Monday, April 1, 2013

The Impact Of A Small Chicken Farming Business In An African Village

Watching SIL run her chicken business over the weekend got me thinking about the impact of a small, labour intensive business in a rural area. Basically, she runs her chicken business from my house, housing the live chickens in the coops we have and with retail customers coming over to either of our houses to buy (we live around 7km apart), depending on who's closer.

She has one fulltime employee responsible for caring for the chickens and 4 part-time workers working twice a week on rotation, slaughtering, defeathering, cleaning and packaging around 100 chickens per session. However, instead of getting paid in cash, they are paid with chicken heads, feet and entrails, which  mainstream customers wouldn't want but are extremely popular with the locals.

The deal is you get the parts of all the chickens you can defeather. The casual workers prefer this deal rather than cash because you can keep your family fed for days/weeks if you have food security issues, or you can clean, package and sell the parts for a good rate. There is a huge demand for these parts and SIL doesn't want to get into that end of things because it's too labour intensive and there is no hope in hell she could keep up with demand. And when a customer begs to have the parts, we hook them up with the casual worker they work out a deal between them. The casual labourer sets the price because there are usually 5 other people who'd buy them without blinking if they were offered to them. A lot of them are city people who grew up rural areas and miss the "delicacy" and are willing to pay well for them.

So the casual labourers are actually small-time enterpreneurs who make an average of R150 - R200 per day (on days they worked). Not a fortune, but much higher than government-mandated minimum wage and higher than the farmers' union were demanding during their strikes.

Unintended consequences

But the casual labourers are not the only ones who've started micro-enterprises from SIL's small business. Chatting to the customers, I found that yes, the majority are general consumers who prefer freshly slaughtered chicken instead of the general supermarket product. But among them are a number of resellers, who have their own small businesses in surrounding villages (Phokeng is made up of twenty nine villages).

There are also a couple of enterpreneurs who buy the chicken from SIl to resell in Pretoria, Joburg and Mahikeng, having come to her by word of mouth. While their trade wouldn't necessarily have a huge impact on them, they make enough extra cash to make it a worthwhile sideline for them.

And then there are the street food vendors who sell food at the bus ranks near the mines and in town. Some of them hardly have cash flow to stock up properly, and usually come over at the end of the day and use their proceeds to buy more chickens for the following day. These street food vendors are what got me thinking, because until SIL started her own business, they had no business at all. And now they have a small source of income. An unintended consequence, but a lovely one nonetheless.

Watching this also made me think about the impact investing in small businesses can have on rural communities. Sadly, not enough of it happening here in Phokeng. It would make such a big difference if government stopped their useless political rhetoric and actually invested in small businesses without the bureacratic nonsense that made people I know give up on their help and start up on their own. That would benefit not just the business owner, but the community as well.

And now I'm off my soap box too:-) 

P.S. We had a lovely weekend. Mma was up and about ( and I took more naps than she did, which tells you how strong she's getting). We had family coming in and out, had a braai on Saturday and best of all, I actually started writing creatively. I also harvested my first batch of green beans from my Autumn crops. It was just lovely.


This post is cross-published on my writing life blog, Storypot.


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