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Cape Town Eco Film Festival showcases student research project on bees

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The 2014 Cape Town Eco Film Festival showcased 25 eco films at the historic Labia Theatre

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Tlou Masehela is a final year PhD student at the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, University of Stellenbosch. He became a member of the GSN Committee in 2013/14 and was recently elected the new Committee Coordinator for 2014/15.

Science communication has become a critical tool to inform and educate the public at large about issues that are important and relevant to them. The challenge many scientists face is how to translate their research into a story that is accessible, and interesting, to the general public.

Tlou Masehela, the Coordinator of the SAEON Graduate Student Network (GSN) Committee for 2014/15, recently succeeded in showcasing his research by making a movie, and this has given him exposure on a wide public platform. Read his version of his rise to fame:

I knew very little about the Cape Town Eco Film Festival until I received an email from Andreas Wilson-Späth, one of the organisers of the film festival and a popular and very opinionated columnist for News24, that read: "We are screening "The Buzz for Food" in which you are featured on Sunday 30 March at 6pm together with a beautiful Swiss film about bees called "More Than Honey". I was wondering if you would be interested in attending the screening and participating in an informal audience discussion and Q&A session following the show? I think it would be great to have you there ...

While the excitement was still sinking in, I took some time to find out more about the Cape Town Eco Film Festival. The festival is a project of While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit collective that has organised ample public screenings of documentary films with important social, environmental and political themes since 2006. The 2014 Cape Town Eco Film Festival showcased 25 eco films at the historic Labia Theatre.

World-class environmental documentaries

The festival is used as a platform to bring world-class environmental documentaries to the general public. This is particularly important because most such films never make it to the usual commercial cinema circuit across the country.

The aim of most, if not all, screened films was to raise the levels of public awareness and debate about a wide variety of important local and global environmental issues. The organisers reckon that documentary films represent a powerful medium for communicating the growing ecological challenges with which we are faced today - from climate change and pollution to plummeting biodiversity and diminishing natural resources.

The Buzz for Food

My film, The Buzz for Food, aims to create awareness and stimulate debate around challenges that South Africa’s two indigenous honeybee species (Apis mellifera capensis and A. mellifera scutellata) are facing with regard to gradually eroding forage resources due to, among other things, urbanisation, development and the removal of some eucalyptus species (gums) for conservation reasons.

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Forage resources of South Africa's two indigenous honeybee species, Apis mellifera capensis and A. mellifera scutellata (pictured), are eroding on account of urbanisation, development and the removal of some eucalyptus species for conservation reasons (Picture: Wikipedia)

Forage resources for honeybees are a crucial component that my PhD project looks into. As a key objective, I document and assess the importance and availability of such resources, together with their contribution to various beekeeping operations (i.e. honey production and colony maintenance), as it has never before been done in South Africa. The aim is to derive long-term sustainable measures that can be put into place to preserve or enhance such forage resources.

The importance of good honeybee health and the critical role that honeybees play in the pollination of many pollinator-dependent agricultural crops are highlighted in the film.

The Buzz for Food, an initiative of the CareTakers, forms part of the capacity building and public awareness outputs of the Global Pollination Project and the Honeybee Forage Project, both administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

The film has since been packaged on a DVD for general facilitators as well as educators in the environmental and agricultural sciences fields. Additional material has been developed to facilitate easy discussion with learners/students about the film. Its inclusion in this year’s programme at the Cape Town Eco Film Festival makes sense as its overall message is similar to what the film festival aims to achieve.

My film was screened on 30 March alongside the world renowned film More than Honey, which gives an in-depth look at honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia. This gave viewers an exclusive opportunity to gain perspective and relate to challenges that currently face honeybees in the northern and southern hemispheres.

To get hold of a copy of the film, or for more information, contact Tlou Masehela directly.

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