WCBA Management Committee
The WCBA management committee comprises six to eight members as stipulated in the Constitution and is elected at the Annual General Meeting. All members of the committee serve a two-year term and are eligible for re-election should they be available once their term has lapsed.
Requirements for members to be elected to the committee are specific skills to fulfil the duties of the position and a personal commitment to do so. All members of the committee exercise their functions in an honorary capacity, therefore, no remuneration is granted. At times, travel costs and other compensation may be considered depending on funding availability. The committee meets once a month and members may not miss two consecutive meetings without proper notice.
Among the duties of the committee are: include, but not limited to the following:
- Carrying out, as far as possible, the resolutions of the General Assembly;
- Making decisions on all general matters and issues of interest for the local apicultural sector;
- Fulfilling respective portfolio duties in serving the WCBA.
Media; Pollination; Forage; Recruitment
Chris Nicklin began keeping bees as a schoolboy in Cape Town in the late 1970s. He was a member of the Western Province Beekeepers’ Association, as it was then, and while still at school, undertook his first pollination contract, hiring out a hundred hives to an Elgin apple farmer. Chris graduated from the University of Cape Town, and has spent much of his professional life working in the media, including a ten-year stint with the BBC in London. He returned to South Africa with the BBC but was lured to stay on in the country to help set up the television channel, e.tv. All the while, Chris pursued his passion for beekeeping with an eye on eventually becoming a full-time commercial beekeeper. He operates his bee business out of two farms – on the mountains in Napier and in Tulbagh. Chris retains his interests in the media as a director of a Cape Town radio station and a consultant on documentary film productions. Chris wants to use his media experience to raise greater public awareness about the important work of the WCBA and its member beekeepers.
Brendan Ashley-Cooper’s interest in beekeeping began at an early age at the family home in Cape Town, where his grandparents, mother and uncle kept beehives. In 1994, Brendan travelled abroad as a young man to work for a commercial beekeeper in Israel, where he says his “journey and love for bees really took off”. On returning to South Africa, he entered the commercial beekeeping world and has grown his business to more than 2000 hives, specializing in pollination, honey production, splitting swarms and breeding queens to increase colony numbers. Brendan has served on the WCBA committee since 2015, including serving as chairperson. Brendan says his “passion for bees and beekeeping” motivates him in all aspects of his life and he’s intent on helping secure a sustainable future for our honeybees and our local beekeeping industry.
Riette Van Zyl
Secretary & Treasurer
Forage; Theft & Vandalism; Recruitment
Riette Van Zyl has been a beekeeper for nine years. Her interest in beekeeping was triggered when she caught sight of a worker bee with worn out wings. Riette says she developed enormous respect for these creatures, who literally work themselves to death. “Ethical beekeeping” is the foundation of her business. In addition to being the WCBA’s current chairperson, Riette has also served on the committee as secretary and treasurer. She has an excellent grasp of the costs involved in agriculture, with a professional background in the financial administration of the fruit-farming and export industries. Riette says she instinctively spots potential in a person or venture and always feels an urgency “to get things done”. She describes herself as a “team player’, who derives her creative energy from working with people.
Forage; Pollination; Recruitment
Owen Williams started commercial beekeeping with a different angle in 2005, trading under the business name of Honeychild. He describes his style of beekeeping as “Darwinian by default” as he prioritises the wellbeing of the honeybee (an approach promoted by Professor Tom Seeley.)
His business is divided between pollination hives and honey production hives. To date, his company has trained 189 beekeepers, two of whom have received international honey awards. Owen assists scientists as much as possible with research having a personal passion for observation and data collection. He also runs the Garden Root Beekeeping WhatsApp group which has over a hundred members.
New projects include encouraging the planting of cover crops in orchards with one huge success so far on almonds. He is currently also working with blueberry and macadamia orchard owners.
