Saved by the indigenous chicken

Saved by the indigenous chicken

MASERU – Seemingly down and out after years of unsuccessful job hunting, Senate Letete’s salvation came in the form of the humble chicken; the indigenous chicken, to be precise. Letete’s tourism degree failed to land her a job for five years.
And attempts at starting a business seemed to fail.

She was on the brink of losing all hope when the idea to rear indigenous breeds of chicken hit her in August last year. Since then, life has never been better. It was only in August when she bought a few Boschveld indigenous chickens. Now she has a steady market and is even pondering expanding her small farm.

Having graduated from the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology armed with a degree in Tourism Management, she hoped to earn “a lot of money” in formal employment. The excitement of being a graduate and the prospect of employment clouded her judgement as she discarded the entrepreneurial skills she had honed since her school days.

Suddenly, her passion for selling items such as clothes and home products made way for a desire to land a high paying job.
“I used to be a resourceful person in tertiary and I always had money beyond the stipend from the Manpower (Development Secretariat, a government scholar sponsorship fund),” she says.

“After graduation I was on top of the moon and imagined myself making more money and having an office job,” she says.
Letete says she was so much into job seeking that she ignored her potential as a business woman.
At the end, the closest she came to a formal job was when she became a part-timer at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Feeling dejected, she all but gave up.

“I sat home doing nothing, feeling defeated and sorry for myself,” she says.
“There was no job to go to and I couldn’t even think about my previous businesses,” Letete says.

Stranded and out of money, Letete and her brother put together a business proposal and entered the Kick-Start competition by Maluti Mountain Brewery, which assists entrepreneurs with business skills and funding.
“We were able to make it up to the top 20 but failed to make it to the prize money as they were looking for those who already had businesses,” Letete says.

“Once again I felt defeated. Nothing seemed to be going my way. I gave up. I had thought this was finally going to be my breakthrough.”
In 2015, she picked herself up and collaborated with a partner to start a salon. It went under, adding to her gloom.
“Soon we started having misunderstandings and I decided to leave the place and worked from home. A few clients followed me but they were not enough for me to make a living,” Letete says.

It was not until 2017 when Letete found her groove and pursued what did not only make her happy but also gave her a reason to wake up in the morning. “Rearing indigenous chickens has been my saving grace,” she says.
“I have never felt so dedicated and courageous. It certainly has not been an easy journey but it is a fulfilling one that I am willing to see through,” she says.

“I only had 12 layers when I started but later added some to make them 18. I had eight cocks but I sold seven of them and left one for breeding,” Letete says. These chickens produced about five trays of eggs a month.
“At the beginning regardless of my advertising efforts through social media it was not easy to sell these eggs. I sat for about three weeks without securing a reliable market,” says.

“A few would buy a tray or two for hatching or consumption.”
Fortunes changed when some Chinese and Indian nationals who used to pass by started enquiring about the eggs and chickens.
“My biggest market is the Chinese and Indians. They buy for consumption because these are organic eggs and some say their children are allergic to these other eggs,” she says.

She adds that staff members of the Lesotho Electricity Company have been very supportive.
“They usually buy chickens when they take long trips or eggs for consumption at home,” Letete says.
She indicates that word of mouth has played a critical role in getting her customers.

“These people do not complain about the cost of my products, they appreciate them because they know about their benefits and as it is the demand is high.” She sells a tray of eggs for M100 while the price of a chicken ranges from M150 to M200.
She currently has over 200 chickens and 25 that are already laying eggs and brooding.
“I have over a hundred layers but not all of them are laying eggs yet. At the moment I produce 4-5 trays of eggs a week,” she says.
She says the incubation process usually takes long as it is done naturally.

“I am saving to buy an incubator so that I can increase my capacity and eventually be able to satisfy the market.”
Though she emphasised that she is yet to break even, she sees light at the end of the tunnel.
“When I look back from where I started I am proud of myself. I did not know that I would be where I am today,” Letete says.
She says now her challenge is land.

“The brood of chickens is getting bigger and this space is no longer adequate.”She says she wants to buy a farm to rear the chickens and another to grow chicken feed so that she penetrates the mainstream market. “I want to supply the mines and big retail stores with organic eggs one day. I have learned the hard way and will work hard to ensure that one day my dream becomes a reality.”
Although rearing indigenous chickens is regarded suitable for rural settings, Letete is doing it in Maseru West – Lesotho’s prime residence of the elite.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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