Saving Africa’s Honey Bees. Sustainable Beekeeper Mmabatho Portia Morudi

Mmabatho Portia Morudi is a sustainable honey farmer in South Africa. She creates spaces for honey bees to thrive and survive in Africa’s forests. Africa’s forests are being burned which destroys habitat. Insecticides and pesticides used in agriculture devastate the honey bee population and other wildlife. Known as ‘The Change Maker’ beekeeper Portia provides an alternative and solutions for villagers to stop these practices. Her positive imprints are saving the honey bees, village crops, Africa’s forests, and remarkably, elephants.

Transcript
Mmabatho Portia Morudi:

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Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your P.I.?.

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well, Mmabatho Portia Morudi her story of positive imprints begins with a

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collapsed ceiling and crop raiders to this fabulous establishment of

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the Village Market in South Africa.

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Mmabatho Portia's goal is to promote and support a holistic view while

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educating and empowering others to make changes to their own lifestyle

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that is more sustainable for all living beings, including the honey bees.

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The village market was established out of a need to find and create ideal

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spaces for bees to thrive and survive.

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Mmabatho Portia has been given the name internationally as The Change

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maker, and she does take this role seriously, especially when it comes to

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preserving honey bees on our planet.

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She says, bees are not a problem.

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They are a solution.

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Portia,.

Catherine:

Welcome to the show.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Thank you so much.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Thank you, Catherine.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I couldn't have said it better.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Bees are not the problem.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

They are the solution.

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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

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do know, especially as you say, they can be the solution, especially when

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we know that I think it's 80% of our world crops are pollinated by them.

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Yes, exactly.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I think it's believed to have been Einstein that said "without bees,

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mankind would have about four years of life left," which is actually a

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scary thought if you think about it.

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, maybe for me being a parent and I'm thinking I have two little

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boys, if without bees, we only have about four years of life left,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

can you imagine what's going to happen to, to, to the little ones?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

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My, my passion for nature conservation for conserving the bees, and

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using our rural communities.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

That's, that's really it to say, how do we create an earth that future

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generations would love to live in?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I, I.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Catherine:

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

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And I think that that is such an incredible motivation to want to do

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a preservation of our honey bees.

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So I would love to learn so much more about this journey of these

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amazing positive imprints of yours.

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

Catherine:

Yes.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So I would say I used to be growing up.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

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So I grew up on a farm in Winterveld, which is Northwest

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Pretoria in South Africa.

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I grew up with my grandparents.

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, And we would have bees settle in one of the ceilings and one of

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the rooms produce so much honey, that the ceiling would cave in.

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So year in, year out, they produced so much, honey, the ceiling would cave

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in and my grandparents would bring in somebody to come fix the ceiling.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And what you would normally do like most people would do in the village is that

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we would start burning tires and burning

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stuff just to get rid of them and spraying insecticides and all these

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harmful things to just get rid of them.

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And that was the disconnect because they're on the farm, they didn't realize

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that the importance of bees to their crops and really purely lack of knowledge

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there was absolutely no way that they could have that they could have known

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in the village.

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And it was with that in mind that then my grandfather at the, at the time

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just need to remember how old he was.

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

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I loved it so much.

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I quit my job as the candidate registrar at MilPark business

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school and set out on this journey.

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And I I'd be honest, the initial motivation wasn't

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taking care of the bees as such.

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We're going into this market to introduce good quality, honey.

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And then there was an element of our rural communities using the rural

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farmers to say, let's pollinate.

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Your crops benefit from the pollination.

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And my passion

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over time, I fell in love with these creatures.

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The more I learnt about them, the importance, of nature conservation.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I can go into any village in Africa with the blink of an eye,

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because now that's what I live for.

Catherine:

That is so amazing.

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And I, I don't, you just love that transformation when you look back

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at your your experiences and how they transformed The Change Maker..

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It's it's actually at times I'm still baffled from, from a

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

very conservative so structured person that I used to be into this life that

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I'm living now full of so much adventures going out, looking for elephants, going

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out into fields and working with bees.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

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as a path for you to extend your own journey into this amazing world

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of the honey and the honey bees.

