…Qacha’s Nek businessmen’s honey business thrives
QACHA’S NEK – Malefane Khamali lives in a hard-to reach mountainous area where public and other essential services are scarce. Yet he couldn’t have it any other way, not least because he has become self-sufficient as a bee farmer in the area.
“I find it suitable for this type of business here,” said the 50-year old, who is one of a few people in the country keeping bees without a visible organisation that can help create opportunities for growth.
Khamali said he enjoys the bee-keeping business because “it’s easy”.
A resident of mountainous rural Tebellong in Qacha’s Nek, Khamali said he is content despite being cut off from essential services.
He started the venture in 2017 with a single hive but now owns five hives from which he is making a living.
He said he didn’t pay for the bees, which he collected from the mountains and he also constructed the hives.
“I found this type of business perfect and cheaper to run. I never bought the bees, I collected them from up the mountains and I never hired anyone to build the bee house, I built those houses myself,” he said.
“The other good thing about bee farming is that, unlike other animals, you need not drop even a small sweat looking after them,” he said.
“They look after themselves, they take themselves out to look for flowers and come back home without your involvement.”
“I do not buy any food for them or hire any shepherds to look after them.”
Khamali said his task was just to go and hunt the bees and put them in the hives. “Everything happened naturally after that.”
He said one thing he has to do for the bees is to make sure there are flowers nearby so that they do not fly away.
Another of the few beekeepers in the country, Hopolang Mokhetho also living in Tebellong, said he is surviving from the bee-keeping business.
He said he started the business with only one hive but he now has eight.
“The good thing about bee-keeping is that it is one of the cheapest forms of business and I enjoy the benefits of owning them,” Mokhetho said.
Pointing out the importance of bees, Mokhetho said they produce a compound called propolis, which can help people battling diabetes, cold sores, and swelling (inflammation) or sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis).
Propolis is also said to help in the case of burns, canker sores, genital herpes and other conditions, although there is no credible scientific evidence to back these claims.
Propolis is taken from the sap on needle-leaved trees or evergreens. Bee wax is also used to make candles, shoe polish and floor polish.
“Although the business itself is easy to start and to run, I still face some challenges,” Mokhetho said.
“Harvesting should be done four times a year, but I still have some challenges of finding suitable machines and I usually do my harvest three times a year or even two times,” he said.
The other challenge is that there are birds which eat the bees and kill many of them.
“I collected the bees from up in the mountains. This is where shepherds also like to go and collect honey but the bad part is that they burn the bees so that they can have access to the honey,” said.
“To me as a businessman I suffer because I struggle to find bees because they are burned.”
A bee’s life span is only 60 days, but they reproduce very quickly and that makes it seem as if they live longer.
The queen is usually the only one that lays eggs and its life helps the bees to be many.
The queen produces 1 500 cells a day and in 16 days there will be more bees produced.
Another bee keeper, 25-year-old ’Manaha Motšoane from Whitehill on the periphery of Qacha’s Nek town, started the business in 2019.
She was 23 years old when she started the business.
“It’s very easy and cheap to start,” she said.
“I am married, my husband does not have a permanent job and we have a child,” Motšoane said, adding that she “decided to help him with a cheap and affordable business”.
“Then bee keeping was the one. My father helped me to collect the bees and helped me with the shelter,” she said.
She said she is “making a lot of money” selling honey.
“I am able to help my husband with our household needs,” she said.
“Bee keeping is a good business for people living in remote areas because we can find them near and we can also keep them easily,” she said.
“Unlike keeping other livestock, keeping bees is advantageous because they cannot be stolen.”
Her major concern is that shepherds burning pastures and destroy many bees in the wild.
Several studies have shown that keeping bees can be a lucrative business in Lesotho.
In a study titled Enhancing Honey Production in Lesotho, the Food and Agricultural Organisation said three quarters of rural households in Lesotho depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
It noted that these households are increasingly vulnerable because of the deteriorating performance of the agriculture sector.
“Beekeeping and the production of honey and other hive products can help to sustain the livelihood of farmers that reside in areas with potential for apiculture,” the study found.
It however stated that the sector needs to resolve a number of problems before it can realise its full potential.
In response to these challenges, a project was designed with the aim of helping improve and diversify the livelihoods of agricultural-dependent households through the promotion of commercial honey production in Lesotho.
The project, funded by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, focused on building the capacity of the beekeeping subsector to develop the honey value chain from its current insignificant levels to becoming a noticeable player in the formal domestic market.
Strategic areas of intervention involved the training of beekeepers and the relevant advisory services, the rehabilitation of the National Apiculture Centre and the organization of beekeepers into cooperatives and associations.
To achieve its objectives, the project built the technical capacity of service providers and developed beekeeping guidelines, a beekeepers’ database and a beekeeping calendar.
Bee farmer field schools were established for beekeepers in the four project districts and the National Apiculture Centre was rehabilitated and provided with modern equipment and instruments.
The project acted as a catalyst for the development of the honey value chain in Lesotho, providing critical technical and functional skills to service providers in the honey value chain.
Areas of high honey production potential were identified and sufficient technical information provided to facilitate evidence and investment decision-based policy making.
The study said the prospects for up-scaling this initiative through existing or upcoming government or donor projects were now very high.
In another project, the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Environmental Facilities’ Small Grants Programme 2017 – 2020 proposed a project called “Capacity Development for Improved Honey Production”.
The project was to be implemented over a period of two years by ’Maseepho Beekeeping Co-operative Society, a Community Based Organization (CBO) based in the Qacha’s Nek district.
