Khulile Mahlalela (32), a resilient pig farmer from Nkangala in Mpumalanga, is picking up the pieces after her business was hit hard by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
Mahlalela founded Legend Piggery (Pty) Ltd in 2015, after obtaining a Diploma in Animal Production from Mangosuthu University of Technology.
Before starting her business, Mahlalela volunteered at a local farm to gain knowledge. She was soon employed as a supervisor, but left in 2015 to start her own farm.
Mahlalela started operating on leased land, with three pigs. In 2017, she received 11 pigs from the provincial Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform’s Masibuyele Esibayeni Programme.
“I breed and sell pigs. I also sell pork to community members and abattoirs,” says Mahlalela.
Before the COVID-19 lockdown, Mahlalela had 152 pigs. “The lockdown hit us hard. The price of pork went down drastically during the past few months,” she says.
As a result, Mahlalela kept eight pigs and sold the rest. She started breeding again when the lockdown regulations eased and also bought 20 pigs to get back to business.
Mahlalela initially wanted to be a geologist, but did not get the matric marks she needed. Her second option was to study agriculture, as she grew up in a family of subsistence farmers.
“I have always known that I wanted to run a business, especially in a field that contributes to food security and creates jobs for locals, because these are real problems in South African communities.
“I fell in love with farming at an early age. My maternal grandmother used to wake my siblings and I up at 4am to plough fields or take weeds out of her food gardens,” she says.
In 2018, Mahlalela attended a six-week meat processing training programme in China, through the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Department. In 2019, she received the New Commercial Farmer award from Agricultural Writers SA.
She also received funding from the National Youth Development Agency, which she used to buy equipment and animal feed.
She encourages other young entrepreneurs to never give up on their businesses and to tackle their challenges at their own pace, as
every little effort will yield results.