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Golden eggs



QACHA’S NEK– THERE are business opportunities for companies to establish a fully integrated poultry farming operation in Lesotho, according to a recent study. The Zim Business Ideas and Networks (ZBIN) say eggs and chicken are one of the major sources of protein consumed in Lesotho, but the poultry industry is relatively underdeveloped. “Most poultry farmers are subsistence farmers, and their capacity is too low to supply the whole country,” the organisation observes. There is only one hatchery producing day-old chicks and it does not meet market demand – the gap is met by imports from South Africa. There is a need to have a fully integrated poultry industry from hatchery to market. The example of how local chicken farmers do not have the capacity to make the industry thrive can be seen in many struggling solo traders scattered countrywide. One of such ones is a 55-year-old ’Mapapali Molahlehi who for the past 30 years has been trading in chickens and never bothered to leave home to go to town looking for a job. Molahlehi, a widow in Thifa village, told thepost this week that she has experienced ups and downs of the business world to an extent of wanting to give up but poverty forced her to cling on to the trade. “I am in love with farming no matter the type but because I am poor my business is not growing any further,” Molahlehi said. She started the business in 1990, already struggling to make ends meet, and the little profit she made did not cover her family needs but she continued. Sometimes she would find herself using money that was supposed to buy stock and faced making loans to be able to continue with the business. “I liked what I was doing,” she said. She said she intended to have as many chickens as possible but she never managed that because at times she would use the money on family needs instead of ploughing it back to business. The mother of three said she raised her children with the money from chicken sales and managed to put them through to school. “I never wanted my children to suffer like me,” she said, adding that she “never went to school”. “Their father died young, and I was not working at that time.” Molahlehi said she had a hope that one day her business would be big enough to enable her to provide jobs for other villagers but the dream never materialized. At least she can keep the wolf off the door. Although Molahlehi is unhappy with her struggles she is also happy that life taught her a lesson of being a hard worker. “I am content that I managed to put bread on the table for my children.” Another chicken keeper is ’Makhotso Maketela, 69, a former teacher at Makhaola High School. Maketela retired from teaching in 2015 and instead of depleting the small pension she had, she decided to venture into chicken farming. She works with her husband in the business at the village of Ha-’Mamosa. “We wanted something that would keep us busy and also give us a profit so we decided to keep chickens,” Maketela said. Maketela said since 2015 when they started this business with her husband they “never got bored, we are very busy and we also get something in the pocket”. “I am getting what I wanted, I do not miss going to school and I do not have any stress,” she said. “I am just busy and happy.” She further said she likes planting vegetables and beans and that is what her husband is good at. She did not have any challenges as far as keeping chicken and life is just the way she wanted it to be. “I thought I would be missing school and getting bored but I am happy and I am busy. I always have many visitors and they cheer me up.” Some 20 kilometres west of the two villages is Ha-Sekake where ’Mamoroke Pule, 44, is also rearing chickens. Pule said she tried looking for employment and when she did not succeed she decided that self-employment is the option. She decided that chicken would keep her busy and generate some income for her family. Although there are only a few customers in the village, Pule said “half a bread is better than no bread”. “With a cent I can change my life a bit,” Pule said. She said since 2017 when she started this business she has experienced some challenges such as some chickens that die because they trample on each other. Her other problems include people taking the chickens on credit and delaying to pay while some never pay at all. “But I like what I am doing and this motivates me to have many of them,” she said. Thooe Ramolibeli

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