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

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So what do you do for, or not for, but what do you say to some of the

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community, the villagers who have the same type of situation you did growing

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up where the honey bees were putting so much honey into the ceiling and

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then the house was collapsing and then they started smoking them out, which

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obviously isn't good for the people of the house or the environment or the bees.

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So what do you tell them?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It's that's been a journey because a whole lot of

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people- it's really about mindset shift.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I can tell you, even when we started, most of the farmers that we approached

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

at the time, they refused us entry into their plots with these bee boxes,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

because a whole lot of them were saying, no, how are we going to work?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Half the time you end up having to beg these people as they just, just try

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

it up for a week and see how it goes.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So it was more of a, the mind shift from people realizing that these are actually

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

not pests and how they can benefit them.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And that's what advocacy work around around the bees.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And I'll give an example with the village at the border of Mozambique

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

and South Africa, where they struggle with crop raiding elephants.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We are grateful.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Thank God.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

They allowed us to start working with them.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And then they started noticing the benefits.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

But initially really a whole lot of people would rather say'no'

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

than actually give it a chance.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

So your endeavors and your positive imprints are not just about the

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honey bees, but now it's saving elephants because obviously the

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community doesn't want crop raiders.

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You know, you wake up in the morning and suddenly your, your crops have been

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removed and all of that time and energy.

Catherine:

So did they finally allow these and I'm guessing that they did.

Catherine:

And did it work?

Catherine:

Did the crop raiders remain out?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Yep.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So we started working with an organization called Elephants, Rhinos

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

and People our biggest supporters from the beginning of of our journey.

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And their focus was wildlife management within villages.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So, so.

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Dealing with rhinos and elephants, protecting them through the

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alleviation of poverty within villages, close to close to the parks.

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So when we went into this village called Gazini on the border of Mozambique

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and South Africa, they struggled because they had elephants that were

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coming in, crossing the border from Mozambique into into the village and

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these elephants would wreck havoc because what they would then do is

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that they would go in raid the crops.

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

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So with communities like this, what I tend to say is that when you go

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in you, you don't go in as a savior.

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

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And then you develop a model that centered about their problem at the

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time was crop raiding elephants.

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Lucy King in Kenya, where they had proved that bees are natural

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deterrents to to elephants.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We communicated with the tribal council in the village they set up a group of

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individuals from the village that we could work with, that we could train.

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And then from there we built this Bee line fence.

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

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And that successfully kept the bees, the elephants out of the village.

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

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

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So they benefit from not having elephants raiding the crops.

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

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and the skills training and development

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so there's hope within, within these villages that normally nobody

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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:

? Mmbatha Portia Morudi: So what I found

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happened is that because the natural habitat has been destroyed so much, so

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we can't, we can't separate the bees from the natural habitat and, and, and

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that's why they did lighting so much.

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So you've got loss of habitat.

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

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So what I found in the villages that we, we need to sort of

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change how people do things.

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

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As opposed to sustainable beekeeping.

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So honey hunting means people would go into the forest and then burn a

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large chunk of the forest just to get one hive, a colony where they can get

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honey from and then end up destroying the whole colony in the process, as

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opposed to saying - how do we find interventions whereby yes, you can harvest

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

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And how do we rehabilitate the forests?

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

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In the village.

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You don't have to destroy the whole forest burning everything down just to

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make way for very small space to hunt.

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And so those are the things that we really addressing.

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Deforestation is also a big thing because you must remember we, we,

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we use the wood for charcoals.

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So that also destroys the, the environment.

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So what we sitting with is us saying, how do we make people in villages

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realize the wealth in the natural resources, working with it, creating

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a mutually beneficial relationship because we want to save the bees.

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They needed it their food for food security.

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But now how do we say don't chop down the trees without offering

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another, another alternative.

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It continues happening.

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Bee farming for us was an alternative.

