When Einstein Sibanda came to South Africa 15 years ago, it was with the intention of working in a restaurant. Today, however, he has a thriving agricultural business in the Western Cape supplying restaurants and delis with free-range eggs, broilers and pork. He spoke to Glenneis Kriel about his trip.
Einstein Sibanda is typical of the entrepreneurial spirit: combining luck, energy and courage, he built a thriving open-air farm on the outskirts of Simon’s Town in the Western Cape.
Sibanda, originally from Zimbabwe, came to South Africa in 2006 in search of greener pastures.
“I joined a friend and fellow Zimbabwean in Fish Hoek to work in the catering industry, but it didn’t work out, so I decided to go into farming,” he recalls.
He crossed paths with UK-born Sam Adams, who at the time ran a program called Start Living Green, which aimed to equip smallholder farmers and urban migrants with the skills to farm more sustainably.
“Adams rekindled my love of farming. He also had a strong network with other nonprofit organizations, which gave me the opportunity to take an agriculture and business training course at Living Hope in Kommetjie in 2011,” says Sibanda.
During the course, which lasted four years, he grew earthworms and made worm tea (vermicompost), which he used to establish and maintain organic vegetable gardens up to 4 m² in the gardens of a growing number of customers.
To increase her supply of vermicompost, Sibanda encouraged her classmates to produce worm tea, then bought it from them.
READ A self-taught worm breeder recycles his waste into compost
Additionally, he started growing broilers, laying hens and vegetables on Kommetjie municipal land in exchange for managing a church’s passion fruit project. However, as the land had been set aside for development, he eventually had to look for an alternative.
He then learned from a friend that the farm at Rocklands, on the outskirts of Simon’s Town, seemed underutilized, so he asked the owners, the Rowe family, if he could rent it from them. Happy with the idea, they help him set up an infrastructure in January 2017 and establish a market, and he buys his first 2,000 layers.
Today, he grows vegetables, free-range poultry (broilers, layers and breeders) and pigs in Rocklands.
According to Sibanda, the agriculture course, especially the business component, has been one of the pillars of his agricultural success.
“I come from a family of farmers and hunters, but farming has always been a secondary activity for us; we never ran it as a business. With my new skills, I started keeping records of what and when I was buying and selling, which gave me some really good insights,” he says.
For example, he often got attached to some of his diapers and kept them on too long. But keeping financial records showed him the folly of it.
READ Broiler production: taking advantage of huge demand for live birds
“If you wait too long to sell layers as spent hens once egg production starts to drop for the second time, usually around two and a half years old, the birds start eating away at your profits. You can end up with less than half the money you need to replace them, depending on how long you’ve kept them,” he says.
The same applies to broilers; Sibanda says holding them back for more than six weeks just doesn’t make economic sense.
Record keeping is also important when dealing with the South African Revenue Service (SARS). “If you don’t keep records, you’ll get in trouble with SARS and end up having to pay a lot more taxes,” he says.
Sibanda also learned the importance of doing the right thing at the right time.
“For example, you need to keep track of when your sows come into heat, because you’ll lose money if you have to wait for their next cycle. Sows should also be brought closer to home at least a week before farrowing, so you can keep an eye on them and their litters and deal with any birth complications.
Customer service is no less important. “Give customers what you have agreed, be on time for meetings and communicate with them in a timely manner, so you can deal with possible disappointment if you are unable to meet their needs”, he said.
In 2018, web design company Machache offered to build a website in Sibanda on Mandela Day for free. The designer sat down with him to discuss what he wanted, and the result was a website called Einstein’s Eggswith the slogan: ‘Free-spirited chickens = smart eggs’.
They also designed the logo of Einstein’s Eggs: A man with an egg-shaped head that looks like Albert Einsteinthe famous physicist.
Sibanda says the website has helped raise awareness of Rocklands Farm and greatly increased its marketing reach. He currently sells his eggs to delicatessens, health food stores, restaurants and individuals. Buyers can either collect the products at the farm or have them delivered.
“I sell some products in the emerging market. Unfortunately, this market is quite price sensitive and requires education on the benefits of consuming free-range meat and eggs to justify the premiums charged,” he says.
To ensure its success, Sibanda produces commercial breeds of pigs, broilers and layers. “I use a mix of different commercial breeds, depending on what is available. This helps me identify which ones are best suited to my growing region and diversify risk, as different breeds have different strengths and weaknesses,” he says.
Diapers are purchased at the drop-off point. At the time of Farming weekly visit, Sibanda had around 480 birds, none of which were broilers, as bird flu led to a shortage of day-old chicks.
“Broilers are the most sensitive animals I keep. They need a lot more protection from stress, whether it’s cold, wind or heat, to prevent disease development and ensure optimal growth,” he explains.
When Sibanda has broilers, he keeps them in a deep litter system, which he supplements with fresh straw. He also turns it over to keep it dry and crumbly, and to lower the ammonia level as much as possible.
Breeders are the most resilient of poultry, as they consist of a wide variety of mostly indigenous breeds.
“I keep the farmers with some of the pigs and let them collect the leftover fruits and vegetables fed to the pigs. I also give them cereal. These birds are like a hobby for me. I’m trying to see if I can grow my own breed and uniquely colored eggs.
Broilers and layers, on the other hand, receive pre-mixed commercial rations and have access to Sibanda’s microgreens plots, which consist of barley and vegetables.
Earthworms and vermicompost are introduced into vegetable gardens to ensure birds have access to sufficient green vegetables and protein. The layers also receive seasonal fruits and vegetables, depending on the price of the products.
“Allow birds to feed in my vegetable gardens and eat leftovers [from the pigs] has helped cut my feed costs in half,” says Sibanda.
Broilers and layers are vaccinated before they arrive at Rocklands, and Sibanda does not administer any other form of medication. He does, however, add aloe juice to the drinking water to control internal parasites and boost the birds’ immunity. He also adds wood ash to production areas for birds to bathe in, which helps control ectoparasites.
In 2020, Sibanda expanded production to include free-range pigs, initially testing the system with three pigs given to him by a friend.
“Before growing something new, it’s best to test it on a small scale and then build it from there once you’re sure it’s suitable for the environment and you’re more proficient at it. produce.”
This year he had six sows of a Landrace and Large White mix, which gave birth to a total of 58 piglets.
The pigs feed outdoors and are supplemented with vegetable and fruit waste from restaurants, as well as brewing malt acquired from a nearby microbrewery.
Sibanda’s cattle have never struggled with disease, probably because there are no other poultry or pig farms nearby. Nevertheless, he was worried during the recent bird flu outbreak, when some of the penguins in the area tested positive for the disease.
“To reduce the risk, I have increased biosecurity measures and kept the birds indoors,” he says.
Sibanda is toying with the idea of opening a small butcher shop to add value to its products, and including rabbits in its product offering.
He says that while farming at the forefront of Africa is a dream come true, he and his wife, Innolia, are not rooted in South Africa and will likely return to Zimbabwe, or even Botswana, where his mother lives, if the opportunity arises. shows up.
“I’ve been very lucky that my business has grown the way it has, but farming is always easier when you have your own land or a 99-year lease, because it gives you the incentive to invest in equipment and modern agricultural infrastructure.
“With a short-term lease, there’s always the risk that you have to move somewhere else,” he says.
Email Einstein Sibanda at [email protected]or visit einsteinseggs.com.