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‘2020 to 2030 Will Be The Decade Of Agri-Tech’



Picture this: remote rural Africa, where communities assiduously farm vast stretches of arable land not knowing anything about digital technology or drones that can transform their lives.

Now picture this: forward-thinking innovators and entrepreneurs who swap the city for the village and lend these communities the tech and savvy to change farming – and their fortunes – forever.

Agriculture, the mainstay of Africa’s informal economies, needs a facelift, and some new faces to talk tech to power. Agri-tech is the buzzword, and we profile three innovators spearheading change in their communities. They grew up on these farms, and knowing their earth best, have created the technology they need, in turn revolutionizing agriculture, from the little corners of Africa.

‘Clarity From Above’
James Paterson, South Africa

James Paterson. Photo supplied.

An unidentified flying object hovers over a 150-hectare orange farm in a small town called Clanwilliam in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.

It’s the first time James Paterson is testing his homemade drone. The object flies over the mountainous terrain offering a bird’s eye view, then singles out a tree with stunted growth. The object detects that the tree is not receiving enough water.

The object looks like a prop out of the Transformers movie series. It has eyes too – a camera lens – to monitor what’s happening on the ground. Paterson, 29, controls this propeller-enhanced technology using a controller. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aerobotics, a company that interprets satellite and aerial drone analytics to enable farmers.

He calls it “clarity from above”.

The drone space in Africa has significantly developed over the years, and the view from below has certainly changed too. In Rwanda, drones are a common sight, famously used to deliver blood and medical supplies to remote areas, and here in this small South African farm, it’s being used to improve the way we grow food.

READ MORE: Drones By Africa, For Africa

Aerobotics’ core mandate is to provide data on tree crops, enabling farmers with information on disease, pests and water usage. They are able to tell the farmers if a tree lacks nutrition and what it needs.

“Find one small thing that is going to improve the farmers’ life and then focus on that,” says Paterson.

“Instead of just giving the farmer a picture or a map, we give him exactly what’s going on with the tree and we can track that over time.”

He believes this would be useful in areas such as Cape Town with the ongoing water crisis.

He co-founded the company with Benji Meltzer in 2014 after they built drones in Paterson’s garage. Paterson, who grew up on a fruit farm, had always loved aeronautics. Meltzer is also the Chief Technology Officer of Aerobotics.

Now, he is able to merge farming and tech into something he enjoys doing on a daily basis; running an aeronautical company providing farm analytical services.

“Some farmers… like the older way of doing things.”

Aerobotics interprets satelitte and aerial drone analytics to help farmers.

But running the company hasn’t always been easy. Apart from competing with drone companies providing similar services, their biggest challenge has been trying to convince farmers to use their product.

“Some farmers… like the older way of doing things,” says Paterson.

“But even then, after we have met with them and we show them what that can do, they can really understand this is something that can help them on the farm.”

Currently, they have over 200 clients in countries such as the United States, Russia and South Africa.

Paterson has been one of the few to benefit from drone innovation in agriculture. He says he and the team were the only South African startups amongst 24 companies around the world to be part of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator in San Francisco early this year.

They have also secured an R8 million ($663,000) fund from two venture capital firms who Paterson says saw the benefit of their software for farmers. They are currently undergoing a new round of funding.

Aerobotics’ Chief Financial Officer, Timothy Willis, believes that technology in farming can assist in better risk mitigation and enhancing efficiencies around yields.

“I think those two things together will add to making a more efficient agricultural sector in Africa,” he says.

Five years from now, Paterson predicts drones will become more autonomous.

“In the future, you won’t be concerned about the drone, it will just do all the work for you.”

Smart Farming
Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Abia State, Nigeria

Ndubuisi Ekekwe. Photo supplied.

From a farm in the Abia State of Nigeria, Dr Ndubuisi Ekekwe talks to us about a table.

Not just any table, but a small square-shaped table resting on one leg, which actually is “an electronic farm diary” that records and collects crucial information for farmers.

Ekekwe calls it Zenvus, which he created in 2011. It collects data on the soil’s pH, moisture and temperature, and records the sun’s intensity and humidity in the air. An inbuilt solar panel charges it.

The device is his contribution to smart farming. It wirelessly transmits the recorded data to a cloud server from which farmers access it on a mobile app and get real-time data.

“2020 to 2030 will be the decade of agri-tech,” Ekekwe tells FORBES AFRICA.

