Gladys Tawobola, who is a livestock farmer based in Gauteng, believes that training aspiring farmers and students is just as important as running a successful business. Tawobola, who founded Peezel Farms 12 years ago, is also an advocate for the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
She believes South African poultry farmers need new markets as they continue to be undermined by current regulations which allow some foreign countries to dump their chicken products in the country. She told Vutivi News that her farm in Centurion focused on poultry, goats, cattle and vegetables.
They hatch day-old broilers, which are grown for meat purposes, and layers, which are chickens used to lay eggs. Their hatchery has a capacity of 53,000 chickens. Tawobola said they sold their products to small and emerging farmers, and their meat to areas including Thembisa, Olifantsfontein and Kempton Park.
“We also have roadside stands which we supply with our chickens. We have sellers who buy from us. We supply restaurants and tshisanyamas, so our broiler market is diverse,” she said. “We grow layers until they can lay eggs, then we sell them to farmers that want full-grown layers. We also have our own section where we sell eggs to businesses in bulk.”
Tawobola said that she was drawn to the production side of agriculture after studying Veterinary Sciences at institutions in New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa. The farm initially started off by selling eggs and then moved onto chickens. “I went from layers to broilers then fell in love with sheep, goats and cattle. I own the farm where I operate, and I bought it years ago,” she said.
“My husband financed the farm and started out with our own savings, but it wasn’t easy because it took a lot of discipline and cutting down on a lot in the early days.” One of her main challenges as with other poultry farmers is the high cost of chicken feed.
“It takes about 65% of your profit to grow a particular batch and spend only on feed, and you have markets that end up underpricing your chickens,” she said. She said small-scale farmers needed to be empowered to produce their own feed. Tawobola said chicken dumping was another concern.
“It does not give us opportunities as small-scale farmers to grow and be recognised. How do they expect small farmers to grow?” Tawobola said that before the lockdown and a recent avian flu outbreak, she was exporting chicks to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Mozambique.
She said the free trade deal would open opportunities for South African farmers. “From my experience, the South African poultry sector is doing very well compared to other countries in the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) region, so this will give South African poultry farmers the opportunity to get recognition from across the border, even if it is only in the SADC region,” she said.
Tawobola has 15 employees and four of them are students from the Tshwane University of Technology, who are getting on-the-job experience to complete their degrees. “Every month, I take in at least two people who cannot afford to train for poultry farming and I train them and give them a certificate and mentor them until they don’t need me anymore,” she said.
“I put myself out there and am easily accessible to anyone who wants training; I take students from universities and train them, and I do these things all for free. I know where my calling lies. It lies in farming and transferring of skills.”