Women are making waves in small poultry farming

Poultry meat and eggs are among a wide selection of animal-based proteins mostly consumed globally, across diverse cultures.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has projected that demand for global poultry and its products will continue to grow due to population growth and individual consumption.

Botswana is currently experiencing an upsurge in small scale (mostly local) poultry farmers as the market is now responding favourably, to the advantage of these micro businesses. For the longest time, commercial poultry producers; mostly Batswana of other racial origins have dominated this market.  However, traditionally, almost every household, especially in rural Botswana, kept chickens and other forms of poultry in the backyards. The culture has over the years slowly died. A new trend has therefore emerged from both the supply and demand scales.

Locals are retracing their footsteps, with youthful and skilled professional women seemingly leading the trend.

“I was brought up at the cattle post since my parents are farmers. For me farming comes naturally, it is not a job it’s a lifestyle,” says Percia Boingotlo, a poultry farmer of layers and broilers, based in Maun.

Growing up in a family that has religiously clung to farming the traditional way, Boingotlo decided to tap into commercial farming in 2019.

The accountant and safari manager, who identifies as an inborn farmer says poultry production is an extension of her farming passion. The 35-year-old woman has been rearing cattle and goats for quite some time now.

“As you know our traditional kind of farming is solely for survival, we just keep livestock, we don’t sell- except when there is serious need for finances to address a family problem. So, poultry was my way of truly commercializing farming so I can be able to sustain the farm back home,” she expands.

Though she is a relatively new entrant in poultry farming, she says the market is responding very well.

“Batswana are buying our products unreservedly, their support has been immense,” she says. Her passion is keeping her afloat during these covid-19 trying times.

“I can no longer work full time as covid-19 has affected the tourism industry, and poultry is my main source of income at the moment,” she explains.

Yet another fresh player in the industry attests to the booming market. Gape Motswasele of Genevieve Chickens operates from Francistown. The 35-year-old who doubles as a catering service provider and poultry farmer says the coronavirus pandemic has not affected her business in any negative way. In fact, “demand is increasing everyday”.

She keeps around 1500 birds- both layers and broilers, with 150 slaughters done weekly and a minimum of 1500 collected on a daily basis.

After being in and out of temporary employment for quite a while she started a catering business when her contract could not be renewed anymore.

“When my package was paid I bought catering equipment. While at it, I realized that when into catering one has to produce their own meat as well because the bulk of the costs in catering goes towards meat. My chicken meat business was inspired by the catering,” she says.

Motswasele is an Information and Technology graduate whose poultry business took off with birds ranging between 25-50.

She continued feeding her catering business from the poultry production wing and now she has clients buying from both businesses as well.

“At first, I just cooked three chickens and kept on restocking birds whenever I got money, today I slaughter 25 chickens daily for my catering business. As for the poultry side, business is growing- there individual purchases for braai packs, whole and life chickens as well. Demand for my products is high,” she adds.

The ongoing travel restrictions have inspired local production as most people look to diversify income after salary cuts or job losses. This has since motivated an online movement calling for the purchasing of locally produced goods. Boingotlo and Motswasele are big supporters of this movement which has gained immense traction since lockdown. This is because they have expansion plans, as they believe in the endless possibilities of poultry farming and its ability to greatly change their lives.