Zenvus services corporates, and have supplied to 500,000 farming entities. He says it’s currently in a partnership with the government of Cross River State in Nigeria, as well as Abia State.

Ekekwe says he has been approached by a number of international companies wanting to cash in on Zenvus. However, he has been reluctant to sell it.

“Someone wanted to buy Zenvus for $5 million five years ago. I wouldn’t even sell it for $15 million, just to tell you the kind of value it has,” he says.

For Ekekwe, it’s more important to service farmers. To date, he prides himself in having the largest farmers’ cooperative in Africa.

“I wouldn’t even sell it for $15 million.”

Zenvus collects crucial data for farmers in Nigeria.

Ekekwe grew up as a farm boy in a village called Ovim in Abia State. Growing up, he received distinctions throughout his high school year and went on to acquire an engineering degree, four master’s degrees, two doctorates in management and microelectronics, as also a medical robotics degree from the United States.

He chose to move back and stay on in his village.

Ovim is known for the Ajonkwu festival when the Igbo community gather to celebrate the harvesting season.

According to Ekekwe, farmers rely on the moon to obtain a greater yield. As a result, tech for farming isn’t something a lot of people in his community are open to.

“Farmers are not literate and that is why we are not selling tech to them, we are selling the service,” he says.

According to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), 65% of Africa’s labor force is engaged in agriculture. Despite this, agricultural productivity on the African continent still lags behind significantly compared to other continents. AGRA suggests that farming only accounts for 32% of the continent’s GDP. Africa therefore does not reap the benefits of agriculture.

READ MORE: Agriculture Behind Africa’s Health

Ekekwe says the future of Africa is farming. He believes the convergence of tech and agriculture will result in more people wanting a piece of the pie of agri-tech startups and open up more opportunities for Africans across the continent.

‘Uber For Farmers’
Brian Bosire, Kisii, Kenya

Brian Bosire. Photo supplied.

On a farm in southwestern Kenya, in the small town of Kisii, a field agent reads data off a yellow square-shaped monitor, which has wires running into a smaller device connecting to the soil. It takes him about five minutes to read data regarding the soil’s PH, water levels, and disease and pests found on it. In almost two minutes, the data is sent to the farmer.

The field worker’s job is done and he looks at his phone to find his next requested farm match.

The device that has helped him is named UjuziKilimo, which is Swahili for ‘knowledge farming’. Its founder, 24-year-old Brian Bosire, calls it “an Uber service for farmers”, and this on a farm that even Uber might find difficult to access.

The field worker travels to the nearest farmer who has requested his services. This kind of smart farming service costs the Kenyan farmer about $20.

Bosire had always wanted to become a key contributor to Kenya’s agricultural industry. He grew up in Kisii, a town known for its highlands and wet weather – favorable climate for farming. Frustrated by the lethargic technological growth in the agricultural space in his town, he sought to create something innovative that would improve the yields for the farmers of Kisii.

“We aren’t selling tech, we are selling the solutions,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Bosire says what he tries to do is become as close to the farmer as possible. As a result, he and his team target small-scale farmers and read data on vegetable crops, maize being one of them. The UjuziKilimo can read data from about five to 10 acres of land. Farmers can request data on their farms by simply sending an SMS so even farmers with the most basic cellular devices can benefit.

“We aren’t selling tech, we are selling the solutions.”

UjuziKilimo helps improve yields.

When Bosire moved to the big city of Nairobi to study, he took advantage of every opportunity to pursue his dreams as an entrepreneur. To date, he has founded three companies, all operating in the tech innovation space, UjuziKilimo one of them.
It’s old hat that Kenya, the country which pioneered M-Pesa as one of Africa’s leading startups, is home to a lot more players in the tech space. But Bosire says his business is different.

Earlier this year, his other innovation company, HydroIQ, won the Startup of the Year Africa 2018 award. Slightly linked to agri-tech, it’s a virtual water network operator which connects water utility companies and water consumers through an online platform. It allows for mobile money payments, data analytics, leakage detections and water use and consumption through sensors that relay information.

All this leads one to believe that the future face of farming in Africa is young.

Bosire hopes UjuziKilimo can grow to reach from 10,000 farmers to over 50,000.

“We want to become the largest data center of agriculture analytics in Africa,” he says. Future plans include launching UjuziKilimo in the United Kingdom under the name ‘Soil Pal’.



Aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa: small successes, bigger prospects?




