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Poultry farmers aren’t chicken!

Written by: Sphelele Ngubane

A group of unemployed poultry farmers have secured their future by forming a cooperative. Farmworkers at the Cato Ridge Chicken Farm with eThekwini Municipality Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda.

Retrenched poultry farmworkers in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have come together to start a poultry cooperative, after being left with no means to earn a living.

The Cato Ridge Chicken Farm in Hammarsdale has inspired many farmworkers to use the skills they learnt when they were employed to start their own business.

The workers were left jobless in 2017 when RCL Foods, which owns Rainbow Chickens, sold 15 of its 25 farms. This resulted in a loss of 1 350 jobs. Of these workers, 129 came together to form the Isukile Agricultural Cooperative, which started operating in December 2020.

The cooperative now has 7 500 chickens, but has space to expand to house 34 000.

Nonhle Mdunge from the cooperative says things are going well, as it sold its first batch of 7 500 chickens in a month.

“We supply our chickens to informal traders in our community and in Pietermaritzburg and surrounding communities. We want to expand, as there are stores and restaurants that want big orders, but we can’t meet the demand,” she says.

Realising the cooperative’s potential, the eThekwini Municipality has decided to assist.

eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda says the municipality supports agriculture and associated industries to fight job losses and unemployment. “The municipality could not sit back and fold its arms while several families lost their livelihoods.”

The municipality plans to develop the farm into an agri-park incubator, which will create 103 jobs. It also wants to start a farming sheep operation, to create opportunities for about 48 small, medium and micro enterprises.

The sheep unit installation began this month and should be complete by July. “In the first phase, four sheep units will operate, accommodating 1 000 sheep each. The first phase will create approximately 16 jobs,” says Mayor Kaunda.

The municipality and the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs have invested about R18 million to assist the cooperative with facilities and tools, and R4 million to buy a farm.