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Sustainable Beekeeper in South Africa. Mmabatho Portia Morudi
Episode 21031st March 2024 • Your Positive Imprint • Catherine Praiswater
00:00:00 00:31:34

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Mmabatho Portia Morudi, a sustainable honey beekeeper in South Africa, provides solutions and alternatives for rural villagers to stop the practice of insecticides and deforestation in order to save Africa’s honey bees. 

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Catherine:

Hello there.

Catherine:

I'm Catherine, your host of this variety show podcast.

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Nole, and I have some very exciting news regarding Chris.

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He will be at the piano performing and hopefully.

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Most of my favorite tunes, I would love to hear them, but he'll be performing in the country music hall of fame in their musicians spotlight series in the Ford theater there in Nashville.

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Learn more about it or purchase tickets by going to ChrisNole.com

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that's C H R I S N O L E.

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And of course you can go directly through the country music hall of fame website.

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Well, Chris.

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A big.

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Huge

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congratulations to you.

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Well, thank you everybody for listening and supporting this podcast.

Catherine:

Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your PI.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi's story of positive imprints begins with a collapsed ceiling and crop Raiders to this fabulous establishment of the village market in South Africa.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia's goal is to promote and support a holistic view while educating and empowering others to make changes to their own lifestyle that is more sustainable for all living beings, including the honeybees.

Catherine:

The village market was established out of a need to find and create ideal spaces for bees to thrive and survive.

Catherine:

Portia has been given the name internationally as the changemaker.

Catherine:

What an honor and she does take this role seriously, especially when it comes to preserving honeybees on our planet.

Catherine:

She says bees are not a problem.

Catherine:

They are a solution.

Catherine:

I welcome now, Mmabatho Portia Morudi to the show.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: Thank you so much.

Catherine:

Thank you, Catherine.

Catherine:

I couldn't have said it better.

Catherine:

Bees are not the problem.

Catherine:

They are the solution.

Catherine:

We must just meet each other halfway and all as well.

Catherine:

Oh, and there's so much to learn about bees and so much we already do know, especially as you say, they can be the solution, especially when we know that I think it's 80% of our world crops are pollinated by them.

Catherine:

And if we don't have them, what do we have for ourselves?

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: Yes exactly.

Catherine:

I think it's believed to have been Einstein that said, , " without bees, mankind would have about four years of life left,",, which is actually a scary thought if you think about it.

Catherine:

, maybe for me being a parent and I'm thinking I have two little boys, if withoutbees, we only have about four years of life left.

Catherine:

Can you imagine what's going to happen to, to, to the little ones.

Catherine:

, yeah, so for me, that's really one of my motivations for doing what I do.

Catherine:

, my, my passion for nature conservation for conserving the bees and using our rural communities.

Catherine:

That's, that's really it to say, how do we create an earth that future generations would love to live in?

Catherine:

I couldn't have found any better passion to pursue than that.

Catherine:

Oh,

Catherine:

that is said so well, and I did not know that about Einstein at all.

Catherine:

And I think that that is such an incredible motivation to want to do preservation of our honey bees..

Catherine:

So I would love to learn so much more about this journey of these amazing positive imprints of yours.

Catherine:

And I know that some of it started with these collapsing ceilings of yours.

Catherine:

Yes.

Catherine:

, Mmabatho Portia Morudi: so I would say, , I used to be growing up.

Catherine:

I used to be one of the problems because I didn't know much about bees at that stage.

Catherine:

So I grew up on a farm in Winterveld, which is Northwest Pretoria in South Africa..

Catherine:

I grew up with my grandparents, , And we would have bees settle in one of the ceilings and one of the rooms produce so much honey, that the ceiling would cave in.

Catherine:

So year in, year out, they produced so much, honey, the ceiling would cave in and my grandparents would bring in somebody to come fix the ceiling., what you would normally do, , like most people would do in the village is that we would start burning tires and burning stuff just to get rid of them and spraying insecticides and all these harmful things to just get rid of them.

Catherine:

And that was the disconnect because the, on the farm, they didn't realize that the importance of bees to their crops and really purely lack of knowledge there was absolutely no way that they could have known in the village and it was with that in mind that then my grandfather at the, at the time, uh, just need to remember how old he was.

Catherine:

He then invited all the grandkids to go for this course in beekeeping.

