23 April 2018

Botswana: Mahalapye Duo Find Refuge in Bee Keeping

Mahalapye — Ramotsana, a traditional settlement situated 10km from Mahalapye along the Kalamare road where arable farming is practiced, has proved to be more than just what it is known for.

While the elderly are occupied with cultivating the land, the duo of Kenaope Maunatlala and Opelo Ontifile discovered the area has more to offer.

Within the bushes of Ramotsana lies hidden treasures which could only be spotted by an eye of a dedicated and passionate individual.

Maunatlala and Ontifile aged 32 and 27 years respectfully have found treasure in bee keeping. The duo is not even deterred by the buzzing sound and painful sting that could even claim one's life.

While their peers are out looking for jobs and others engaged in modern businesses in modern settlements, the young women are out in the bush with their ears wide open to catch the noise of a swarm of bees passing by. They have mastered the art of taming the most feared little creatures with their lethal sting.

Challenged by the high rate of unemployment in the country like other youth of their era, Maunatlala and Ontifile from Mahalapye ventured into bee keeping with the sole mission of fighting unemployment.

In an interview, Maunatlala said despite holding qualifications not in line with what they were doing, they followed their hearts desire which led them to the outskirts of Mahalapye where they discovered treasure hidden in the thicket.

The idea to venture into bee keeping was hatched in 2012 and gave birth to Ladies Bee Enterprises.

The dream became a reality in 2012 through funding from the Youth Development Fund to the tune of P96 000, Kenaope said.

Even though bee keeping is a seasonal business with two harvests annually, the two women are determined and ensure that the business thrives. During the off season, Maunatlala said they engaged in other meaningful activities to keep their minds occupied.

"We are not here by mistake neither did desperation draw us here, but our love for bees compelled us to venture into this business," related Maunatlala. Growing up, Maunatlala said her dream was to own a farm and she remains positive to realise her childhood dream.

It goes without saying that bee farming is not for the faint hearted. Kenaope said one needs to be brave as well as hard working.

She also said bee production thrived in the wilderness as bees were dependent on nectar from different flowers for honey production.

She appealed to young people to look beyond white collar jobs and make use of government schemes which were there to assist them set up businesses and create employment for themselves as well as employing other young people.

The two engage temporary employees when harvesting honey and when out in the bush collecting bee colonies to increase their stock.

"At the moment we do not meet the market demand so our future endeavour is to satisfy the demand in Mahalapye by supplying all the businesses and individual customers in the community. We currently supply our customers with liquid honey, combed honey and other by-products such as shoe polish, lip balms and candles," she added.

Like any other business, Maunatlala said Ladies Bee Enterprises has its short comings. "Despite the challenges, we are never discouraged to focus on a trade that we treasure so much," she said, adding that with a dedicated and loyal customer base, the business would flourish.

Maunatlala also said mentorship was vital in the success of the business, adding that they were grateful and indebted for the support that they received from their families, customers and other stakeholders like the YDF officers as well as the agriculture demonstrators for bee keeping.

Maunatlala said currently business was low since they were affected by climate changes, adding that although they had anticipated improved production under the current season, it has been unfortunate due to the late rains wiping flowers which provide bees with nectar for the formation of honey.

She said another challenge facing the business was that of wax moth pest which attacked the honey comb, irritating the bees resulting in part of the colony escaping from the boxes.

The situation is taxing as they are forced to continuously look for bee colonies in the bush to increase their stock.

Source : BOPA

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