If you don’t know what aquaculture is, you’re not alone: a 2009 survey found that a remarkable 85% of South Africans had never even heard the term, and most are still unaware of its importance. The situation hasn’t improved much, more people have heard of it but few actually know what it is.

Aquaculture is the aquatic equivalent of agriculture. It involves essentially “growing” animals and plants that live in lakes, rivers or the sea, mostly for human consumption. It has been one of the world’s fastest growing industries in recent decades.

In fact, today, you’re more likely to be eating “farmed” fish than fish from the wild. But that is not true in South Africa, yet. In 2014 the supply of fish for human consumption from aquaculture exceeded that from wild-caught fisheries for the first time. This trend is continuing, as the amount of fish which can be supplied by the traditional fishing industry has reached a plateau, and aquaculture continues to expand at a rapid rate. It’s increasing in those countries with a long tradition of aquaculture, but also in regions where it hasn’t been done before.

As the supply of fish and seafood through fishing becomes less sustainable, the global challenge is to replace it sustainably through aquaculture.

The industry has grown slowly in sub-Saharan Africa. Freshwater fish aquaculture has recently expanded very rapidly in the region from a low base. Marine aquaculture has yet to take off, with only one or two successful examples. As fisheries become more depleted, there’s a growing need and opportunity to develop aquaculture for food.

Shortage of suitable sea space may eventually limit expansion in South Africa, but there are many such sea areas around the continent where marine aquaculture could increase rapidly given the required input of investment and expertise.

Aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa

Most of the world’s aquaculture production takes place in Asia, with China (60%), and the top six countries – all in Asia – produce 86%. The rapid growth rate in aquaculture production over the last quarter of a century in Asian countries is being mirrored in the production of freshwater fish in sub-Saharan Africa.

Only 550,000 tonnes of aquatic animals were grown in 2014, which is less than 1% of the world production. Almost all of this is of freshwater fish – mostly catfish, tilapia and Nile perch. Nigeria and Uganda are the region’s leading producers.

Marine aquaculture production in Africa is a more depressing story. Just 12,000t of animal production was reported in 2008, dropping to 10,000t in 2014. Most of this was made up of prawns in Madagascar and Mozambique, and molluscs, like abalone, mussels and oysters, in South Africa. The drop in output was largely because of the white spot syndrome virus in prawn aquaculture. This has decimated the industry in Mozambique and Madagascar since 2011.

One long-term marine aquaculture industry in the region is the red seaweeds in Tanzania, with a figure of 13,000t in 2014. The seaweed is not eaten directly, but is exported dry for overseas production of the colloid carrageenan. This is a type of jelly which is used mostly in the food industry as a thickening, gelling, stabilising and suspending agent in milk and water-based foods. The income from cultivation of these seaweeds is low from a global perspective, but makes a significant difference to household incomes in some areas, particularly in Zanzibar.

In South Africa, you’re almost certainly eating aquaculture products if you order local oysters, mussels and trout, or imported salmon, prawns, or seaweed in sushi.

South African marine aquaculture

The country’s main marine aquaculture success story is the local abalone Haliotis midae (“perlemoen”). It began in the 1990s, and now around 1,500t are produced annually representing over 90% of the value of South African marine aquaculture. South African abalone is not grown on ropes, rafts or in cages in the sea or sheltered bays/estuaries unlike most of the global marine aquaculture. It’s a high value product, grown by pumping large amounts of seawater into tanks on land.

A large abalone farm pumps over 10 million litres of seawater per hour, with electricity for pumping a major cost component. Such infrastructure is only economically feasible with a high value product. Most South African farmed abalone is flown live or exported in cans to China.

The two main success stories in marine aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa are very different: seaweed grown attached to ropes in the sea and exported as low priced raw material, and a shellfish grown in land-based systems and exported as a high-priced food. Both of them provide income and employment, but not food for Africans.

There have been numerous attempts to grow marine fish and prawns in South Africa in land-based systems. This works for abalone – does it often fail for fish because of a lower-priced product? Successful operations elsewhere involving sea-cage production of fish, such as salmon, operate as simpler systems, without large-scale water pumping.

South Africa has particular constraints for marine aquaculture having a very straight coastline with high wave energy, mostly unsuitable for rafts and cages. Most of South Africa’s offshore marine aquaculture happens in Saldanha Bay on the west coast, with plans to extend the area used, and there are a limited number of other feasible sites. – Written by John Bolton, Professor of Biology and a marine plant biologist, University of Cape Town

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

The Conversation

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Can Farming Ease Nigeria’s Woes?




