The Sweet Rewards of African Honey Bee Initiative

Words: Karl Tessendorf

Every now and then you come across a brilliant idea. The kind that makes you sit and back and think, “of course!”. These ideas are often simple but the effects are complex, rewarding, and they have with the power to change lives. The African Honey Bee initiative is the perfect example of this kind of thinking.

The African Honey Bee Initiative

In essence, it’s so simple – they set up micro beekeeping businesses in rural communities. They also provide training, equipment, and a means of getting the honey to market. It’s a clever initiative that’s not only empowering communities, it’s also producing some of the best natural honey in the country.
African Honey Bee
African Honey Bee

The man behind African Honey Bee is Guy Stubbs. He’s a straight-talking fellow who fell in love with beekeeping as a young man in 1981. He soon realised that selling honey was a great way to earn money, which was essential when taking girls out on dates. Fast forward many dates and some years later, and Guy has turned his passion for beekeeping into the social entrepreneurial business – African Honey Bee.

African Honey Bee

Left: Upcycling old jeans to make durable beekeeping gloves. Right: Creative beekeeping garments.

How the African Honey Bee Initiative Works

At present they have around fifty beekeepers operating in rural communities, and effects have been life-changing for the inhabitants. Guy explained that they have a Christian approach that aims to empower communities with the skills to make change. It’s a two-pronged approach that provides physical and spiritual upliftment. Tshepo Lebese is one of the beekeepers in Winterveld, Pretoria. He’s a chicken farmer by trade and he’s always had a love for mother nature. When his community was approached by African Honey Bee, he jumped at the chance to learn the trade.

African-Honey-Bee

Tshepo was originally a chicken farmer and has now added beekeeping to his repertoire.

Tshepo has been keeping bees for nine months now and he says it’s changed his life. With Guy’s help, he’s learnt how to custom build and maintain beehives. He’s even learnt how to build chicken coops with materials he already had, and he now sells organic eggs. Tshepo is also part of Guy’s team that trains new beekeepers. He says he loves the adventure of life and beekeeping is helping him to live the adventure.

Where to from here

At the moment, South Africa produces about one thousand five hundred tons of honey annually. The only problem is that we consume almost three times as much as this, which means we have to import the shortfall. This is where things get tricky because the imported stuff, is often irradiated and ultrafiltered to a point where it actually contains no pollen. The result is sugary syrup that’s devoid of nutritional benefit.

Guy believes that we shouldn’t have to import any honey to South Africa. Everything we need to produce enough and more is right here on our doorstep.

Last year the African Honey Bee initiative produced twenty tons of honey – and this is just from fifty producers. Guy believes that with national rollout of the African Honey Bee model, they should be able to exceed ten thousand tons per year.

African-Honey-Bee

Using creativity to make upcycled smokers.

Getting to know real honey

Another big challenge with natural, raw honey is actually the consumers themselves. We’ve grown up with this perception that honey should be clear and liquid. The truth is that real honey, the kind that’s good for you, is often not clear and it will naturally crystallize over time. This is not a bad thing though, this is what honey is supposed to be like. Most of the cheap imported honey that you see in the shops have been heat treated and ultra-processed to stop this.

What’s more is that most cheap honey is actually blended from many different honeys.

I picked up a cheap honey the other day in a large retail store, and there were five countries of origin on the back of the bottle. Five.

This is the illusion of quality that we’ve all bought into, when in fact it’s anything but. What we should be buying is local honey that’s raw, ethical and traceable.

Tshepo’s honey, as well as the honey from the other fifty-odd African Honey Bee producers, is collected and sold through Eat Naked. Eat what? Eat Naked, it’s a new quirky brand that believes in honest, raw food with nothing to hide – naked food. Other than a light straining to remove any wax particles, the honey is as natural as you can get. Eat Naked has been partnering with African Honey Beer for one year and the response has been amazing.

Eat NakedEat Naked

Eat Naked

Eat Naked is now becoming more than just a retail brand by investing into the development of hives in rural areas. Just like African Honey Bee, they are believers in positive social-economic impact as well as positive impact on the environment. Eat Naked is currently supplying Dis-Chem stores nationwide. It does cost a little more than you are used to paying for supermarket honey, but as they say in life, “you get what you pay for”.eat-naked-products
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Read about our other beekeeping adventures…Beekeeping in Constantia and   Urban Beekeeping in the CBD.

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