Na­tive Nosi honey cre­ates a buzz

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Su­laiman Philip

Na­tive Nosi is a lo­cal honey brand. The 100 per cent black­owned com­pany sells raw honey har­vested from its own bee hives as well as those owned by small farm­ers.

“I can tell you ex­actly where the honey in every bot­tle comes from. With many hon­eys, you can’t re­ally tell the ori­gin of the honey and ir­ra­di­a­tion often re­moves all the good en­zymes from the fi­nal prod­uct,” said owner Mok­gadi Ma­bela.

Ma­bela's en­thu­si­asm is ev­i­dent in every word that tum­bles from her mouth. Na­tive Nosi sells about 200kg of honey every month but Ma­bela is work­ing on scal­ing that up to at least a 1 000kg be­cause she often can­not meet de­mand.

She started by buy­ing honey from her fa­ther, Peter Ma­bela, a bee­keeper, and sell­ing that to friends and col­leagues.

As de­mand grew, he tapped his net­work of farm­ers. “Even­tu­ally, I started buy­ing my own bee­hives and would set them up where my fa­ther had his. I al­ways seem to be chas­ing quan­tity. Peo­ple like my honey be­cause it’s au­then­tic. They want to know where their food comes from and how their food is pro­duced and I can tell them that.”

She tops up her sup­ply by buy­ing raw honey from small farm­ers in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in Lim­popo, Gaut­eng and Mpumalanga. These emerg­ing farm­ers are often ex­ploited be­cause they do not have ac­cess to mar­kets, she says. “They are all sub­sis­tence farm­ers who use bees to pol­li­nate their crops. Honey is a by-prod­uct. They don’t have ac­cess to a mar­ket for their honey so they sell it cheap. I am try­ing to change that by giv­ing them a mar­ket and a fair price.”

The story of an African com­pany

Ma­bela is the third gen­er­a­tion of her fam­ily to work with bees. Her grand­fa­ther was the first. “He was a teacher, but he al­ways wanted to be a farmer. But his fa­ther was adamant that he was go­ing to be a teacher.”

Af­ter re­turn­ing from the Sec­ond World War, her grand­fa­ther used his sav­ings to buy land and be­gan farm­ing. He kept live­stock and planted sea­sonal crops. “He had a few bee­hives be­cause he un­der­stood the role they played in pol­li­nat­ing his crops.”

Her fa­ther fol­lowed his fa­ther into agri­cul­ture, this time con­cen­trat­ing on bee­keep­ing. Ma­bela never felt that she would fol­low in his foot­steps. Af­ter high school, she left home to study po­lit­i­cal science and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

About six years ago, her fa­ther got very ill and for the first time, Ma­bela se­ri­ously con­sid­ered fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s path. “My fa­ther was ill, and my mother called me.

She said no-one had any idea where his bee­hives were or what was go­ing on with his busi­ness. That’s when I se­ri­ously be­gan think­ing about the honey busi­ness.”

To­day, the proudly South African bee­keeper is as busy as the in­sects she is so pas­sion­ate about as she does her bit to de­crease the coun­try’s reliance on im­ported honey.

Mok­gadi Ma­bela, owner of Na­tive Nasi, is do­ing her bit to cre­ate jobs.

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