Catherine:

I loved it so much I quit my job, uh, as the candidate registrar at MilPark business school and set out on this journey and I'll be honest, the initial motivation wasn't, taking care of the bees as such.

Catherine:

So for, for me, it was, there's a shortage of good quality honey.

Catherine:

Globally, we're going into this market, , introduce good quality, honey.

Catherine:

And then there was an element of our rural communities using rural farmers to say, let's pollinate your crops benefit from the pollination.

Catherine:

And my passion over time, I fell in love with these creatures.

Catherine:

The more I learnt about them, the importance, of, nature conservation, , can go into any village in Africa with the blink of an eye, because now that's what I live for.

Catherine:

That is so amazing.

Catherine:

And don't, you just love that transformation when you look back at your, , your experiences and how they transformed The Change Maker?.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: It's it's actually,, at times I'm still baffled, , from, from a very conservative, , so structured person that I used to be into this life that I'm living now full of so much adventures, uh, going out, looking for elephants, going out into fields and working with bees.

Catherine:

It's it's like two different people, but I couldn't have had it any, any other way.

Catherine:

Your grandfather definitely has provided those positive imprints as a path for you to extend your own journey into this amazing world of the honey and the honey bees.

Catherine:

And then you talk a little bit about, well, first I have a, I have a question.

Catherine:

So what do you do for, or not for,, but what do you say to some of the community, the villagers who have the same type of situation you did growing up where the honey bees were putting so much honey into the ceiling and then the house was collapsing and then they started smoking them out, which obviously isn't good for the people of the house or the environment or the bees.

Catherine:

So what do you tell them?

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: It's, that's been a journey because a whole lot of people it's really about mindset shift.

Catherine:

I can tell you, even when we started, most of the farmers that we approached at the time, they refused us, , entry into their plots, with these bee boxes, because a whole lot of them were saying, no, how are we going to work?

Catherine:

Our workers are not going to be able to function with bees on site.

Catherine:

AndHalf the time you end up having to beg these people as they just, just try it up for a week and see how it goes.

Catherine:

So it was more of a, the mind shift from people realizing that bees are actually not pests and how they can benefit them.

Catherine:

And that's what advocacy work around around the bees.And I'll give an example with the village at the border of Mozambique in South Africa, where they struggle with crop raiding elephants.

Catherine:

Initially they couldn't believe that bees were able to keep the elephants out.

Catherine:

So you were basically working with a community that was very skeptical.

Catherine:

We are grateful.

Catherine:

Thank God.

Catherine:

They allowed us to start working with them.

Catherine:

And then they started noticing the benefits.

Catherine:

But initially really a whole lot of people would rather say no than actually give it a chance.

Catherine:

So it's really about gaining trust in the villages and just sharing information.

Catherine:

And then with time they ease into it and then realize the benefit.

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

So your endeavors and your positive imprints are not just about the honey bees, but now it's saving elephants because obviously the community doesn't want crop raiders.

Catherine:

And did it work, did the cropraiders remain out?

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: Yep.

Catherine:

So we started working with an organization called Elephants, Rhinos and People , , biggest supporters from the beginning of, uh, of our journey.

Catherine:

, their focus was wildlife management within villages.

Catherine:

So, so dealing with rhinos and elephants, protecting them through the alleviation of poverty within villages, uh, close to close to the parks.

Catherine:

So when we went to, to this village called Gazini on the border of Mozambique and South Africa, they struggled because they had elephants that were coming in, crossing the border from Mozambique into the village and these elephants would wreck havoc because what they would then do is that they would goand raid the crops.

Catherine:

And because they live in huts, they bring down they bring down the huts.

Catherine:

So with communities like this, what I tend to say is that when you go in you, you don't go in as a savior.

Catherine:

You actually try and find out from them what is it that they struggle with?

Catherine:

And then you develop a model that centered about their problem at the time was crop raiding elephants.

Catherine:

So what we did is that based on a study by Dr.

Catherine:

Lucy King in Kenya, where they had proved that bees are natural deterrents to to elephants.

Catherine:

We communicated with the tribal council in the village, , they set up a group of individuals from the village that we could work with, that we could train.

Catherine:

And then from there we built this Bee line fence.

Catherine:

At the time, the plans was about 400 meters, so about 40 hives.

