Mokgadi Moloko Mabela’s father gave her the gift of honeybees, and today she is set on giving beekeeping and farming a young and vibrant face through Native Nosi, her own business.
Mabela is the eldest of three girls raised in Lebowakgomo, a township in Polokwane. She is a third generation beekeeper who had an exceptional childhood with amazing parents.
“We had so much fun. It was in the middle of nowhere so we had to entertain ourselves in our free time,” remembers Mabela, who started her schooling in 1993 at PEPPS (Project for the Establishment of Primary and Pre-Primary Schools) in Myngenoegen. In 1995 she joined Lord Milner Primary School in Settlers, Limpopo. The best years of her life, however, were when she started at Settlers Agricultural High School in 2000.
This is also where she gained a lot of self-discipline and independence. Studying International Relations at the University of Pretoria was not overwhelming for her, as it was simply an extension of high school with less rules.
Mabela, who now specialises in organic honey production, says there was always honey at home. Her father started beekeeping as a hobby, but went into it full-time halfway through her schooling.
In 2008, when she started working at the Department of Human Settlements in Pretoria, Mabela realised that the store-bought honey her colleagues were using in their tea was sweet, tasteless, watery and always the same pale yellow colour. When she introduced them to her dad’s honey, sales stared snowballing and soon she was inundated with orders.
This is when Mabela started exploring beekeeping after her father suggested she get her own beehives in order to secure her own honey supply. “The rest is history,” she says.
What does she do in her free time? Besides beekeeping, Mabela deejayed a lot in the club scene before she became a mom. She now prefers corporate gigs. “If I’m not working on the bees I prefer spending time with my family, either at home or travelling.” She also enjoys a good read and doesn’t mind cooking up a feast for her family.
Why Native Nosi? Although she was already selling honey, in 2015, Mabela registered Native Nosi to formally trade and to create a brand identity for her products. “Native” was to emphasise that the honey was indigenous to South Africa. She says, “Our honey is homegrown, natural and does not contain any additives.” “Nosi” is the Basotho term used to refer to the honeybee.
This beekeeper places her beehives on farms that grow a variety of crops that the bees forage on in Limpopo, specifically in Tzaneen and Polokwane. The hives gets moved to different farms throughout the year based on the crops in season.
“I learnt beekeeping by observing my dad, no one formally taught me. When my dad suggested I have my own beehive I went on a beekeeping beginner’s training to learn the basics of beekeeping as well as to ensure that my knowledge was on par with industry practices. The rest is trial and error, learning on the job,” says Mabela.
She runs an online shop supplying the sweet nectar nationwide and packages her honey from home. They also supply small shops and restaurants in and around Pretoria.
What does it take to be successful? Mabela said it takes a decision to do something and persevere at it. “I have a baby to feed, so I best come home with the honey, that’s what drives me,” says Mabela, laughing. She adds that along with the fact that beekeeping is solving a lot of our socio-economic and environmental challenges, it’s positively impacting food security.
Looking to the future, this beekeeper aims to grow Native Nosi. She dreams about having her own farm and centralising most of their operations. She also wants to employ more people and have a greater socio-economic impact.
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