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US support boosts KZN poultry farmers

chickens

Aspirant poultry farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, who are keen to take their agri-businesses to the next level, are receiving a welcome leg-up and training support from US government agencies.

Scores of small-scale poultry farmers in the province have had the opportunity to improve their animal husbandry, financial management skills and profits, through training workshops and an intensive skills development programme. Another 300 producers underwent production training at the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute (KZNPI) as part of the funded training programmes.

World Poultry Foundation

The financial and farm management, and production training, was developed and implemented by the World Poultry Foundation, with supplementary funding from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The financial and farm management programme included eight workshops on financial management and sustainable farming methods, run with support from the SA Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), KZNPI and the Future Farmers Foundation of SA. The development initiatives also include support for the Future Farmers Foundation programme to send promising poultry farmers for a year of hands-on training at leading facilities in the US.

Jenetha Mahlangu.

Jenetha Mahlangu, Director for International Relations at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), says the programme is in line with its mandate to oversee and support SA’s agricultural sector, and ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. DAFF’s role is to facilitate co-operation in the upskilling and empowerment of smallholder farmers.

Entire value chain

“The training covered the entire value chain, to enable them to run viable poultry businesses, “she says. “The smallholder farmers are now being commercialised in terms of production, biosecurity, processing and financial management, which enables them to participate in the global economy.”

With an initial target of 200 beneficiaries, the financial and farm management workshop programme proved more popular than expected, and 243 farmers and extension agents, well over half of them women, benefited, with positive social and economic benefits for their communities in KZN and inland areas such as Potchefstroom, Nelspruit and Bloemfontein.

By learning to keep records efficiently, participants were better equipped to manage production costs; many also found they were able to eliminate wastage such as excessive feeding.

Janet Lee, MD at KZNPI, says a shortage of skills is a major challenge for many small-scale poultry farmers: “There’s a huge gap in terms of business skills, which is why we introduced a specific poultry farming business skills course. Poultry is far more intensive than other livestock farming, and farmers need to understand disease control, biosecurity and looking after young chicks. Our research after the training found that there has been huge benefit to the farmers. 85% of participants reported they were making more money from their businesses as a result of the training.”

Slindile Ngcongo.

For broiler farmer Slindile Ngcongo, from Umzimkhulu, the training turned a hobby into a poultry business. “I have grown from just keeping chickens to helping other farmers take care of their chickens because of the skills and knowledge I acquired. The highlight for me after the training was being awarded a project by our local municipality to help three other broiler farmers and train them for four months. It was an opportunity for me to give back the knowledge I have,” she says.

Buthana Zungu.

Buthana Zungu, owner of Gamashe Farming in Umbumbulu, says better biosecurity measures learned has helped him to reduce chicken mortality on his farm, while Linda Collin Jili, owner of the Umcebo weMvelo farm in the Ixopo region, says he has improved his record keeping and feed management.

Andile Praiswell Luthuli, owner of #HatcherySA poultry farm at Verulam, says: “The training helped me to increase production, and to get more clients because now I know how to market my business.”

Judy Stuart of Future Farmers Foundation says the foreign internships offered to promising young farmers offer them both opportunities for personal growth and access to the latest international farming models and technologies, on massive commercial farms. “The benefits have been life changing for them,” she says. “They were given significant responsibility and gained a lot of self-esteem; plus their families benefited from their new status and income.”

Nothando Sibiya.

Nothando Sibiya of Empangeni was one of the young farmers to undergo a year’s training in the US. Now a poultry supervisor at Chiffon Estate in KwaZulu-Natal, she says the training equipped her for senior roles in the poultry industry. “The highlight of my training in America was when one of the houses under my supervision achieved and broke the company record by achieving a 96% production rate,” she says.

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Lindelihle Nxumalo, now the estate manager at KZNPI, also underwent a year’s training in the US. “I immersed myself in learning about the bigger industry there… learning about the use of more advanced computerised equipment and the growing trend towards free range birds,” he says.

Mahlangu, who spent time in the US observing the training, says: “Many of those who went overseas were unemployed graduates. In the US they were trained in commercial farming enterprises where they gained tremendous comprehensive skills. They gained new prospects in that they can now come back and open their own enterprises, become involved in professional services or get employment in the poultry industry, and they can now contribute to the broader economy.”

Kyle Bonsu.

Kyle Bonsu, Agricultural Attaché at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service at the US Embassy in Pretoria, says: “We believe it is in the interests of the global poultry industry and individual poultry farmers everywhere to share knowledge and best practice. Chicken is the world’s leading source of meat protein and it offers many nutritional benefits.”

The US Poultry and Egg Export Council, in collaboration with the World Poultry Foundation, travelled to the North West province and KwaZulu-Natal to interview SA farmers who have benefited from the training and US internships. See the interviews here:

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Main picture, top: William Moreland/Unsplash

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