Youth unemployment is rife in South Africa, and often even university graduates find it impossible to find work for months or years.
But this has not been the case for Sphamandla Mazibuko, who placed his bets on chicken farming and has not looked back despite many challenges.
The 33-year-old from Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal launched SG Farming Enterprise in 2019 after he graduated from university and was unable to find work.
“I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Consumer Sciences and Rural Development, but I could not find a job,” he said.
“It was very stressful, and I was on the verge of a breakdown. However, thanks to the passion for agriculture I realised that instead of waiting for opportunities, I could create one.”
Due to his background in farming, agriculture was an obvious choice for him.
“I grew up in a village and I used to be a herd boy. My grandmother used to plant vegetables in her small garden. She also had a few indigenous chickens and that is where my love of poultry took off,” he said.
Mazibuko said that he studied Consumer Sciences and Rural Development because he wanted something that would strengthen his love for agriculture. And he was lucky to get financial support from his family and the National Youth Development Agency.
He initially started out with 50 chickens which he bought with his family’s money.
Mazibuko said the Covid-19 pandemic had been extremely challenging.
“Business was doing well before we were placed under lockdown, and that is when buying power decreased,” he said.
“People were no longer buying because they no longer had jobs. Some of the customers had less shifts than usual, so I was stuck with stock that was bleeding my pocket.”
Another hurdle has been dealing with the weather.
“During lockdown I use a Mbawula (fire) to keep the chickens warm,” he said.
“I also use a fan and put ice in the drinkers just to keep the chickens cool in extreme heat.”
Mazibuko said he learnt plenty during the lockdown, including how to improve sales.
“I learnt that for every adversity we face, there is growth after it because when sales went down, I had to find new ways of selling. I had to design new marketing tools and come up with new strategies, some of which were successful judging by the number of customers.”
Besides making a success out of chicken farming, his goal is also to help fight unemployment and branch out in the poultry industry.
“I considered hiring one person as a great achievement because now I will be able to feed one more family and one more person. I plan on breeding layers, which are chickens that specialise in laying eggs,” Mazibuko said.
“I struggled to get a job and I do not want the same to be experienced especially by youth from rural and disadvantaged communities.”