A GROUP of ambitious entrepreneurs from Addo have their sights set on alleviating poverty through a beekeeping business. And, with Addo Elephant National Park on board, the eight people believe their business will go from strength to strength.
Thobani Sesman, 25, said he and his business partners had hit upon the idea as they felt there was a gap in the market and, because Addo's thriving citrus industry attracted many bees, it would not be too difficult to get started.
"We saw there was a need for this kind of business – it is the first of its kind here in Addo. This is mostly a citrus area, which attracts a lot of bees. We call ourselves Oonajahulu Beekeepers, as this is our clan name," Sesman said.
He said the group members had not wanted to end up spending most of their time drinking and feeling sorry for themselves.
"A lot of people sit around doing nothing and blame the government for not giving them jobs. We saw there was a need for a beekeeping company in this area."
Sesman said he and Luthando Mafana, 32, Mnonelel Scritch, 48, Zamkele April, 40, Nandipha Peter, 25, and Maria Davis, 26, approached the Addo Elephant National Park about their idea.
"They loved it and they referred us to Mervyn Brouard, from Friends of the Baviaanskloof Wilderness. He runs projects to help people from disadvantaged areas.
"He gave us clothing, gear and 30 beehives. He also offered us training on how to run a beekeeping business," Sesman said.
Themba Mangxaka, of the Addo Elephant Park, said that to assist Oonajahulu, the park provided the business with a tract of land on the botanical reserve. "This is the land they use to put up their beehives to trap the bees."
He said the park would also engage with Rhodes University to see what byproducts, other than honey, the business could produce.
Addo would also help with marketing.
"We are also helping them with marketing the business because we believe that the more it grows, the more it will create job opportunities for the locals," Mangxaka said.
The first step of the business was already on track, with a swarm of bees trapped, Sesman said.
"It will now take about three weeks to produce honey. We know one has to persevere in this business, as there is a lot of hard work and you sometimes get stung by the bees.
"At the end of the day, we are doing this to benefit our families and the community of Addo. We know that in the long run this will change our lives for the better."
Sesman said the group was already working with bed and breakfasts in the Sundays River valley with the aim of selling their honey.
Following this the business would look to Nelson Mandela Bay as another potential buyer and then "we want to go national", he said
As the group has very little financial backing, Sesman said the major challenge the business would face in the future was buying new hives, which cost about R1800 each.
The group also aims to make their business a win- win initiative for locals who have problems with swarms of bees.
Sesman said that for now they assisted when community members had problems with bees at their homes, as Oonajahulu would happily help in getting rid of the bees which in turn would be used in the business.
Oonajahulu's main aim was to fight poverty through job creation, he said.