The project brings together like-minded beekeeping communities from around 10 villages within the three constituencies of Tsoelike, Lebakeng and Qacha’s Nek.
These communities have limited income streams due to the high unemployment rate in Lesotho and reside in the highlands areas (lower Senqu catchment area), where agriculture – their main source of livelihood – is highly unpredictable in the face of climate change.
People targeted to benefit from the programme include youths, women, men and people with disability in rural areas.
The project will be used to raise awareness on the dangers of burning rangelands as veld fires are a major environmental hazard in Lesotho.
These fires, coupled with unsustainable grazing practices, are the main drivers of land degradation in Lesotho.
They impact negatively on biodiversity resources and cause severe deterioration in rangeland conditions, such as decline in rangeland productivity.
The GEF said fire on the rangelands also poses serious threats to bee colonies as it destroys their natural habitats.
“Naturally occurring bee colonies depend heavily on the rangelands for foraging, therefore rangelands that are in good condition provide optimum conditions for the survival of bees,” it said.
“In view of the above and as provided for by the Rangeland Resources Management Policy (2014), fire regime cannot be used as a management tool on the rangelands of Lesotho, as it will further exacerbate degradation of the already fragile rangeland ecosystem,” it said.
“Fires destroy natural habitats of both flora and fauna and compromise the ability of ecosystems to provide critical ecosystem goods and services that sustain life.”
In another study called Situation Analysis of Beekeeping Industry, it is said following a market study of the honey industry in Southern Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique), it was established that the region has vast potential for honey production which currently is under-exploited.
It was also established that all the countries in the region (except Zambia) are net honey importers and that despite the potential most of the honey is exported from outside Africa with South Africa importing and exporting to the other countries in the region.
The study found that the organisation of beekeepers is weak and has to be strengthened.
It found that in Lesotho government support services to the beekeeping industry is through the Beekeeping Section of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation (MFLR).
The section, it has been found, is manned by two people – the Head of the Section and Conservation Officer.
The section supports the beekeeping industry by training of prospective honey producers, assisting in the importation of production inputs, assisting in the extraction of honey as well as finding markets for honey.
The section also assists in bee removals and elimination of destructive colonies.
It also assists honey producers to source donor funds.
It was also found that the Lesotho Highlands Water Development Project (LHWDP) supports several farmers around the ’Muela Hydroelectric Plant in Butha-Buthe district.
The project works closely with the Beekeeping Section of the Forestry Ministry.
The Send-Me-a-Cow Stock Aid Project, located in Morija in the Maseru district, also supports seven beekeepers, the study found.
The beekeepers at Morija were given training on beekeeping by the Beekeeping Section.
The section also supplied the beekeepers with production inputs and bees.
The Lesotho Beekeepers Association (LBA) is supposed to be the umbrella beekeepers’ organisation in the country, according to the study.
The LBA mostly consists of beekeepers from Leribe District and most of the members of the Executive Committee come from the same district.
“Beekeepers from other districts seem not to be aware of the existence of LBA,” it reads.
The LBA was established in 2002 and is registered under the Societies Act of 1966.
The objective of the LBA is to eradicate poverty by promoting honey production in the country.
The founding Executive Committee is still holding office as there has never been a general assembly to elect new office bearers, according to the report.
The report says the LBA Executive Committee as well as the association are inactive.
“Members of the Executive Committee cannot even remember when they last met,” the report reads.
“The current membership is not known. One major problem facing the association is non-payment of the annual membership fee by members,” it reads.
“The other problem is non-attendance of meetings by members.”
The other beekeepers’ association is Women for All Seasons (WAS).
The WAS is made up of retired professional women who are on pension.
The association was started in 2001 with the objective of contributing to the economic development of the country as well as eradicating poverty.
It started with 35 members but currently has 10 members.
They also engaged in fundraising activities like selling sandwiches, raffle tickets and other activities and the money was used to purchase bee hives from South Africa.
The bee hives were located at Roma but were vandalized by herdboys.
The remaining hives were relocated to Ha-Foso in Berea where they were also vandalized.
The association was given a boost by the Church of Christ of the Latter Day Saints with a donation of 100 bee hives and honey extractor.
The hives were located at Qeme where some were washed away by floods.
The association has several hives under storage while the honey extractor has never been utilized.
The study found that a large number of members have lost interest in beekeeping such that they do not pay annual membership fees and do not attend meetings.
Another challenge is lack of knowledge about beekeeping.
“For instance they have the equipment but do not know how to use it, e.g. the honey extractor has never been used.”
Lawyer in trouble
A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.
It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.
Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.
Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.
According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.
The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.
During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.
His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.
Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.
He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.
Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.
Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.
Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.
Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.
He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.
The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.
Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.
Trio in court for killing ‘witches’
THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.
Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.
They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.
The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.
Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.
Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.
He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.
“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.
He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.
They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.
Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.
He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.
Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.
He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.
Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.
He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.
“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.
He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.
Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.
The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.
Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.
“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.
He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.
“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.
He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.
Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.
He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.
The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.
“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.
He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.
Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.
He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.
Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.
He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.
“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”
He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.
Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.
He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.
Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.
“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.
The case continues.
Opposition fights back
THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.
Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.
But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.
The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.
Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.
Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.
It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.
The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.
The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.
“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.
“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”
“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”
The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.
The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.
“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.
He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.
“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.
“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”
He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.
“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.
Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.
“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.
Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.
“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.
“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”
The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.
The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.
Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.
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