Over the past two decades, Nigeria’s once thriving agriculture suffered as its oil industry boomed.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that, between 1962 and 1968, Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner was the agricultural sector. Palm oil and groundnuts made up around 47% of the country’s exports. However, Nigeria’s position as an agricultural powerhouse has declined as oil gained prominence in Africa’s largest economy.

“The oil sector represents 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Nigeria but accounts for 98% of the foreign exchange earnings of the country and 80% of the revenues for the government,” says the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina.

Farmer. Marathon Man. Businessman

Following the crash in crude oil prices, agriculture is slowly emerging as a remedy for the economic woes of Nigeria.

“We have to provide counter cyclical reports. Nigeria is too big to fail. We will support Nigeria with a $1-billion support program and a number of policy reforms that have to be done to rejig the economy and we have coordinated with others on this. This is actually a cheap source of financing, which will come with a 1.2% interest and a 40-year moratorium, so this is the cheapest source of financing you can get,” says Adesina.

The AfDB and other governmental agencies are pulling together to attract young entrepreneurs to farming once again. Rotimi Williams, a rice farmer, believes Nigerians need to be convinced that agriculture is a viable path to relieve current economic woes.

“The minute we found oil in the 70s, all our attention shifted from agriculture to oil and gas – it was easier for the government to make money from that. We became an importing nation because we didn’t have to do any work; we just had to pick finished goods from other countries. That is one of the reasons why there was a shift and now we are finding it difficult to shift back to agriculture because it needs a complete reorientation of the mindset here,” he says.

Farming Coming To A Town Near You

Williams is the founder of Kereksuk Rice Farms. He has 45,000 hectares of land in Tunga, local government in Nasarawa state, close to Abuja.

“We are operating on 1,000 hectares which is expected to give us 8,000 tons of rice a year. I say expected because ideally I should be doing two crops a year but because of floods, which happen every September, I am only doing one crop. Government is yet to build appropriate dams in the right places. We have no accessible roads, no electricity and we have security issues, so all these things put together limits what we can and cannot do in agriculture,” he says.

Williams is not the only one who believes in shifting the way Nigerians think about farming.

“People first of all need to believe in themselves. The ‘I can do’ spirit must come up in you or else you will be wasting time. People must believe that once the passion is right, nothing is impossible and this is their time to realize their greatness. So we launched the Dakada campaign, which is entrenched into the main core values of our people,” says the Governor of Akwa State, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.

“Through this process, we realized that a lot of the youth are interested in agriculture, so we said ‘fine, we are not going to give you money but we are going to give you all the resources and facilities to do what you need to do’. So we try to provide not just the environment but the input as well,” says Emmanuel.

According to Antti Ritvonen, CEO and Country Manager at Dizengoff West Africa (Nigeria) Ltd, “The main reasons why the youth are not farming are they have the wrong perception about farming, lack of technical know-how, lack of precise technical support and inadequate financial will power,” says Antti Ritvonen, CEO and Country Manager at Dizengoff West Africa.

Dizengoff claims to provide opportunities to Nigerians looking to move into farming.

“We provide greenhouses that we deploy as a tool for empowering youth and women across Nigeria. Since we started, our greenhouses have created employment for over 50 youths directly and over 700 people indirectly across the country, so agriculture is certainly a driver of economic change and growth,” says Ritvonen.

But they are not the only international company investing in the agriculture sector in Nigeria. According to Reuters, Old Mutual and Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) joined forces to raise $200 million to spend on agriculture projects in the country.

There is, however, a limitation to how successful agriculture can become in Nigeria: land. According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), about 95% of agricultural lands are not titled, effectively limiting their capacity to be treated as collateral for finance.

“In most developing countries that thrive in agriculture, like Thailand and India, the government gives them funding… but on the books of the government they write those loans off. This means they don’t expect the money back but they expect you to do a lot more with the money they have given you. In Nigeria, the government expects you to go to commercial banks to get funding and that is not going to fly because they require collateral which any young entrepreneur would not have. You need to create that enabling environment, which means land is easily accessible and the resources are also available for them to be able to thrive in the business,” says Williams.

As agriculture slowly becomes a beacon of hope for job creation and revenue generation, the government will need to spend more to help entrepreneurs get their hands dirty and grow.