Catherine:

And that successfully kept the elephants out of the village.

Catherine:

And from then on the fence has been extended and extended.

Catherine:

And we've been expanding this project because they've seen the benefits of it.

Catherine:

So they benefit from not having elephants raiding the crops.

Catherine:

They're benefiting from the fact that we buy back the produce from them.

Catherine:

, and then the skills training and development.

Catherine:

So there's hope within, within these villages that normally nobody knows absolutely nothing about.

Catherine:

I'm thrilled about the research that you're talking about.

Catherine:

So can you share a little bit more about the research of the bees there in Africa?

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: What I've found over the years is, is that what has happened is that because the natural habitat has been destroyed so much, so we can't, we can't separate, , bees

Catherine:

from the natural habitat and that's why they did lighting so much.

Catherine:

So you've got, , loss of habitat.

Catherine:

You've got the use of insecticides and pesticides that are harmful to the bees..

Catherine:

, so what I found in the villages that we would need to sort of change how people do things.

Catherine:

So most villages, what you find is that they practice what we call honey hunting

Catherine:

as opposed to sustainable beekeeping.

Catherine:

So honey hunting means people would go into the forest and then burn a large chunk of the forest just to get one hive, a colony where they can get honey from and then end up destroying the whole colony in the process, as opposed to saying, how do we find interventions whereby yes, you can harvest

Catherine:

the honey and leave some for the bees for them to thrive.

Catherine:

And how do we rehabilitate the forests?

Catherine:

How do we now educate people and say, okay, you want to create a small garden?

Catherine:

, the village, you don't have to destroy the whole forest,

Catherine:

, burning everything down just to make way for a very small space to hunt.

Catherine:

And so those are the things that we really addressing.

Catherine:

Deforestation is also a big thing because you must remember, we will use the wood for your charcoal.

Catherine:

, so that also destroys the environment.

Catherine:

So what we're sitting with is us saying, "how do we make people in villages realize the wealth in the natural resources, working with that, creating a mutually beneficial relationship because we want to save the bees; they need it for their food for food security."

Catherine:

But now how do we say don't chop down the trees, , without offering another, another alternative.

Catherine:

It continues happening.

Catherine:

Bee farming for us was an alternative.

Catherine:

And then say, we'll create a market for this honey, so that you have an income that you would have lost if you were chopping down,, the trees for charcoal.

Catherine:

Yes.

Catherine:

So interesting.

Catherine:

So you talk about this income and I read that something that you're doing to help provide jobs within the communities with regard to honey bees, is they in turn are making honey in a very sustainable way for the environment and for the bees.

Catherine:

And then you in turn are purchasing their honey.

Catherine:

So can you talk about that and how this is something positive for the community?

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: I, I think the positivity I'll, I'll relay in our first community that we work with.

Catherine:

And,

Catherine:

, I remember in this village, when we started work, they were also very skeptical.

Catherine:

But with their first harvest that we bought from them, they only got about $4500..

Catherine:

It was 10 community members with which easily is translated to 450 Rands per person.

Catherine:

Very little money for, for somebody that's privileged, but the way the community was dancing and praying over what somebody else could have considered to be really not much,

Catherine:

, for them, it was hope.

Catherine:

I realized that it was beyond just that income.

Catherine:

It was hope for somebody to say, you know, I've lived in this village all my life.

Catherine:

I don't know how I was going to make a living.

Catherine:

, and then all of a sudden I'm able to make something start from beginning and see it to end because we don't pay communities before the work is done.

Catherine:

So we go into a community, we do the training, they do the work.

Catherine:

, before harvest, sustainable beekeeping you have to leave these hives sometimes work for five months without an income and then harvest, and then we buy it back.

Catherine:

We give you the money.

Catherine:

So for somebody to be patient enough to be working through all these months, it's you don't dance and pray over that little income.

Catherine:

It's the hope.

Catherine:

And it's the realization that I can be more than what I thought I was or what I believed I was in the beginning to, to that point.

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

You are very dignified and you certainly certainly are bringing that change to people.

Catherine:

I I'm just so thrilled with the work that, that you are providing.

Catherine:

This is incredible.

Catherine:

So with the villagers that you work with, you started The Village Market and that was, oh, well, first let's talk about your, your growth because you started, I think beekeeping in 2013.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: Yep.

