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US support programme boosts KZN poultry farmers

Small-scale poultry farmers in KZN are poised for growth, thanks to skills development programmes supported by US government agencies

Scores of small scale poultry farmers in KwaZulu Natal have improved their animal husbandry, financial management skills and profits, through a series of training workshops and an intensive skills development programme run in South Africa with the support of US government agencies. A further 300 producers underwent production training at the Kwazulu Natal Poultry Institute (KZNPI) as part of the funded training programmes.

The financial and farm management, and production training was developed and implemented by the World Poultry Foundation, with supplementary funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The financial and farm management programme included eight workshops on financial management and sustainable farming methods, run with support from the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the Kwazulu Natal Poultry Institute (KZNPI) and the Future Farmers Foundation of South Africa. The development initiatives also include support for the Future Farmers Foundation programme to send promising poultry farmers for one year of hands-on training at leading facilities in the US.

Jenetha Mahlangu, Director for International Relations at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), says that in line with its mandate to oversee and support South Africa’s agricultural sector, as well as ensuring access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. DAFF’s role is to facilitate cooperation in the upskilling and empowerment of smallholder farmers, “the training covered the entire value chain, to enable them to run viable poultry businesses, “she says. “The smallholder farmers are now being commercialised in terms of production, biosecurity, processing and financial management, which now enables them to participate in the global economy.”

With an initial target of 200 beneficiaries, the financial and farm management workshop programme proved more popular than expected, and 243 farmers and extension agents, well over half of them women, benefited, with positive social and economic benefits for their communities in KwaZulu Natal and inland areas such as Potchefstroom, Nelspruit and Bloemfontein.  By learning to keep records efficiently, participants were better equipped to manage their production costs; and many also found they were able to eliminate wastage such as excessive feeding.

Janet Lee, Managing Director at KZNPI, says a shortage of skills is a major challenge for many small-scale poultry farmers: “There’s a huge gap in terms of business skills, which is why we introduced a specific poultry farming business skills course. Poultry is far more intensive than other livestock farming, and farmers need to understand disease control, biosecurity and looking after young chicks. Our research after the training found that there has been huge benefit to the farmers. 85% of participants reported they were making more money from their businesses as a result of the training.” Farmers also reported improved record keeping, reduced bird mortality, and in some cases also reduced overheads.

For broiler farmer Slindile Ngcongo from Umzimkhulu, the training turned a hobby into a poultry business. “I have grown from just keeping chickens to helping other farmers take care of their chickens because of the skills and knowledge I acquired. The highlight for me after the training was being awarded a project by our local municipality to help three other broiler farmers and train them for four months. It was an opportunity for me to give back the knowledge I have,” she says. 

Buthana Zungu, owner of Gamashe Farming in Umbumbulu, says better biosecurity measures learned during the training has helped him to reduce chicken mortality on his farm; While Linda Collin Jili, owner of the Umcebo weMvelo farm in the Ixopo region, says he has improved his record keeping and feed management.

Andile Praiswell Luthuli, owner of #HatcherySA poultry farm at Verulam, says: “The training helped me to increase production, and to get more clients because now I know how to market my business.”

Judy Stuart of Future Farmers Foundation says the foreign internships offered to promising young farmers offer them both personal growth and access to the latest international farming models and technologies, on massive commercial farms. “The benefits have been life changing for them,” she says. “They were given significant responsibility and gained a lot of self-esteem; plus their families benefited from their new status and income.”

Nothando Sibiya of Empangeni was one of the young farmers to undergo a year’s training in the US. Now a poultry supervisor at Chiffon Estate in Kwazulu Natal, she says the training equipped her for senior roles in the poultry industry. “The highlight of my training in America was when one of the houses under my supervision achieved and broke the company record by achieving a 96% production rate,” she says.

Lindelihle Nxumalo, now the estate manager at KZNPI, also underwent a year’s training in the US.  “I immersed myself in learning about the bigger industry there…learning about the use of more advanced computerised equipment and the growing trend towards free range birds,” he says.

Ms Mahlangu, who spent time in the US observing the training, says:  “Many of those who went overseas were unemployed graduates. In the US they were trained in commercial farming enterprises where they gained tremendous comprehensive skills. They gained new prospects in that they can now come back and open their own enterprises, become involved in professional services or get employment in the poultry industry in the country, and they can now contribute to the broader economy.”

Kyle Bonsu, Agricultural Attaché at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service at the US Embassy in Pretoria, says: “We believe it is in the interests of the global poultry industry and individual poultry farmers everywhere to share knowledge and best practice. Chicken is the world’s leading source of meat protein and it offers many nutritional benefits. The more people who are eating chicken, the better it is for the entire poultry industry worldwide.”

The U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, in collaboration with the World Poultry Foundation travelled to the North West province and Kwa-Zulu Natal to interview South African farmers who have benefited from the training and US internships. View the interviews  here

Issued by ITP Communications on behalf of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council

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