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The Stings That Make Elephants Fly

In the village of Gazini, elephants leave destruction, dung and huge footprints. That was until two entrepreneurs created a buzz to stop the tusked raiders in their tracks.




Eleven villagers sit under the shade of a marula tree, in the heat of midday, deep in the KwaZulu-Natal bush in a village called Gazini. They have been up since 4AM to tell their stories in search of a small solution to a large problem.

A week before, a herd of elephants trampled through the vegetable patch. Villagers woke to see an elephant in their backyard peering through their door. The backlash has been violent and bloody – earlier this year, villagers killed an elephant and stripped it to the bone.

Gazini is a scatter of farms two kilometers from the South African border with Mozambique; electricity or cell phone reception is unheard of. The villagers here live hand-to-mouth deep in the bush.

The villagers complain the elephants emerge from the bush in the dead of night, to strike terror into their homes. The reason the elephants roam is because their home in the bush is getting smaller by the year.

Listening patiently to the villagers are two entrepreneurs, Mmabatho and Desmond Morudi, in white overalls, who believe their business can help the villagers sleep easy.

“The thing that made [the threat] clear to me was when we did a trip along the border fence. There you can see exactly where the fence has been broken and where the elephants cross over. We could see the broken poles snapped in half like twigs,” says Desmond.

The entrepreneurs believe that building 200 beehives, in a two-kilometer barrier will not only fend off the elephants but also make money. The villagers could be forgiven for being sceptical.

“I don’t think they are convinced, it’s still a test to see if it

really, really works to deter the elephants,” says Mmabatho.

“It’s [understandable] why they would believe such a large creature wouldn’t be scared of something so small,” says Desmond.

The Morudis have been working around this village since October. They start work early; the bees get aggressive as the day wears on. The hives hang on wooden poles, 10 meters apart, linked by barbed wire. If touched by an elephant, the hives swing and stir up the bees.

“So far we’ve put up a fence with 40 hives. Two hundred will be the final amount. The challenge is 200 hives is quite a stretch, it means they have to run through other villages of people who don’t even know that the project is going on. There is also the issue of leaving space for cars driving past as well as border patrols. You don’t want to cut the elephants off totally. You just want to cordon off the sensitive areas and leave behind a path.”

The buzzing beehive fence is the brainchild of Lucy King in Kenya, Head of the Human-Elephant Co-Existence Program for Save the Elephants, where she realized that elephants are scared of African honey bees and will avoid beehives at all costs. The bees sting the elephants’ soft skin, eyes, face, trunk and mouth.

The fences have an 80% success rate. They are made from local materials and are cheap, costing $150 to $500 per 100 meters, says King from her headquarters Nairobi.

The beehive fences have been so successful with human-elephant conflict (HEC), 13 countries have adopted similar projects, one of them being the Morudi’s growing business, The Village Market.

“We’ve obsessed over [King’s] manual and her work in Kenya… At the same time we were trying to find villages that we could work with. We had the skills, we had the knowledge, we needed the natural vegetation,” says Mmabatho.

In the shade of the marula tree, they have taken King’s research one step further. They want to use beehive fences as part of a R2.5-million ($180,000) dream to harvest, bottle and deliver wild, high-quality honey to suburban shopping aisles.

“In general our jars sell for R55 per 375g. Then we have Mmabatho’s baby, the raw high quality, for R75 per 375g. We aim to develop a luxury brand, bringing more orders to a premium market. We work on 35kgs per hive per harvest, which is once every three months,” says Desmond.

This means, by January, 11 bee keepers of Gazini could have yielded R49,000 ($3,500).

It’s been a long journey to this odd business for Desmond and Mmabatho. They come from modest homes in Kimberly and Pretoria.

“Our desire was to develop communities we grew up in, providing help for people and business opportunities.”

The idea was born in the home of Mmabatho’s grandfather in Winterveld, a rural town 68 kilometers northwest of Pretoria, in 2012.

“Bees would get into our ceiling and produce so much honey that the ceiling would cave in. Like every other family, we would try and smoke them out and kill them. But they would always come back,” says Mmabatho.

Instead her grandfather took the family on a beekeeping course and Mmabatho was hooked. She started her own company called Iliju Bee Farm.

