Side hustle poultry farmer Pertunia Botlhole is an extraordinary female farmer participating in the Corteva Women Agripreneur Programme 2021, a year-long blended development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA).
Human resources practitioner Pertunia Botlhole (43) credits her husband for his role in getting her to fall in love with poultry farming, which has since become her true love.
In 2016 she got involved in a broiler production business in Limpopo that her husband, Otladisa John Botlhole, had originally started. This unexpected passion has since become central to her life.
In 2018 she took over Tladisa Farming and Projects, which is based near Driekop in Limpopo. She has developed a passion for being the best broiler producer in her area. “I am the director of the farm and everything – management, administration and all the controlling of inventory, the planning, the strategies – it is upon me.”
Botlhole credits her husband for his continuous support in the poultry farming business. “My husband played the most important role in this, for making me love poultry farming.”
Of all the things she foresaw herself doing with her life, farming was never one of them. Her background is in human resources in the mining sector, a field she worked in for many years and is still has a full-time job in. The couple now live on the farm full-time.
“I started working with my husband on this farming [venture], and then he encouraged me to go deep into it. I then fell in love with it. I love poultry farming more than any other work that I’m doing.”
Botlhole says that winter is her biggest challenge every year. She finds that, in the cold, the chickens do not grow very well, and that she has to spend more money buying heaters and paying for electricity to keep them warm.
“At the time when they should be ready to be slaughtered or sold, they cannot be because they are still not grown. When you check on their ages, they are supposed to be at the age where they need to be sold but because of the winter season, they are not growing well.”
Despite this seasonal challenge and her production slowing down, she finds that customers are still keen to purchase from her. “There is a high demand for chickens, especially in this area. People prefer white meat here more than red meat. And, apart from that, they don’t prefer the braai packs that they can get from the shop. They prefer live chickens. They need to slaughter them for themselves.”
She says that she has always had a higher demand than she could keep up with, which is why she does not feel as if she loses out. “When they are ready to be sold, I’m getting the customer. I already have a programme where I know, every second week, I must put in so many chicks so that at this period, they are ready.”
To please her customers, Botlhole focuses on delivering service in a manner that is effective and efficient. She says she puts in a lot of time to make sure that she does what is needed to deliver an excellent product and service.
“Customers like quality products, so when they check with my other competitors and compare the products we are selling, they find that mine are at a higher standard than my competitors’. That is where the trust is.”
She also says that, when customers buy chickens from her, she makes sure that she sets their expectations and gives them exactly what they require.
“I maintain the contact numbers of my customers so that I can keep them posted about when the chickens are ready to be sold.”
“When they come, they find exactly what they were expecting to get. Even now, when it is winter, because they know during wintertime, they won’t get the same products as they get in summer. But again, it’s still better than my competitors.
Some advice for aspiring women farmers
Botlhole says that there are government-funded programmes women can join to get started in the sector. She encourages women who want to do it eventually to take the leap. “They will be getting support surely, directly or indirectly.”
She also encourages women to never give up despite the challenges inherent in farming. “There is no business that doesn’t have challenges. So, what they need to do is just have some dedication and prepare for the risk.
“When you look at it, an entrepreneur is actually a risk taker.”
“And when they are taking a risk, they must know that it can hinder them, but when you lose, don’t give up. You must just keep on trying until you get to where you want to go. ”
Perseverance is a trait that any farmer requires. Botlhole says that, while she finds women have the ability to persevere through most things, farming seems to be where women often give up.
“Farming is commitment,” she says. “In most cases, I know women don’t give up easily. But in farming, most of them think that they won’t make it, but I know women can make it more, even more than what men can.”