“My family has been involved in poultry and crop farming since I was a child. One of my responsibilities was to look after the birds,” says Linos Mafuvudze of Harare, Zimbabwe.
This 24-year-old agripreneur tells FoodForAfrika.com his passion for poultry only developed as he got older. When he finished high school, the first thing on his mind was to establish his own poultry business.
His family migrated from Chipinge, an agriculture-based village, to the capital city when he finished high school. He then took a gap year and became an assistant teacher at a local school, Riuzawi Primary School, completing a junior master’s programme.
With the dream of being financially independent, Mafuvudze decided to take his salary from the programme and start his own poultry project. “I started my own poultry project because I saw a niche in my community and a possibility to supply nearby restaurants,” he says.
Mafuvudze considered a future in veterinary science as a good fit for him as he grew up in an agriculture-based society and a dedicated agriculture family, with some of his elder siblings being doctors.
Small beginnings, great success
“Only one of the 50 [chicks] I got died, and if more died, I was going to cancel the whole deal,” Mafuvudze adds.
He started his poultry endeavour in 2018 when he enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe to study veterinary medicine. He named his company “Peet Poultry” because he anticipated a growing demand for his products and wanted a brand that people could remember. Since its inception, it has become a popular brand among Harare restaurants, students, churchgoers, and the general public.
He began with only 50 chicks in his backyard as a trial run to see whether he could succeed with the knowledge he was gaining from his studies and the experience he already had from home.
When his trial run was a success, he sold chicks to church members, family, and other neighbours, and began a new production with 250 to 300 chicken layers. “I appreciated the demand I was getting from my consumers, and this became more than just a source of income for me, but a business I was excited to pursue.”
From 2018 to 2019, his business’ supply and demand grew, with more restaurants ordering from Peet Poultry.
“I was able to build a quality brand and compete with other suppliers,” Mafuvudze says.
When Covid-19 struck in 2020, his company was confronted with greater commercial challenges. Commercial suppliers were now providing cheaper produce in local marketplaces at a lower price, affecting his specialised market.
He added that a chicken from a commercial enterprise was now three dollars, affecting him and other small-scale suppliers who sold theirs for four to five dollars. He claims that this was a period in which he had to rethink his business approach and figure out how to expand while remaining relevant to his local clients.
“We couldn’t meet consumers because of the Covid-19 regulations, ”Mafuvudze explains, “and we couldn’t deliver to restaurants because some were closed and there wasn’t much of a need for chicken meat.”
He used this time to concentrate on chicken egg layering and ensuring that, as laws eased, he could sell eggs and chicken meat.
Big future plans
Over the years, Mafuvudze was able to enlist the help of a boyhood friend, Phillip Ndagurwa, a Rhodes University pharmacy student, as a business partner.
“Our dream is to one day use Peet Poultry as our field of expertise to develop antibiotics for animals,” adds Mafuvudze.
“Some customers request antibiotic free range, some at a certain age or size, and it makes us happy that we’re still able to deliver quality,” Mafuvudze says, adding that with the education they receive from university, they are able to treat their chickens well and produce quality and efficient produce while also meeting their customers’ needs.
Mafuvudze states that being student in medicine has given them an upper hand when dealing with challenges in their produce because they are able to rectify their errors easily with the knowledge they have.
“I spend most of my time with my chickens, even if they cannot communicate, but I am able to see what is the problem and avert complications that may result in mortality,” Mafuvudze says.
Peet Poultry, as it is now a household brand, has managed to grow and the young farmer is now planning to have employees as he is about to grow his backyard space and add more chicken layers. “It makes me happy to make a positive impact in my community and having a brand that I am proud of to be a founder,” he says.
He plans to maximise his efficiency and play a bigger part economically in his country. “Most big brands that we look up to today, most of them started from a garage like Steve Jobs, so this makes me proud that one day as a veterinary consultant I’ll be able to refer to my own practice.”