eat the less they produce honey.”

Moeti cautions that the keeper must ensure that the young ones do not die “because the entire colony will fly away and never come back. They do not live with the dead”.
“The other problem is that the equipment for bees is not available in Lesotho and to import such material is very expensive,” he says.
Moeti says the business of bee-keeping is good because many people do not just buy honey for food but also for its medicinal value.
“Honey is a medicine when it is mixed with some products so many people buy it. It can also be used as a body cream and it helps people who want to defy the signs of age grow old to remain younger and be stronger,” Moeti says.

“The bee sting has medicinal value in that it is used to treat arthritis and stroke,” he says.
Since the 1930s, researchers have been refining extraction techniques to collect bee venom, because bee stings can relieve the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism, and other diseases.
Propolis, a glue like plant resin that bees use to maintain the comb, is used in cosmetics and healing creams and may have antibiotic or anaesthetic properties.
Honey is also used in the production of royal jelly, bees’ wax, propolis, pollen, bee venom and other products.

Beeswax from cell caps and old combs is also used for high-quality candles, pharmaceuticals, lotions, and friction-reducing waxes for skis and surfboards.
Food additives for humans and domestic animals are made from bee-collected pollen and from royal jelly, which bees produce as food for their larvae.
“I have 10 boxes of bees, one box contains 10kg of honey or sometimes contains 20kg of honey,” Moeti says.
He sells a 500 gramms bottle of honey for M75.

A 10kg box of honey goes for M1 500 while a 20kg container sells for M3 000.
In a year Moeti makes M30 000 from honey sales “which is a good profit because I did not buy any bee”.
“This business helps me a lot because I never went far with my education,” he says.

Moeti says he used to be a small-scale crop farmer and would sometimes get temporary jobs at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) during elections.
“This is a very good business and I wish people can take this opportunity,” he says.

“Many Basotho are interested because I have helped 15 people and they are now successfully running similar businesses while 46 are still undergoing training so that they can do this business too,” he says.
“I think this can reduce poverty and our standard of living will be better.”

Thooe Ramolibeli

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