Miekie Mkhatha, a poultry farmer in Pretoria, is no stranger to grief and obstacles. Her parents passed away in 2006, and she nearly lost a limb in the line of duty. Despite her challenges, Mkhatha believes that there is life after tragedy when you are determined to succeed.
After three years of unemployment, she picked up the pieces and started a farming business in 2021. She called it Morris Mavis Agri Field, a business that specialises in broiler chickens.
“When Covid-19 was implemented in 2020 and everything went down, agriculture was amongst the sectors operating, which made me realise that agriculture is the way to go.”
Mkhatha runs a mixed farming operation, and she is also a farming assessor and specialises in poultry.
Adversity breeds success
Before she found her passion in poultry farming, Mkhatha had aspirations of becoming a nurse. Those dreams were dashed when she could not qualify for the profession. She also lost her parents and was compelled to have a back-up plan.
“Yho! Losing both parents in one year taught me that anything is possible in life,” she says.
“It was a burden that I carried for many years, but when I look at my life, I am grateful for their teachings. Importantly, hard effort pays off, and you should never forget where you came from.”
In 2008, she was employed by the department of correctional services (DCS). “I was ecstatic to receive a call from the DCS giving me a position as a correctional officer in Kimberley,” she says.
But in 2017, tragedy struck again when she was injured in the line of duty that almost cost her left arm.
“When all that occurred, the situation at work changed drastically. I confronted obstacles that compelled me to choose myself.”
She then opted to pursue her qualification in law at the University of South Africa. However, did not have money to pay for her studies.
“In 2020, when the compensation (labour department) offered bursaries for those living with disabilities as a result of a work-related injury, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and was subsequently introduced to farming.”
Having a back-up plan
Growing food at home, where farming was not a business but a way of life, was as simple for Mkhatha as selling vetkoek .
She recalls her days as a student at Mswakazi Junior Secondary School in Port St. Johns, when she sold vetkoek and candies at school.
“The money would allow me to treat myself or provide a safety net should I lose my pen or a book. Even as a grade 8 student in Kimberley in the year 2000, I would travel to Johannesburg to purchase handbags and fragrances, which I then marketed door-to-door in my area.”
She says everything she has learned at Ekurhuleni Agricultural College, following the compensation labour department bursary, was something she did as a child, like weeding the garden and sowing seeds.
“Although I considered animal production and plant production at the Ekurhuleni Agricultural College, I majored in chicken farming.”
Building a community
Mkhatha’s greatest aspiration is to operate an agricultural college where she can teach youth, women, elderly people, and those living with disabilities. She believes that those who knows how to fish will never go to bed with an empty stomach.
“With agriculture you can alleviate poverty and generate employment possibilities. I also advise folks to begin planting at the back of their yards. Make it a practice to cultivate your own vegetables; it’s affordable and healthy.”
She also offer a 30-day online poultry farming training programme and shares her skills and knowledge on how to establish a chicken business, how to raise chickens within six weeks, how to regulate temperature, how to record weight, and vaccination procedures.
She is also the founder of the clothing brand Zama Mtase, which she launched in 2021.
“In order for a business to prosper, time must be invested in it; the more time you put in, the greater the return, as with chickens. Your consistent vigilance can lower the fatality rate. In other words, you immediately isolate the sick chicken to prevent the spread of disease.”
This young entrepreneur has big dreams, and if her history is anything to go by, it’s just a matter of time before she makes them come true.
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