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And then say, we'll create a market for this honey, so that you have an income

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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

Catherine:

provide jobs within the communities with regard to honey bees is they in turn are

Catherine:

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?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I, I think the positivity I'll, I'll relay in our

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

first community that we work with.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And I remember in this village, when we started work, they

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

were also very skeptical.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

But with their first harvest that we bought from them,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

they only got about 4,500.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It was 10 community members with which easily is translated

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to 450 Rands per person.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Very little money for, for somebody that's privileged, but the way the community

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

was dancing and praying over what somebody else could have considered to

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

be really not much for them, it was hope.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I realized that it was beyond just that income.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

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And then all of a sudden I'm able to make something start from beginning

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and see it to end because we don't pay communities before the work is done.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Before harvest, sustainable beekeeping you have to leave these hives sometimes

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work for five months without an income and then harvest, and then we

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buy it back we give you the money.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So for somebody to be patient enough to be working through all

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these months, it's you don't dance and pray over that little income.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It's the hope.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And it's the realization that I can be more than what I thought

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I was or what I believed I was in the beginning too, to that point.

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

You're you are very dignified and you certainly certainly are

Catherine:

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

Catherine:

and that was, Oh, well, first let's talk about your growth because you

Catherine:

started, I think beekeeping in.

Catherine:

2013.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Yeah.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:So I quit my job in:Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

making a whole lot of money.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

That's why I, I left my job very optimistic and excited

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

about this new journey set out.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It took years to, to build And from it took that first initial model that

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

we had worked on collapsing totally.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

After I think a year and half of working on.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And then we had to restart again with the more sustainable, how

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do you work with communities?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

How do you integrate the needs of the community?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And then use beekeeping as a way of solving whatever Issues that

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

they, that they actually have.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:hives in September,:Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

my grandfather said, give you the, these 10 hives to, to start on this

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initiative, we've been able to create at least 102 beneficiaries since, since

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then in nine nine communities between South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So it's, it's, it's been a long journey of self-discovery

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

or changing lives hopefully.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It, it it's moved beyond just beekeeping.

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It's about just realizing, helping people realize that they can be so much more than

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what they initially believed they were.

Catherine:

Oh, that is Oh, amazing.

Catherine:

I love hearing the birds back there.

Catherine:

Oh.

Catherine:

Yes, but that's so beautiful.

Catherine:

Oh, so your, your entire journey changed and I, is your

Catherine:

grandfather still with you today?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Yes.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So he's 93 now.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Still alive.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Still very active.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Yep.

Catherine:

Oh it's so he has been able to see that journey that

Catherine:

he started you on and that....

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And he calls himself my business partner.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We really are not business partners, but it's okay.

Catherine:

Do you have a business partner?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I do.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So I work with my husband that has been another, another blessing because though

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all is well, but we all know that social enterprises,a challenge, you know,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

in fact, any business is a challenge.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So you need a solid support structure.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So luckily we've been able to travel through the villages together, making

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

this impact together and taking our boys with us because we would actually love

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

them to start early taking care of the environment and realizing the importance

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

of nature, conservation and preservation.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Oh,

Catherine:

that.

Catherine:

And so now hopefully they will carry on this journey, these pathways

Catherine:

of positive imprints with regard to sustainability and the bees.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

:

Yes, we hope so too.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

:

Yeah.

Catherine:

And so now the,The Village Market - , I, how much honey is produced

Catherine:

So that you're able to put it on market and how I know that there were issues.

Catherine:

And one of, one of the very important things was that the, the honey that's

Catherine:

imported has substances in it that are not really welcomed for the human body,

Catherine:

but the honey needs to be preserved.

Catherine:

So you're trying to make this change by providing fresh raw honey.

Catherine:

And so talk a little bit about the market and the honey that's produced and how it's

Catherine:

or, and if it's being exported anywhere.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So we, at the most, currently we do about 6.5 tons annually.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So we sitting with about 6,500 AGs of African raw honey that we sell through

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to markets and because a lot of people buy into the story with the villages

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

so it gets sold through corporate companies.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Yeah, so that's where we at.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We not exporting it.

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Is yet because of the regulations and so on and because we really

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want to keep it as raw as possible.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So currently we are pretty much limited to South Africa.

Catherine:

Well, and I think that that's commendable because one of the

Catherine:

purposes was to be sure that the honey is preserved in its holistic natural way,

Catherine:

and that's certainly a goal of yours, and I know you have a dream and one of your

Catherine:

dreams is to, , make skincare products.

