When 29-year-old livestock farmer Noi Paulina Selepe launched her agribusiness, she realised it was too small to supply her country’s fast-growing market for chicken meat. Nothing daunted, this enterprising young woman, decided to call on other poultry farmers to join her – increasing overall output and helping her fellow producers to earn extra income in the process.
Please describe your agribusiness and explain why you launched it.
I started my business after leaving university, where I had trained to be a teacher. I looked for a job, but there were none to be found, and so I decided to go into small-scale livestock farming instead. I was looking for anything that would give me money to live on, and I chose pig and broiler rearing, as this seemed to offer the best opportunities.
How did you develop your business?
A friend of mine had some pigs, and I asked him to give me two to get started. I currently have 17, which I sell on as piglets to other young farmers for fattening. However, at the moment, I have decided to concentrate more on the broiler side of the business, as this is where demand is highest. There was a chicken abattoir that was no longer in use quite nearby, and I decided to form a company with two other farmers to rent it. The chickens that we rear between us are not enough to supply the market, so I am now mobilising other farmers to join with us and supply the abattoir with more broilers.
How does the business work?
When the chickens are ready to be slaughtered, we collect them from the farmers and take them to the abattoir, where there is also a cold room. We have established markets with several big hotels and supermarkets in the area. I am now working with a total of 45 farmers to supply the abattoir. Between them, they can produce 3,300 broilers per cycle, which is every six weeks. I myself am producing 300 broilers per cycle. For the time being, I can’t produce any more, due to lack of financial resources, which is why I decided to join together with other farmers.
How did you obtain information and training?
I’m currently the Chair of the Young Lesotho Farmers Association. I’m also the General Secretary of the National Lesotho National Farmers Union. Being part of these organisations enabled to me to attend training sessions to learn about pig and broiler rearing techniques, and how to conduct my agribusiness.
What markets do you supply, and how did you find them?
The market is there, and I have been able to negotiate with clients wanting to buy our products. It was not hard to convince them, because we have the abattoir, and all the machinery that is needed for the supply chain. To set up these markets, I went to talk to the hotels and supermarkets, which meant that I had to incur considerable travelling costs. But chicken is consumed almost every day in our country, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so demand is very high.
Can you describe some of the main hurdles to running your agribusiness?
My main problem at the moment is finding the capital I need to expand. For example, I really need a mobile cold room to deliver the meat to my clients, but that is very expensive. Also, the running costs are quite high in terms of electricity, water, packaging and the staff that I have to hire.
How is your agribusiness helping your community?
I’m passionate about changing other people’s lives. That’s what really matters to me. The other farmers are very happy with what I’ve done, because they now have a consistent outlet. I currently employ one full-time member of staff, and six casual workers, and that means I am helping to create jobs for local people. When it comes to helping the community, there is also the question of nutrition. If people eat more meat, they will have more protein in their diet, and that’s a positive step.
How do you see the future for agriculture?
I believe agriculture has a great future. The introduction of new technologies means that we are going to be able to practise smart agriculture. That means a type of farming that doesn’t require a great deal of physical labour. I think a lot more young people could find a good future in farming.
What qualities do you need to be a successful agripreneur?
You need to be a very hard worker, and put your own wishes to one side and get on with the job in hand. You need to be very determined, and ready to make sacrifices, and it is important to engage in information exchange as much as possible. I would advise other young people to stop thinking about what our country can do for them. It is high time that we started asking ourselves what we can do for our country. It has to begin with the young people. You need to bring change, to see change.
What plans do you have for the future?
My ambition is to be the leading young agripreneur in Lesotho. I want to own my own chicken abattoir, and that is entirely possible, if I get the support that I need. Renting is very expensive, so it makes sense to set up your own premises.