North West farmer Kabelo Lekalakala believes the future belongs to those who create it. He also believes that, as a newcomer to ostrich farming, he has what it takes to make it to the top.
Despite having little experience, an ambitious Lekalakala is ready to become one of the leading ostrich farmers in Mzansi.
He is a BTech graduate in business administration and a business development practitioner. He trusts his experience in assisting small businesses will go a long way in sharpening his skills of managing the farm.
“There have been a number of people fascinated by and interested in what I am currently doing and it motivates me. [They are] congratulating me on the milestones I have achieved over the years,” he says.
“Getting a piece of land was a celebratory moment for the project,” Lekalakala points out.
Growing from housing 15 chicks in a garage to now having to accommodate and feed 55, has been a challenging but wonderful experience for him.
He thinks the ostrich industry – years before he joined – was monopolistic. He adds that more needed to be done to ensure this type of farming reaches everyone, especially disadvantaged black farmers in far-flung areas.
Learning the game
Having grown up in the dusty streets of Bapong village in Brits in North West, the young and only black ostrich farmer in the area believes he has a lot to offer aspiring farmers in the province.
“The farm is slowly but steadily gaining recognition. We currently source day-old ostriches and grow them to month-old ostriches for clients. Then we release them.
“We also share mentorship sessions with clients through virtual communication platforms,” he explains.
Lekalakala was exposed to the industry for two years (2017-2019) while working in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape.
“Ostrich is a beautiful bird to have. The meat is good as it is low in cholesterol, compared to other red meat.”
“Oudtshoorn is fondly known as the capital of ostrich production, with a rich heritage around the business.
“Following my stint in the area, I relocated back home to Brits early in 2019. I decided to buy some ostrich chicks from a local hatchery to experiment, [with the] possibility of planting a seed and resuscitating ostrich farming in the inland region of the country,” Lekalakala explains.
His mission was to create more awareness around ostrich farming.
Lekalakala was able to fund his five-hectare dream with a loan he is currently still paying off. His farming journey has not been without challenges, but Lekalakala hopes one day all his efforts will bear a bountiful harvest.
“I am indebted to the confidence, cheerleading and companionship of my girlfriend, and financial support for smaller commitments from my cousin.”
Since its establishment, the farm has attracted many stakeholders in the area. It includes a partnership with government.
His agreement with the state is to bring in three agricultural postgraduate students to gain experience in the industry.
“The students are very excited and committed, as they are learning about new species in the area.
“This arrangement with the department of agriculture helps a great deal. During my absence from the farm, the students monitor the day-to-day running of the farm. We start with morning briefings and end the day with debriefings, at times virtually,” he explains.
Lekalakala says the experience he has gained over the years has been overwhelming. He has learned a lot about the industry, which he says is predominantly white-owned.
But he believes the days are gone where ordinary citizens would only see an ostrich at a game lodge far from their area. He wants people to see and witness the life of an ostrich daily, and wishes to see more farmers in the inland provinces, specifically in North West and Limpopo.
“I am just responding to a calling where I believe that ostrich farming cannot be confined to a particular geographical area.”
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