Meet Mthatha beekeeper Thoko Njemla

2017-01-19 09:01
Mthatha beekeeper Thoko Njemla hopes to supply supermarkets with honey. (Supplied)

Mthatha beekeeper Thoko Njemla hopes to supply supermarkets with honey. (Supplied)

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Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik, GroundUp   

Eastern Cape - A lack of jobs in the Eastern Cape led Thoko Njemla, 51, to take up beekeeping 15 years ago. Today she employs five people from her village and harvests tons of honey every year.

Njemla lives in a small village called Ndungwana just a few kilometres from Mthatha. She left her receptionist job in Johannesburg in 1999 to go back to the Eastern Cape, but battled to find work.

"I tried to find another job in Mthatha but I didn't have any luck," she said.

With her mother, a nephew and her two children to take care of, Njemla was glad for the opportunity to learn beekeeping in a course run by the Agricultural Research Council and funded by the Departments of Science and Technology and Social Development in Ndungwana. Of the 30 people who started the course, she says she was the only one who completed it.

She now makes 2.5 tons of honey a year and she hopes to raise that to ten tons. She sells a 50g jar for R45 and 20l for R1 200, hiring a car to take the produce to Mthatha and surrounding areas. She even has a client in Pretoria.

Njemla keeps her hives in her garden, where she has sunflowers, aloes and orange and peach trees.

In March every year she hires extra casual workers who she trains herself.  

Her hope is to grow her business and be able to supply big supermarkets, but for that she needs her own transport so she can take her bees close to food during the dry season when her garden dries up.

She and her workers wear protective gear and she says she only gets stung when she is careless or does not put on the full gear.

"If I'm stung I don't really care much. In my culture we believe bee stings are like medicine."

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