Don’t romanticise farming, says hardworking mom

Pheladi Madungandaba may have only started farming a year ago, but she is already making strides in the poultry industry. Her recipe is hard work and research. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Pheladi Madungandaba may have only started farming a year ago, but she is already making strides in the poultry industry. Her recipe is hard work and research. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

When Pheladi Madungandaba hit a rough patch early last year, she was forced to find a sustainable career to support her children. She had to think out of the box and now she is thriving as a poultry farmer.  

In August last year she found a two-day online course in poultry farming, facilitated by Ntsako Shipalana, broiler farmer and the owner of Olori Chickens. Shipalana gave her a manual with guidelines about poultry farming.

Fortunately Madungandaba had personal savings and a spaza shop in rural Limpopo that generated enough income to start her chicken business, D Dosage. She started farming in Limpopo around November 2020 with 2 000 chickens.

ALSO READ: From shepherd boy to commercial farmer

A new opportunity

Soon, another opportunity opened up in the area when spaza shop owners needed tomatoes and spinach to sell in their shops.

“People living in rural areas don’t have access to retail stores, so they work with what they have.”

The spaza shops there told us they wanted tomatoes and spinach; they were pretty much the ones giving us guidance about what they would want us to sell to them.

Pheladi Madungandaba on her farm in Moloto where she farms with close to 5 000 chickens. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“We started venturing into [crop farming] because there was a need for it. We did that independently and we had to learn through YouTube how to do that,” she shares.

This year she decided to move her poultry farming business to Moloto in Mpumalanga because, logistically, it did not make business sense for her to be based in Limpopo while she lived in Pretoria.

“Limpopo was a bit far and the drive to Moloto is only 48km from where I live. I can go there frequently – maybe four to five days a week – which is necessary because we are still building a new coup for my chickens,” she explains.

Results in less than a year

Madungandaba says she has close to 5000 chickens now, which she keeps on a 1.2-hectare piece of tribal land she received from a traditional leader from Moloto. In the next five years she sees D Dosage having its own abattoir and housing about 20 000 chickens.

She supplies chickens to her community in Moloto and neighbouring communities. “We also go to social grant stations around the area where pensioners get their money. We have our mini pop-ups there and we also supply the nearby tshisanyamas and butcheries,” she adds.

Pheladi Madungandaba is always looking for innovative ways to grow her business and to penetrate unsaturated markets. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Overcoming the challenges

Madungandaba’s newfound success was not without impediments. She faced quite a few challenges along the way.

“Feed was a challenge. It still is, but now it is better because it is summertime, so the prices have dropped a bit. Getting access to water and utilising it efficiently, was a challenge as well.”

Initially she also struggled with biosecurity, with birds dying from causes unknown to her. “I was still trying this poultry farming thing out and I was not familiar with a lot of things. So, I didn’t know how to maintain the coop.”

Winter presented its own set of problems. “One of the challenges in winter was heat because the birds needed it. Getting more radiation lights for them to be warm was quite a challenge because it meant we needed to get more electricity.”

Staying in a rural area tends to be a bit tricky, she admits, especially with load shedding in winter. “Most of the time we found chicks dying in the morning because they didn’t receive enough heat.”

Advice on how to succeed

Her advice to aspiring poultry farmers is to be prepared for hard work and to do research.

Pheladi Madungandaba warns aspiring farmers that poultry farming is not a walk in the park. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“Poultry farming is not as romantic as it looks; it is a lot of work and [requires] constant research. If you are consistent with it, you will become a success. Just like anything in life, you just need to put in a lot of effort in whatever you are doing.”

Madungandaba warns aspiring farmers to shy away from thinking that poultry farming is easy, because it is not.

“I think we have got a lot of broiler farmers who think, ‘oh this is possible’. But it is a lot of admin, so you must brace yourself for a lot of hard work and learning.”

ALSO READ: How Prudence uses WhatsApp to build her poultry enterprise

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