On a small plot just outside Gokwe Centre in the Midlands Province, Southern part of Zimbabwe a young couple feeds their chickens. In Zimbabwe, the type of chicken they are feeding includes black austrolopes, Sasso, and buffer-pington amongst others. They produce a lot of eggs and chicks reaching 2240 eggs a week and 20000 chicks usually within a month.
After growing impatient with the urban life where they used to sell electric gadgets without any foreseeable profit, Phelimon Mahlalela, (38) and his wife Praise Mukuvazazvivi, (30) decided to venture into a different road of farming that has seen them doing great. They started the poultry project long back in 2016 in a small village well known as Chemuvuri which is located 7 km away from Gokwe Center. They have come a long way as a young couple and now own a breeding and brooding firm which is spread across 4 acres.
Poultry production plays an important part in the Zimbabwean agricultural sector and even the economy at large. The demand for chicken and poultry products especially chicken seems to be driving positive growth in the poultry industry with the number of producers increasing.
Speaking in an interview with this reporter, Mahlalela said he wanted to start something new that could change his life for the better.
“…I thought a hatchery would work. Using family savings, I started on a modest scale. My hatchery would then produce around 100 chicks a month. We somehow managed to earn our livelihood,” he said.
Life changed for the couple in 2019 when a team of the German AGRO, an independent Organization reached their area. Inspired by what they saw at Mahlalela homestead they then assisted in how strategising poultry farming on a small scale up to larger scale farming in order to yield better harvests. Mahlalela P Enterprise/ Dees chickens were then formed in 2019 in a bid to transform the way of keeping small livestock.
“German AGRO raised concerns of children in the world suffering from anemia due to a shortage of protein and urged the rural farmers to prioritise backyard poultry. This encouraged us to start a breeding firm. We began producing eggs and chicks on a larger scale with the help of bank loans and support from the organization,” said Mahlalela.
Their firm is now supplying chicks to the Gokwe community, Kwekwe, and other parts of the country as well.
“Government entities and NGOs are buying chicks and eggs from us. Keeping in mind the current demand, we produce an average of 20,000 chicks monthly, though we have the capacity to produce more than double that.
“Despite our effort to train rural farmers in most remote areas of Gokwe, Covid 19 pandemic became a major blow and national lockdowns gave us no room to conduct our training with farmers. Online training contributes a lot to getting in touch with them but is very limited to those with mobile phones. We also managed to visit farmers door to door checking what they are doing and coaching them. We also made an opportunity to interact with big players who include our lawmaker Minister Paul Mavhima and ZIMCODD team who assisted us to deal with our challenges,” he said.
ZIMCODD project coordinator Tendai Masora who is also a local veterinary extension worker said poultry farming is the thing rural farmers should have to adapt to considering the climate change impacts that continue to disturb farming. Backyard poultry is the answer as we can see it at Mahlalela homestead.
“I encourage rural farmers to start breeding chicks and all other types of poultry farming in order for them to end poverty and live better livelihoods. I started to work with Mahlalela in 2016 from scratch until the project become a successful rural industrial hub as we are witnessing it today,” she added.
Dees Chickens has 400 parent birds of the broilers, Black austrolopes, sasso, and bufforpington that produces eggs at the firm. The Mahlalela family Deeschickens enterprise has a turnover of more than $USD50,000 annually. Apart from chick breeding, they are also into Boer goat breeding which they are still researching and learning in order to harness more.
Mahlalela has established himself as a chicks breeder and has attended training workshops in Swaziland on improved and power of being in cooperatives than working as individuals spearheaded by the government through the program initiated by the Ministry of SMEs. In the future, he intends to develop a new breed of chicken by investing in research.
“Improvement is a constant process. If we manage to develop a new breed that we can call our own, it would be extremely satisfying,” he said.