While COVID-19 is crippling communities and countries around the globe, those involved in the Sappi-sponsored African Honey Bee Programme (AHBP) have shown incredible resilience. Compared to similar communities yet to start the programme, where people are waiting on tenterhooks for Government handouts, the Sokhulu community in KwaZulu-Natal, who have been involved with the AHBP for a couple of years, are a hive of activity.
“All 100 families were producing honey”, explains AHBO founder Guy Stubbs, “85 of these were also growing vegetables, 27 producing eggs and 39 farming with chickens”.
So while a lot of families have seen their income reduced to nothing as a result of COVID-19 and lockdown, collectively, since the beginning of the year, the participating families have harvested 5 tonnes of honey, earning close to R360 000 despite lockdown.
Photo: Sandiso Maghabi shows off one of his 50 chickens
It is not just those involved in the programme who are benefitting, “I buy my chicken from Sandiso because then I don’t have to take the taxi to KwaMbonambi. These chickens taste so fresh!” exclaims Nkosinathi Khumalo, a customer of Sokhulu AHBP entrepreneur Sandiso Maghabi.
For Sappi, not only does the AHBP fit with their overall philosophy of supporting ABCD – Asset Based Community Development – in our communities, it also helps reduce uncontrolled fires by bringing honey gatherers into the programme and training them on how to safely collect wild honey. Already 400 honey gathers have signed up to the programme and are gathering wild honey responsibly.
However, it has been the savings and investment groups that have formed as a result of the AHBP which have had the biggest impact during COVID-19 for many of the participants. “There is so much need because many of the people who had jobs in the city, and have lost them, come home and are hungry”, explains Refilwe Ramohaladi, group savings facilitator. The self-help saving groups are helping, as now people have money to start new businesses or help themselves and their families get through the crisis.
The resilience shown by these communities when faced with a pandemic that is crippling global economies is both unexpected and encouraging. With communities transforming through these programmes from living in a state of dependency to becoming self-sustaining and sustainable. “We, as a country could come out of this pandemic as a nation strengthened at its core if families can produce their food and even make some money from selling the excess. They will be far less reliant on social grants and food parcels,” explains Guy.