Side hustle: Student starts his own poultry farm

Joining a student organisation for entrepreneurs set Katlego Mohloding's life on fast track into agribusiness. He's only 21 and still a full-time student, but is already a thriving poultry farmer who also farms with vegetables

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While at the age of 21 most of his peers are still trying to figure themselves out, Katlego Mohloding from Thothololo village in Ha-Muila, Limpopo has carved a niche in farming, selling vegetables and broiler chickens to both locals and neighbouring communities.

As a student at the University of Limpopo, in 2019 Mohloding was exposed to a pool of young, business-minded people through Enactus South Africa,  a non-profit that inspires students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. He was appointed as project manager of Enactus’ Tihuku Project, which works with subsistence poultry farmers in Mamotintane, a small village in Mankweng. 

He says that while working to help the farmers level up to become commercial farmers, the influence from the group rubbed off on him. Before he knew it he was cajoled into starting something of his own.

Katlego Mohloding has already found a market for the first 3000 cabbages he grew in an unused schoolyard. Photo: Manare Matabola/Food For Mzansi

When the festive season of that particular year drew nearer, the demand for chickens in the neighbourhood grew, opening a gap in the market that needed to be filled. Most of these demands were from the women who were part of several stokvels in the area. So, with his ear to the ground, Mohloding pounced on the opportunity at a breakneck pace.

He assembled his savings, took orders from those stokvels, bought chickens in bulk from different poultry farmers, and in turn sold them to the stokvels with a markup.

“I used to gather orders from the stokvels and contact the suppliers to place orders of chickens in bulk, as guided by the numbers from the stokvels. On most days, I was doing this alone, except for the days when my former teacher, Mr. Sienzeni Mashapa, offered to assist,” says Mohloding.

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The challenge to expand

The plan always been to eventually keep his own chickens and independently distribute them, but a shoestring budget meant that he first had to operate as a middleman.

Mohloding operated this way for a few months, until March 2020. By this time, he had already saved enough capital to build two modest chicken houses in his parents’ backyard. 

His nascent business got a boost when the Covid-19 lockdown measures forced his university classes to move online. He was in his second year at the University of Limpopo, working towards a degree in education, majoring in accounting and economics. The online classes gave him ample time to look after his business, which he named Katlego Poultry Farming.

“I feel that for learners to be more confident, they should have all the basic school necessities.”

Unlike his friends in farming, who are often faced with challenges such as theft and a high chicken mortality rate, Mohloding has some nice business problems. His greatest challenge is the fact that demand for his chickens is higher than his ability to supply.

“There have never been issues of theft in my area. The only problem is that I now grow only 500 broilers, and the demand from customers far outweigh the number I supply. I am unable to supply them all as I am currently self-funded,” Mohloding says.

ALSO READ: Side hustle: How teacher became egg farmer in lockdown

Having multiple streams of income

While Mohloding doesn’t struggles with sales of his chickens, he felt hampered by the irregular cash flow from this business. If he could get paid every day, he reasoned, he could scale up his chicken production faster, especially since by now he had two helpers in the business.

So, he came up with the plan to get more regular cash by also growing vegetables. The only problem was that he did not have a piece of land on which he could plant his vegetables. 

But as luck would have it, earlier this year Mohloding spotted an unused piece of land inside the grounds of Lupenyo primary school. He offered to lease the land from the school, which he used to attend himself as a child. 

The income and cash flow from Katlego Mohloding's vegetable farm helps him build his primary business. The demand for his chickens is far greater than he can currently supply. Photo: Manare Matabola
The income and cash flow from Katlego Mohloding’s vegetable farm helps him build his primary business. The demand for his chickens is far greater than he can currently supply. Photo: Manare Matabola

“I cover the electricity, which is used to pump the water that I use to water my vegetables. I have also promised to give the school 30% of my proceeds as a token of appreciation,” he says.

“Of the 30% that the school will receive, we agreed that the 20% will be used to buy school shoes for the learners as most of them do not have shoes. Also, I feel that for learners to be more confident, they should have all the basic school necessities.”

He thought it wise to plant spinach and cabbages on the leased land to increase his streams of income. He looks set to harvest 3000 cabbages next month. Fortunately, he will not have to stress about who he will be selling to, for he has already struck a deal with two Spars at in the area to supply them with his harvests.

What is next for the young entrepreneur? Most recently Mohloding bought a 1.5-hectare piece of land within his village, which is just 15 minutes walk from his parents’ home. The future looks bright for Katlego Poultry Farming.

Katlego Mohloding’s advice to new farmers

  • Farmers who experience difficulty should consult with other farmers or experts as soon as possible to minimise the risks or avoid unnecessary costs that may occur.
  • They should keep thorough financial records as these help to track the performance of the business. 

ALSO READ: Poultry farming #SoilSista stands on the shoulders of giants

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