Dr Ethel Zulu believes South Africans deserve affordable, locally grown food products of good quality, and she wants the government to support local agripreneurs. Not only to grow food, but also to process it.
“I believe that our people deserve a good quality product, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg,” says Dr Ethel Zulu, a farmer and agricultural trainer with a doctorate in nutrition.
Zulu, who is also a board member of the Joburg Market, farms mainly with broilers near Cullinan, outside of Pretoria.
After purchasing her beautiful 23-hectare farm, she states that it was never her intention to farm on it but rather to build an agri training academy. “I have always preached that being broke is a sin when you have the brain, the hands, and the soil. You’re not supposed to be poor.”
That’s how she made the decision to practice poultry and crop farming while having an academy, so that her students could have a place of reference while training.
Small beginnings, huge results
Zulu decided to put her words into action, starting with only 20 chicks and now has over 7 500 broilers. Within a period of three years, she is now a supplier for various retail stores in South Africa and has 12 employees working for her on the farm.
“It’s not easy,” she says. “It’s very difficult in poultry and that’s where value is – it’s in agro-processing.”
This is a route that most black poultry farmers find hard to follow, with the cost of building the infrastructure and meeting the required standards being the major barrier to entry.
“It would be better if they said ‘we love your product; we can finance you to comply to our standards, in return we will deduct the amount until it’s paid off’,” suggests Zulu.
She believes the government system needs to encourage more black farmers to go into agro-processing than just selling livestock.
Believe in your dreams
She says that her dreams have manifested and continue to manifest through hard work. “When you believe in your dreams, and know that you have what it takes and believe that your work will speak for itself, you will definitely make it.”
Her agri training agency, Hope Nutrition Business Consultants, is AgriSeta accredited and has 20 students from Tshwane University of Technology that are currently doing their practical training at the academy. It offers a variety of courses, ranging from a one-week course to certificates and diplomas.
“My main business is training. I have been travelling across South Africa training people on crops and poultry farming, and now I am happy that people are coming to me.”
She recently presented Food For Mzansi’s Farmer’s Inside Track broiler clinic to 30 potential poultry farmers on her farm. Her vision is to see more black broiler farmers make it into the commercial industry because “when you look at it, it’s just a label with proper branding and marketing,” she says.
“Our people deserve and will be able to eat healthy food that is locally produced.”
She advises small-scale farmers to focus less on financial difficulties and more on the market and maintaining industry standards, as well as knocking on more doors. “Study what the market needs, then return to your farm and satisfy those requirements in each phase.”