This third-generation beekeeper from Polokwane started a successful business. She has this advice for prospective farmers

Business Insider SA
  • Mokgadi Mabela is a third-generation beekeeper from Polokwane.
  • She started her own business, Native Nosi,  three years ago.
  • Mabela believes that to be successful in farming, entrepreneurs need to be clear what part of the value chain they want to be part of.

Beekeeping runs in Mokgadi Mabela's family. Her grandfather was a farmer and kept bees to pollinate crops in Polokwane. After him, her father built out the hives and started selling the honey.

"(We were) known as the people who always had honey. I would take it from my dad and sell it anywhere I went," she says. After her father started to complain that she was compromising the availability of his stock, he encouraged Mabela to start her own business.

Armed with a few of his hives, she started Native Nosi in 2015.

"The response has since been amazing."

"People think we add something to our honey which lends to the taste, which is not true." The taste, appearance and texture of the honey are influenced by where they forage.

Mabela works with avocado, citrus, bluegum, macadamia and sunflower farmers from Tzaneen, Polokwane and Modimolle. She places her hives on their farms, where the bees help to pollinate their crops.

"I currently have three farmers in Gauteng and a long list of many more who want me to bring my hives to them too." She has to be strategic, however, because moving hives can be quite costly.

Mokgadi Mabela setting up her hives on a farm in Magaliesburg

She believes to be successful in farming, entrepreneurs need to be clear what part of the value chain they want to be part of, and they also need to understand farming in the bigger context. 

"It is about food security, biodiversity and preserving the environment," she says. "And not just about owning land."

"If you are still interested then go in for it, even if it is at a small scale."

Getty Images

Here are some tips for starting your own beekeeping business:

Do your research.

Go on the internet as well as read books on beekeeping. A recommended read is Beekeeping in South Africa by M.F Johannesmeier which can cost you R365 (including VAT) for a hardcopy.

Short beekeeping courses can cost between R950 and R2,950.

According to Beequipment South Africa, you need approximately R3,340 to get started with your beekeeping business. This includes the clothing, tools and a single beehive.

Beequipment founder Mike Miles advises attending local beekeeping association meetings and field trips.

Find a suitable place for your bees.

Keeping bees in your backyard is allowed in certain municipalities. Find out what the by-laws are in your area. 

Pick the best time to start a colony.

The best time to start your first colony is in the early part of summer. You can do so by trapping the bees, buying them or getting them through a bee removal company.

Have proper equipment.

Bees in the hives need to be properly managed and cannot simply be locked up in the hives. According to Beequipment, they will become irritable, aggressive and dangerous.

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