Gugulethu’s sweetest thing | GroundUp

Sheila Besten, who is an assistant at the Asande Community Garden, sometimes helps Vuyo Myoli in his beekeeping.

Near a roaring train line and informal market in Gugulethu, the unexpected sound of buzzing bees can be heard from a nearby high school. But these are not wild bees. They belong to Vuyo Myoli, who has set up a small urban beekeeping company.

“I’m a farmer by day and an artist by night,” says Myoli, a musician who started beekeeping two years ago.

Myoli has a small honey business called Beez Move. He has two active beehives at Gugulethu Intshukumo Comprehensive High School, in addition to a community garden.

“The idea is to give these vegetable gardens a free pollination service,” Myoli says. With the beehives near the gardens, bees feed and pollinate the crops. With the knowledge he has gained from mentors over the past three years, he also wants to educate his community. He gives workshops in agriculture and beekeeping.

“They think bees are enemies,” Myoli says. “Bees are friendly. They respond to what you do. They don’t just attack you.”

Vuyo Myoli started beekeeping in 2020.

Myoli said he fell into a deep depression around 2014 due to the ups and downs of the music industry. “I needed something that would keep me grounded,” he says.

In high school he learned about agriculture. These lessons came back to him and in 2017 he started small gardens in his community. It helped him out of his depression.

“Touching the ground is therapy,” he says.

When he came into contact again with an old musician friend from Stellenbosch, who is a beekeeper, he became acquainted with beekeeping.

Vuyo Myoli inspects his hives.

Myoli says most people think gardening is for old people. “They don’t realize that’s very important. It is part of our food security.”

In addition to honey, bees produce wax that can be used for medicines, soaps and hair products. Bees also produce a product called “propolis”, which they create to seal the hive and has medicinal value.

As a performer, Myoli says honey is needed backstage to “clear your throat” and “boost your vocal cords.”

When he started, his first bees died. “I removed them over the winter,” he says. He wasn’t sure what to eat.

He has also had to deal with vandalism. Recently someone jumped over his fence and tried to steal his hive.

“If you keep bees in the wild, you worry about baboons. I thought we were safe in the township until the incident happened,” he said.

Beez Move is located near a railway and informal market, on school grounds. But Vuyo Myoli plans to move his business to the Manelisi Urban Farm in Gugulethu, where he hopes to expand it.

In Gugulethu, space is a problem for beekeeping.

“Not many people will allow you to place bees in their area,” he says.

He says he has never been stung by a bee, but the volunteers he works with have. “I don’t know… maybe they know my scent,” he says.

There are costs involved in setting up a beekeeper, he says. A swarm of bees can cost R1,000; the hive R1,500; the safety equipment R1,200. Myoli sells its honey for R100 for a 500g jar. He can get up to 25 kg of honey in a season.

He primarily sells to early childhood development centers through the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading and the Cities Expanded Public Works Program of which he is a part.

In the spring, Myoli will move his business to Manelisi Urban Farm in Gugulethu. His goal is to expand his business to 40 cabinets and start producing wax and propolis products. For this he needs beehives, extractors and a container to house his company.

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