Catherine:

So I quit my job in 2012 in, in September, uh, with the hope of making a whole lot of money.

Catherine:

I left my job,

Catherine:

, very optimistic and excited about this new journey,

Catherine:

, set out.

Catherine:

It took years to, to build, from it took that first initial model that we had worked on, collapsed totally

Catherine:

, after I think a year and a half of working on.

Catherine:

And then we had to restart again with the more sustainable, how do you work with communities?

Catherine:

How do you integrate the needs of the community?

Catherine:

, and then use beekeeping as a way of solving whatever, , Issues that they, that they actually have.

Catherine:

So over, over the years from starting with 10 hives in September, 2012, where my grandfather said, I'd give you the, these 10 hives to, to start on this initiative.

Catherine:

We've been able to create at least 102 beneficiaries since, since then, , in nine nine communities between South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Catherine:

So it's, it's, it's been a long journey of self discovery of changing lives.

Catherine:

Hopefully it, it it's moved beyond just beekeeping.

Catherine:

It's about just realizing, helping people realize that they can be so much more than what they initially believed they were.

Catherine:

Oh, that is Oh, amazing.

Catherine:

I love hearing the birds back there.Oh..

Catherine:

Yes, but that's so beautiful.

Catherine:

Oh, so your, your entire journey changed

Catherine:

Do you have a business partner?

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: I do.

Catherine:

So I work with my husband, , that has been another, another blessing, , though all is well, but we all know that social enterprise is a challenge,, I challenge, you know,, in fact, any business is a challenge.

Catherine:

So you need a solid support.

Catherine:

Structure.

Catherine:

So luckily we've been able to travel through the villages together, making this impact together and taking our boys with us because we would actually love them to start early,

Catherine:

, taking care of the environment and realizing the importance of nature, conservation and preservation.

Catherine:

So we, we blessed to be able to, to take them with us when you go into villages.

Catherine:

Oh, that.

Catherine:

And so now hopefully they will carry on this journey, these pathways of positive imprints with regard to sustainability and the bees.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: Yes, we hope so too.

Catherine:

Yeah.

Catherine:

And so now The Village Market., how much honey is produced,

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: so we, at the most, currently we do about 6.5 tons.

Catherine:

Annually.

Catherine:

So we sitting with about 6,500 AGS of African raw honey that we sell through to markets.

Catherine:

And because a lot of people buy into the story with the villages so it, it gets sold through corporate companies.

Catherine:

They own a lot of it for gifting, more than more than anything.

Catherine:

, yeah, so that's where we're at.

Catherine:

We're not exporting it just yet because of the regulations, , and so on and because we really want keep it as raw as possible.

Catherine:

So currently we are pretty much limited to South Africa.

Catherine:

Well, and I think that that's commendable because one of the purposes was to be sure that the honey is, uh, preserved in its

Catherine:

holistic natural way.

Catherine:

And that's certainly a goal of yours, and I know you have a dream and one of your dreams is to, , make skincare products.

Catherine:

Is that still a dream or is that part of the past?

Catherine:

, Mmabatho Portia Morudi: It's still part of the dream except the dream keeps changing simply because there's so many communities.

Catherine:

So sometimes I get a question a lot, whether do I want to be an entrepreneur business person or do I want to focus really on community building, community development and focused on nature conservation.

Catherine:

Because sometimes I must be honest.

Catherine:

I struggle with what sort of the balance.

Catherine:

My heart is always with nature.

Catherine:

It's always with the people in business.

Catherine:

I was like, whoa this needs to be done because bees and for the honey..

Catherine:

. , so skincare is something that I still love to pursue probably in, in the far future.

Catherine:

And it simply because what I've picked up in communities.

Catherine:

So many of these indigenous trees and plants that you find out that people saying, ah, this plant here we use when you've got burn wounds and you know the good qualities of honey.

Catherine:

So the idea was from imagine being able to take this indigenous knowledge from the communities and then together with the honey bring them together, I, I still believe that something beautiful can come out of, out of it.

Catherine:

And, and so it's about creating more income streams for the communities, because the more we can value it, I think the more communities would get out of the initiative.

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

Incredible forward and progressive thinking on your part.

Catherine:

So Portia, what do you see for the future for yourself and the work that you're doing?

