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Bees make life sweeter at Moja Gabedi

Written by Allison Cooper

A University of Pretoria (UP) community engagement project is training students and community members to become beekeepers in Hatfield, Gauteng.

Six people are being trained to care for beehives that were discovered at Moja Gabedi, a UP community engagement project which was an unofficial rubbish dump for about 100 years.

Moja Gabedi was an unsightly, empty lot in Festival Street, not far from the university’s Hatfield Campus.

The university’s Community Engagement Unit  transformed the dumpsite into a shelter for the homeless, with lush gardens, vegetables, trees and flowing canals.

“When we started clearing the site, we discovered bees deep underground in a corner of the plot. When the site was developed further, professional beekeepers were called in to relocate the bees into a hive,” says Gernia van Niekerk, Moja Gabedi’s Community Engagement Manager.

While there was initially only one hive, three more have been added since June 2020.

This presented an opportunity to train UP students and community members to care for the hives, and Mike Lang from Urban Bees offered to conduct a beekeeping course.

Thanks to sponsors of protective gear and tools for beekeeping, the course was offered for free to two UP students, three community members and two urban farmers.

They all attended an introductory class and were taught about bees, how a bee colony works, how to work with beekeeping equipment and safety practices.

UP student Daddy Kgonothi says at first, he wasn’t really interested in bees.

“When I learnt more, I understood that one should make the garden user-friendly for bees. If you know how to approach bees correctly, you’ll come to see that they are fascinating insects, he says.

Community member Reckson Tshehla, who also attended the course, is keen to expand his knowledge about bees.

"It was the first time I saw a queen bee. I never thought I would get the opportunity to learn about bees.

"Moja Gabedi changed me. I experienced many things for the first time. Everything is so well organised," he says.

Follow up training and practical classes will be conducted on colony management, managing diseases, honey production and processing, handling beeswax and pollen trapping. Those who complete the training will work with the site’s bees and get practical experience with Urban Bees.