Morudi’s grandfather saw an opportunity where others saw a nuisance. Instead of smoking out the bees that were bothering her family at her home, he suggested that the family go for beekeeping lessons.
“A few years ago, my grandfather suggested that we go for a course for beekeeping because we had so many bees on the farm and they were producing so much honey [that] the roof actually caved in. So he thought: ‘why not find a different way of dealing with them?’ because we would remove them like any typical black family – with smoke and burning tyres,” she explains.
Morudi’s grandfather invited her and her cousins to the course, but she was the only one who stuck with it. After graduating from the advanced course, she started the successful Iliju Bee Farms in 2012.
Morudi encouraged farmers in rural areas to keep beehives on their land so she could harvest honey, which she packaged and sold. The bees would also help with crop pollination in the areas where they were planted.
“… we encouraged people in rural [communities] because most of them have land. We started engaging small-scale farmers in the community by telling them that we would plant hives on their plot, at no cost, which will help them with bee pollination, which will help them with the quality of the crop and the yield,” Morudi says.
Two years later, following a lot of attention from people like Virgin Group tycoon Sir Richard Branson, Morudi found that things were not going according to plan. In 2014, her company failed and went under.
“What happened was I think the business grew too quickly and it got a lot of attention way too quickly. At the time I was doing the work with one of my cousins, and we brought in someone who had about 15 [years of] experience because we thought that the business was growing and we wanted to grow with the business,” she explains.
“I don’t know whether to say that he wasn’t clued up or we gave him too much [room] and he did his own thing, but the business just went under.”
At the start of 2014, Morudi was forced to admit defeat and found herself faced with the daunting task of starting from scratch.
“What happened is that we had to move from our home after losing everything. We built ourselves a small… house, it used to be called an RDP house in the area. With whatever that was left, we got ourselves a small holding there and built ourselves a one-bedroom place and stayed there for a year-and-a-half while we tried to figure out how to start over,” she says.
At the end of 2014, she and her partner then started afresh and founded The Village Market, a virtual market place for the many farmers around her hometown in Winterveld to turn their subsistence farming into something more commercial.
“We realised that our [old] model was not going to work and we discovered that we could do so much more for communities; that you can empower others [while] empowering yourself. So that is when we started involving ourselves with the community.”
Morudi says they then decided to focus on the disadvantaged people in their community by letting them run the bee farms.
“What we do for them is that we provide them with access to their market and this is through a luxury African honey brand, but not only that, [we] find other interesting projects within these communities that [we] can showcase,” she explains.
By giving the local people a chance in this way, Morudi says they did not have to directly employ people to run the beehives, they empower the communities to run the bee farms instead. She provides beekeeping training and hives with the help of sponsorships. They then buy back the honey from the locals.
Morudi also buys back local organic produce from the local farmers whose crops were improved by the bees in the area.
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“We buy back the produce from farmers in Winterveld and then we package it beautifully for home delivery service for the people in Joburg,” she says.
By planting beehives in rural areas across the country, Morudi is not only helping the farmers, she is also assisting with combating the problem of collapsing bee colonies. This year, seven bee species were placed on the endangered list in the US for the first time in history.
“A lot of people don’t know that they (bees) are dying out and [this] will directly impact food security because they are the biggest pollinators. They pollinate about 80% of the crops worldwide, so without them, I think scientists said we have about four years of life left,” she explains.
Things are looking up at the moment and Morudi and her family have moved back to the city, however, failure was a great lesson for her.
“After that failure, I always speak of the art [of] being able to reinvent yourself and being able to move with change,” she says.