Catherine:

, Mmabatho Portia Morudi: what I see for me right now is really building our nature reserves.

Catherine:

So looking at, uh, those natural spaces for bees to thrive, so setting up more sanctuaries for me, that's the ultimate because the more bee populations that means it equals to no, we've, we've got sustainable goals that we need to get to.

Catherine:

I believe our model can basically eradicate poverty.

Catherine:

It can create a sustainable earth for people to, to live in.

Catherine:

I am passionate about how do we rebuild a forest in Africa and see communities taking part in that initiative as opposed to governments, not so much as governments, but communities becoming custodians of their natural resources.

Catherine:

And we start building bees then creating bees bee havens , knowing that we're building this for future generations, as opposed to as opposed to just ourselves.

Catherine:

Um, my grandfather once made a quote that said, "sometimes we don't plant a tree that we willt enjoy the shade, but at least our children's children are able to enjoy the shade from this, tree.

Catherine:

And that's exactly it.

Catherine:

That's building for future generations.

Catherine:

And that's the legacy we would love to leave.It is sad to know that, um, over 70% of poor people live in Africa and yet we have so much natural resource.

Catherine:

I believe these, the resources are there.

Catherine:

We just learn to work in harmony with, with nature, and then people reap the benefits.

Catherine:

Yes, I so do agree with you and you said it so well and.

Catherine:

, you mentioned that you want to leave that legacy.

Catherine:

Well, you are doing that right now, and it's just a matter of being able to continue your work.

Catherine:

And I hope that that you will remain in good health and that your husband as well, so that your work is continued and that your boys pick it up because this is such an incredible and positive journey.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: Thank you so, so much, Catherine.

Catherine:

, I think Catherine, the main thing too to note, and this is a message for, for everyone.

Catherine:

It goes, it goes for for everyone.

Catherine:

, just imagine if there were no trees, imagine if there were no bears.

Catherine:

Imagine if there were no bees.

Catherine:

Imagine if there were no flowers.

Catherine:

, I think that oceans,

Catherine:

you know, we we've got so much work that we need to do, and it's, it starts with making a decision to say, we're going to work in harmony with nature.

Catherine:

We're going to work in harmony with earth to create an environment that's ideal for everyone to, to thrive.

Catherine:

Because I look at Africa, you've got a beautiful continent and sometimes I think it's because

Catherine:

within Africa we are so bombarded with the negativity that we don't even realize the beauty that, that we have, that is our continent.

Catherine:

So for me, it's, it's just that how do you get people to actually open their eyes and realize the nature, the beauty that we have within us.

Catherine:

And I think the minute we do that, we sort of feel a need to protect it.

Catherine:

You know, to protect the environment, to protect the habitat, to protect the bees, um, and for future generations, but each person doing an introspection and making small decisions every day that say, how do I make a difference on this earth now, on a daily basis.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi,

Catherine:

.You are on a path of absolute wonderful, positive imprints.

Catherine:

And I know that the challenges are still ahead as you bring education as you continue to empower people of your own community and the international community, but you are bringing hope to not just the honey bees, but to each of the individuals that you are working with and beyond.

Catherine:

Thank you so much for sharing your positive imprints here on the show.

Catherine:

Thank

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi: you so so much, Catherine.

Catherine:

Thank you.

Catherine:

Such powerful.

Catherine:

Last inspiring words.

Catherine:

Well to learn more about Mmabatho, head over to her internet site, localvillage.africa, or follow her on Facebook or Instagram, the village market, SA.

Catherine:

SA for South Africa.

Catherine:

Since this recording, Mmabatho became co-founder and sustainability director at local village in South Africa.

Catherine:

And she was selected as one of the top hundred brightest young minds and emerging changemaker by spark international.

Catherine:

She continues, dedicating her life to educating remote, rural communities in apiculture.

Catherine:

Uh, conservation and placing value on preservation.

Catherine:

She mentors, numerous young people in sustainable agricultural development and is active in rural wildlife management and reforestation efforts.

Catherine:

She is also a recipient well deserved of the international seeds of change award.

Catherine:

And the heroic women award.

Catherine:

Truly inspiring.

Catherine:

Well, thank you again for listening and supporting this podcast.

Catherine:

Until next month.

Catherine:

Safe journeys.

Catherine:

Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your PI.