A Sappi-sponsored beekeeping programme, which helps communities adjacent to forestry plantations to become beekeepers, has shown some unexpectedly encouraging results during the pandemic. Programme facilitators were struck by the incredible resilience demonstrated by the families that have been part of this beekeeping project. Collectively, since the beginning of 2020, the participating families have harvested about five tonnes of honey, earning close to R360 000, despite the national lockdown.
During a survey undertaken in the Sokhulu community in KwaZulu-Natal (north of Richards Bay), where the project has been running for a few years and a new community in Thembalethu, Mpumalanga where training had not yet begun, there were some marked differences in people’s approach to the situation brought about by the international health crisis. Families in Thembalethu were watching TV and waiting for government food parcels, while the 100 families interviewed in Sokhulu were producing and even selling vegetables, chickens, eggs and honey. All 100 families were producing honey, 85 were growing vegetables, 27 were producing eggs and 39 were producing chickens for meat.
The beekeeping project is based on Sappi’s overall philosophy of supporting ABCD – Asset Based Community Development. Most of the beekeeping families are part of Sappi Khulisa supplier programme and are already part of the valuable forestry supply chain. By learning to harvest honey, grow vegetables and produce poultry and eggs they are not just producing food to feed their own families, but many of them are also supplementing their income from timber by selling this produce.