The Sishen Iron Ore Company‚ÄďCommunity Development Trust¬†(SIOC-CDT)¬†Honey Production Project¬†is finally in full swing, following the selection¬†of its beneficiaries in the Northern Cape last month.¬†The Honey Production Project, which is the first of its kind for the SIOC-CDT, aims to develop and support new and existing players in the honey production and beekeeping sector.

The project is tailored to benefit 30 agri-preneurs from John Taolo Gaetsewe district and Tsantsabane local municipalities. These two communities are SIOC-CDT’s beneficiary areas as set by its mother company, the Sishen Iron Ore Company. The mining company established SIOC-CDT as a way of giving back by uplifting the communities in which it operates.

SIOC-CDT partnered with Bokamoso Impact Investments to identify and select suitable beneficiaries for the project. Bokamoso Investments is a social enterprise dedicated to connecting the impoverished rural populations of South Africa to economic opportunities using diverse agricultural and entrepreneurial platforms as change catalysts.

While the South African beekeeping industry is relatively small both globally and in the South African agricultural sector, the critical importance of honeybees in agricultural practices and conservation in general far exceeds the current value of the industry. There is an opportunity with this project to alleviate poverty in rural areas and provide an ongoing source of income while developing the beekeeping industry in the Northern Cape province, with the two municipalities as significant players.

By developing bee colonies, producing hives, extracting honey and promoting pollination, the Honey Production Project will also be able to empower previously disadvantaged communities in the local beneficiary communities.

The 30 selected beneficiary agri-preneurs will be supported with the required resources to start up and maintain honey production businesses. This support includes access to land, setting up of hives, honey extraction and bottling. Bokamoso Impact Investments will purchase the honey from these beneficiaries and trade it in the export market. In the long term, a strategy to attract other markets will be implemented through competitive pricing.

The beneficiaries will undergo training in two groups of 15, having started in the first week of August 2023. The groups will be put on a business readiness programme aimed to introduce the emerging beekeepers to the fundamentals of business management, providing insight that will increase participants’ knowledge to develop their agri-businesses into commercial businesses.

They will have the chance to learn from experts and entrepreneurs from across Africa, Israel, Europe and America and gain real-world knowledge that is useful to the growth of their businesses. Post-training, beneficiaries will receive all the necessary equipment to set up beehives and begin harvesting their own honey. Each business will receive 60 hives, beekeeping tools as well as beekeeping suits and a seed pack to plant vegetation required by bees.

It is estimated that one hive can produce about 15kg of honey in a season (three months). To achieve this, the correct management of hives will be required and consistent maintenance of the crops from the seeds provided to enable the bees to forage. The businesses will receive consistent support with bimonthly visits from SIOC-CDT Enterprise Development officials to monitor the progress of the business along with the support from the SEDA Cadet Programme. Bokamoso Impact Investments will conduct quarterly visits for purposes of monitoring and evaluation, ensuring the management of the beekeeping businesses is up to standard.

‚ÄúSIOC-CDT will use its robust and agile platforms to engage with stakeholders outside of the beneficiary communities,‚ÄĚ says Vusani Malie, CEO of the SIOC-CDT. ‚ÄúThis will ensure the local businesses are well promoted to increase their market share, and not limit the established beekeeping businesses to a single market. With consistent support, SMMEs [small, medium and micro enterprises] are almost guaranteed to produce quality products that will help develop a viable honey production industry in the Northern Cape, including the production of honey products and byproducts such as wax, candles, firelighters etc.‚ÄĚ

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