Catherine:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It's still part of the dream except the dream

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

keeps changing simply because there's so many communities . So sometimes

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I get a question a lot, whether do I want to be an entrepreneur business

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

person or do I want to focus really on community building community development

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and focused on nature conservation?

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Because sometimes I must be honest.

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I struggle with what's sort of the balance.

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My heart is always with nature.

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It's always with the people and business is like, whoa this needs to be done

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because bees and for the honey..

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And it simply because what I picked up in communities there's so many of

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these indigenous trees and plants that you find out that people saying,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

ah, this plant here we use when you've got burn wounds and you know

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

that the good qualities of honey.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So the idea was from imagine being able to take this indigenous knowledge

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from the communities and then together with the honey bring them together,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I, I still believe that something beautiful can come out of, out of it.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And, and so it's about creating more income streams for the communities,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

because the more we can value it, I think the more communities

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Catherine:

the work that you're doing?

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

What I see for me right now is really

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

building on nature reserves..

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So looking at those natural spaces for bees to thrive, so setting up more

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

centuries for me, that's the ultimate because the more bee populations that

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

means it equals to , we've, we've got sustainable goals that we need to get to.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I believe our model can

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

basically eradicate poverty.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I am passionate about how do we rebuild our forests in Africa and see communities

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

taking part in that initiative, as opposed to governments, not so much as

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

governments, but communities becoming custodians of their natural resources.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And we start building bees then creating these bee havens, bee (inaudible),

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

knowing that we building best for future generations, as opposed

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

to, as opposed to just ourselves.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

My grandfather once made a quote that said "sometimes we don't plant

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

a tree that we will enjoy the shade, but at least our children's children

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

are able to enjoy the shade from this, from this tree."

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And that's exactly it.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

That's building for future generations.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

And that's the legacy we would love , because it is sad to, to know that over

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

70% of poor people live in Africa, and yet we have so much natural resource.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I believe these, the resources are there.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We just learn to work in harmony with, with nature and

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

then people reap the benefits.

Catherine:

Yes.

Catherine:

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

Catherine:

And you mentioned that you want to leave that legacy.

Catherine:

Well, you are doing that right now, and it's just a matter of

Catherine:

being able to continue your work.

Catherine:

And I hope that that you will remain in good health and that your husband as

Catherine:

well, so that your work is continued and that your boys pick it up because this is

Catherine:

such an incredible and positive journey.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Thank you so, so much Catherine.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

It goes, it goes for, for everyone.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Just imagine if there were no trees.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Imagine if there were no bears.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Imagine if there were no bees.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Imagine if there were no flowers.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

I think that oceans, you know, we, we've got so much work that we need

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

to do and it's, it starts with us making a decision to say, we're

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

going to work in harmony with nature.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

We're going to work in harmony with earth to create an environment that's ideal

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

for everyone to, to thrive because I look at Africa, we've got a beautiful

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

continent and sometimes I, I, I think it's because , within Africa and we're

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

so bombarded with the negativity that we don't even realize the beauty that,

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

that we have, that is our continent.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

So for me, it's, it's just that how so how do you get people to actually

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

open their eyes and realize the nature of the beauty that we have within us.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

you know, to protect the environment, to protect the habitat to protect the

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

bees and for future generations, but each person doing an introspection

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

and making small decisions every day that say, how do I make a difference on

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

this earth now that on a daily basis.

Catherine:

Mmabatho Portia Morudi, you are on a path of absolute

Catherine:

wonderful, positive imprints.

Catherine:

And I know that the challenges are still ahead as you bring education and as you

Catherine:

continue to empower people of your own community and the international community,

Catherine:

but you are bringing hope to not just the honey bees, but to each of the individuals

Catherine:

that you are working with and beyond.

Catherine:

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

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Thank you so, so much Catherine.

Mmbatha Portia Morudi:

Thank you.

Catherine:

your positive imprint.

1 Comment

  1. Terry T on 04/22/2021 at 5:35 AM

    What a lovely woman with a beautiful quest. She’s such a great example of caring for others.

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