Fulcrum assists backwards-running beekeeper Farai to move forward

At Fulcrum, we believe passionately in positively impacting the environment – and helping others, such as Johannesburg beekeeper Farai Chinomwe, to also do so.

Farai Chinomwe, with one of his hives.
(Photo by Fulcrum)
Farai Chinomwe, with one of his hives.

Farai has steadily made a name for himself, in particular in running circles, as the man who runs marathons backwards in the name of bee conservation. His unorthodox style never fails to elicit a response, and he exploits such opportunities to share his message.

An accomplished conventional runner (his best time for the 90km Comrades Marathon is an impressive 7:06), Farai has completed three of his seven Comrades races running backwards, but failed to make the cut-off time in a fourth backwards attempt this year. And he’s completed the Two Oceans Marathon, as well as other distance events, running backwards.

“A number of us at Fulcrum are runners, which is how we became aware of Farai,” says Fulcrum’s head of brand, Clodagh da Paixao. “It sparked my interest when I saw him and wanted to know why he was running backwards. How fascinating to find out that there’s an amazing story and journey he has been on to support bees. 

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person a few times, and each time he just amazes me with his knowledge of bees, beekeeping and – most importantly –the need for education around bees, in particular in disadvantaged areas.” 

In support of the work that Farai does, Fulcrum has donated four hives to him.

Farai, running in a 100km race recently.
(Photo by Farai Chinomwe)
Farai, running in a 100km race recently.

Says Clodagh, “We’re doing our bit for the environment at the Fulcrum offices through recycling and driving awareness. We’ve done away with plastic straws and balloons for celebrations, and we’ve placed recycling bins in all of our kitchen and pause areas. In July, we recycled 158kg of waste, up from 102kg in February.

“It’s well known that bees are essential to the environment, and to human survival; without them, we cannot pollinate the crops on which we rely. Advocates for bees, such as Farai, need all the help they can get and supporting him is a natural extension of our growing environmental awareness.”

Farai, a Zimbabwean who relocated to Johannesburg in 2000, was initially a musician. But then fate stepped in …

One day, he discovered that bees had taken up residence in his djembe drum. But rather than burning them out (a practice from his childhood, about which he still feels deep regret), he decided to approach the matter from “a different angle”.

“Everything deserves a life,” says Farai, who, as a Rastafarian, is opposed to killing. He conducted research about bees and realised that, apart from the conservation aspect, “this could be a lucrative thing”.

So he established his business, Blessed Bee Africa, and became a professional beekeeper. He humanely rescues and removes bees in urban Johannesburg, harvests honey and trains others in beekeeping.

But fate was not yet done with Farai. Early one morning, he was driving home with a load of bees when his car broke down as he drove up Corlett Drive. Realising he could not leave them there, he tried to push his car up the hill – unsuccessfully, until he turned around and pushed the vehicle backwards.

“When I got home, I found it was quite a nice workout,” he says. So he decided to start training backwards, and soon wondered, “How will I do in a race? Will I beat other people?”

It took a while before he plucked up the courage to try. When he eventually did, the reactions of other runners were predictable: they thought he was crazy, they laughed, they asked what he’d been smoking.

But they also spoke to him, which presented him with the opportunity to spread his message about bees. And he shrugs off hurtful comments with humour – a favourite quip is that “running forwards is old-fashioned”.

To see Farai in action on the road, watch this 2017 Two Oceans Marathon feature video about him: 

“Running backwards has set me free, and I’ve met other people … Things that would not have happened if I was running forwards,” Farai says. “It’s changing the way people see bees. They are putting down pesticides, and they are rescuing bees out of swimming pools.”

He adds that meeting Clodagh, and her curiosity about what he does, has been “a blessing”.

“I’m very thankful to Fulcrum for their contribution,” he adds.

If you require Farai’s beekeeping services, or you would like to also support him, please contact him on Facebook. Alternatively, look out for him at our country’s popular marathons – he’s the only one not facing the front.