Mncedi Baart is a bee and vegetable farmer who lives in Seymour, Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape. He started farming in 2012 after struggling to find employment following an injury which left him unable to walk. Thankfully, he grew up in a family that loved farming. It was these farming skills he had to rely on when he was unable to find unemployment. Besides vegetables and bees, Baart also has poultry and goats on his farm.
Despite applying for government assistance for his farming, Baart does not receive any financial or any other type of support from the departments he has applied to for assistance. Instead, Baart uses his SASSA grant money to buy the necessary products he needs such as seedlings, fertilizers and hiring labour in order to keep his farm business going.
Baart is particularly passionate about his bee farming. “I would like to see other farmers to expand their businesses into bee farming. It is not difficult to maintain it, anyone can do it. People have a perception that bee farming is for men only and I personally disagree with that. Women and youth can do it too” says Baart.
Baart’s journey into bee farming all started in 2020, when he was selected for a training course in bee farming. His local municipality selected ten farmers in his village to complete the training in Fort Beaufort. Once the training was completed, each farmer got two boxes of bees to start their bee farming with. Out of the ten farmers who joined the course, Baart is the only farmer still farming bees. Baart even managed to increase his boxes to seventeen boxes. Unfortunately, two of these boxes of bees were stolen and now he is left with only fifteen bee boxes. “My dream is to have ten more boxes in order to make twenty-five bee boxes to maintain the supply chain and demand for the honey business” says Baart.
“It takes about three to four months to harvest bees. However, you need to be able to take care of the bees by planting flowers around and providing water not far from the bee boxes. Make sure there are no movements around bee boxes like animals during the day to avoid bees roaming around” explains Baart. He added that it is very important to put on protective clothes when checking the bees to avoid the bees stinging you.
Baart has to travel from his village, Seymour to Peddie town in order to process the honey that he harvests since he doesn't have the equipment to process his own honey. Baart also has to hire a bakkie to transport the honey boxes. But despite the challenges and the costs, he is not discouraged and remains passionate about growing his bee farming business.
Baart met with a farmer from Zambia who expressed interest in buying honey from him, but he was not ready to supply on this scale yet. “I cannot afford to buy everything on my own” explains Baart. He is now considering asking other farmers to join him with his bee farming, “if there are many of us in this business we could export enough litres per month without fail.”
Baart is also passionate about training others in bee farming, especially to women and the youth. “In the Eastern Cape there is a lot of opportunities for bee farmers. I am more than willing to train them through the knowledge and skills that I have gained through bee farming. The training will only take three days to complete.” He says starting bee farming isn’t too hard, “All you need is to get minimum of ten boxes of bees to maintain the supply chain. I do not need to get the middleman in my bee farming business because they take almost 90% of the profit.”
Earlier this year, Baart joined a small farmers program to develop his small business knowledge and skills. Every Thursday, he leaves his home at 06h30 to get the transport which will take him to Fort Cox in Middledrift where he is doing the small business course. But before leaving his home, he has to get up early enough to first check on his broilers and goats. Baart studies so hard and works these very long hours, in an effort to ensure that his farming business will be successful.
Baart is now appealing for someone to consider investing in his bee farming business and explains, “I would really appreciate if a good Samaritan can invest ten bee boxes in my business. If anyone is willing to contribute or buy the boxes it will be highly welcomed” says Baart.