Her work with Iliju Bee Farm led to Mmabatho shaking hands with ministers and members of the top 100 entrepreneurs of Europe. She also dined with Richard Branson. In 2013, Mmabatho was selected as one of the brightest young minds in South Africa, and again as one of the emerging changemakers by Spark International.

Things got even busier and Mmabatho’s husband, Desmond, left the comfort of corporate accounting to help manage the business. But success proved to be a devil in disguise. The business grew too quickly and couldn’t cope. They took on a bee expert who left a year and a half later and Iliju collapsed.

Then they started The Village Market at the end of 2014.

“As we learned more about bees, and their plight, that’s when it all came together. Lucy King’s study came after we had established Winterveld. Nora Taiga, of the Peace Foundation, now Elephant, Rhinos & People (ERP), paid Mmabatho a subsistence salary of R10,000, then introduced us to the people of Gazini,” says Desmond.

“At the beginning of the year the crossings were getting quite significant. Previously it had just been bulls, but then we started seeing breeding herds coming through,” says Nonceba Lushaba, KZN Coordinator of ERP.

“From the elephant’s point of view they have realized that there are easy pickings here. It’s kind of like a naughty child who goes to pick sweets.”

In Gazini, finding the bees is half the battle. Once the hives are built, the beekeepers take the hives to their homes in Gazini and attempt to colonize them.

Bees are fussy dwellers; they need water, plenty of flowering plants, protective vegetation and far from direct sunlight. Once the bees have moved in, the keepers close the entrances at night and then transport the colony to the beehive fence. Work starts before dawn. In their bee suits they walk with the hives on their heads to this farm. It is so remote you need a 4×4 to navigate a maze of bush trails to find it.

“Another important issue is researching bee diseases. Bee health is important if we want to conserve them. Research needs to keep track of these growing issues.”

Threats, like the varroa mite that attacks bees in the hive and contributes in part to colony collapse, are global concerns. This is why the couple have teamed up with the University of Pretoria (Tuks) Zoology and Entomology department’s Bee Group that will add valuable research to elephant behavior, bee repopulation and disease control.

Even though US and Europe honey bee colonies were under threat from Colony Collapse Disorder for almost ten years, the African honey bee  was safe from the impact of industrialized apiculture. This according to research by Robin Crew,  professor of Entomology and leader of the Social Insects Research Group in the University of Pretoria’s Department of Zoology and Entomology.

In Crew’s book “A World Without Bees”, the fact that Africa has the largest number of wild honey bee swarms in the world has contributed to wider genetic diversity and therefore populations are not as severely affected by diseases.

The beepocolypse, as it was called, could even be resolved with recolonization with the African honey bee because of its resilience.

Their Gazini project has even caught the eye of the African Union which granted $15,000 to the bee research at Tuks.

“It’s not just the sake of doing research for the sake of research, but using it to solve community problems. To help developed communities,” says Desmond.

On the morning of inspection, Mmabatho finds suspicious larvae in one of the hives. It turns out to be waxworm. These pests eat cocoons, pollen, the shed skins of bees, and chew through beeswax.

“We need the bees to focus all their energy on making the honey. As soon as invaders enter the hive they expend all their energy getting it out, which of course affects production,” says Desmond.

The couple believe that deforestation, pesticides and insecticides also affect the bees. They instead plant strong smelling plants and herbs, like spring onions, to discourage pests and also plant flowering vegetables like tomatoes to encourage pollination.

“We are trying to encourage our farmers to use organic methods so they don’t affect the bee populations. That is why, in addition to this, we sell veggies to markets,” says Mmabatho.

Once the honey is ready it its transported 600 kilometers to their bottling plant at the Riversands Incubation Hub that opened in September in Fourways, north of Johannesburg.

“The problem we have with honey in South Africa is a lot of it is imported. Because of important laws we need to irradiate it. You will see in the shops it will say it’s ionized by radiation in order to increase shelf life. The impact of that is that it takes away the good qualities from the honey.”

“There is also a lack of variation of honey in the market. We introduce some product differentiation;  infusing honey with lemon or cinnamon.”

Raw honey is murky and beige in color, a completely different experience from what you see in the shops.

“People are used to seeing this brown liquid here on the shelves that’s what they associate with honey. They don’t appreciate the real raw product will crystallize,” says Mmabatho.

Honey also can be used in health and beauty products and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Scrubs, moisturizers and masks can all be made from the by-product of the comb.

This is one business that is helping a tiny village sleep at night and got a couple of bright African entrepreneurs buzzing.

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