Among Owen’s accolades are the SABIO award for his contribution to the beekeeping industry in 2017; Running Hope for the Honeybees 2017 from Gift of the Givers; WCBA Beekeeper of Year 2022; and the World Honey Award 2022.
His objectives for the year ahead are to keep improving standards and share knowledge gained.
Francois Schippers hails from Hopefield on the West Coast. He worked in the private sector for twenty five years, as well as contributing to public life by serving as a councillor in the Saldanha Bay Municipality. Francois was first drawn to active beekeeping in 2013, starting out with five beehives. On retiring in 2021, he decided to become a full-time beekeeper and has built up his operation to 800 hives, concentrating on honey production. Francois has been a member of the WCBA for five years and has served on committee for more than two years.
Herman Brink is an apiarist who was born to a fruit-farming family in Ceres in the Western Cape. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Management at Stellenbosch University.
In search of broader horizons, he invested in growing various logistical and transport related fields and projects post 2000s, with specialities in perishable products, packaging and cold-chain management.
He believes that a successful business rests on a foundation of honesty and trustworthy connections Secondly, a successful business requires a disciplined workforce and resilient ethos, and thirdly, he maintains and wishes to preserve forage that is essential for bees to thrive.
Whilst employed, Herman worked as a national logistics manager, senior production manager, eventually culminating in the establishment of his ongoing registered company.
His focus has shifted to fulfilling the position of co-owner of a commercial beekeeping company which is centred on pollination services of blueberries, stone fruit and deciduous fruit, as well as seed yielding specific crops around the Western Cape. He also produces honey under the trade names of ‘My Dad’s Honey’ and ‘Bokkeveld Pure Raw Honey’ Pty Ltd.
Prof Robin Crewe is a research fellow of the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship and a member of the Social Insects Research Group in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria. He has worked for many years on chemical communication and social organisation in a variety of social insects. His current research is on the Cape honey bee and beekeeping in the Cape colony in the 19th century.
Robin has been active in beekeeping circles in Gauteng province, having served for a period on the committee of the Southerns Beekeeping Association including as chair. He was made a Fellow of the Southerns Beekeeping Association of South Africa in recognition for his contribution to honeybee research. He served on the Capensis Working Group set up by the South African National Department of Agriculture.
He is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a fellow of the African Academy of Science, and a fellow of the World Academy of Science. He was the recipient of the Harry Oppenheimer Research Award for 2012 to undertake work on his co-authored book “The Dark Side of the Hive” which was published by Oxford University Press, New York.
He received the Gold Medal of the Academy of Science of South Africa and of the Zoological Society of South Africa. He is an honorary life member of the Entomological Society of southern Africa.
Pieter de Jager
Pollination; Theft & Vandalism; Recruitment
Pieter de Jager has been a beekeeper for 11 years. He has had a love for nature and farming from a very young age and when he was introduced to his first beehive he knew this was the industry for him.
In 2012, Pieter started his own company named Soetland Bye which focuses on pollination services and honey production.
Pieter believes that hard work, dedication and passion are the key ingredients for a successful and thriving beekeeping business.
Liaison Western Cape Department of Agriculture; Training and Mentoring; Theft and Vandalism; Pollination; Forage; Urban Beekeeping ; Recruitment
Charles Salmon currently works as a Senior Agricultural Advisor for the Western Cape government’s Department of Agriculture, specialising in beekeeping.
Charles’s journey with bees started when he was a child as his father was also a beekeeper for 21 years. He started his own beekeeping enterprise 27 years ago and is still a part-time beekeeper, having gained excellent knowledge about beekeeping and pollination of fruit and vegetable seed over the years.
As beekeeping is his passion, he furthered his studies in the bee industry, which consisted of a BTech followed by a Masters in Agriculture with an emphasis on honeybee pollination in the production of onion seeds.
He is currently very involved in a variety of aspects of the organised bee industry in the Western Cape, in particular pollination, bee forage, the development of bee projects, beekeeping training and also representing the Department of Agriculture in the industry.