Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 6: Farm Visit to Molepolole

Pigs and more pigs

No sleeping in, even on Saturdays as we today arose extra early to make the drive to Molepolole and the largest of the farms we’ve seen so far. After not quite as many hours of sleep as we would have liked and a long drive, we arrived to a closed gate. Apparently the owner had forgotten about us! Without cellphone service we waited calmly outside the gate until someone from the staff could confirm that yes, we are in fact the group of students from Cornell escorted by the Ministry of Agriculture, here to see your farm! 

Automatic feeding and ventilation, impressive

The opening of those gates led to awe, at least for me. This was no simple farm. This farm has made some serious investments into Chinese technology which we would later learn was set up with the help of two Chinese engineers who had come on site. With over 100 sow units and sows contained in stalls with no chance of turning around, this was an efficient operation. As an animal rights advocate and a vegetarian, I knew coming into a project about pork production I would be faced with some uncomfortable truths, however this was the first time I had seen pigs contained in this way in Botswana. Our visits to farms up to this point had been small in size, operation, low technological inputs, as well as generally more traditional with open air pens. This was an entirely different story.
Playful and young, separated by gender
The very competent farm manager showed us around and diligently answered every question. 
Pig feed, by age of pig delivered by local Botswana brand

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Day 3: MoA Multiplication Unit and Piggery Expert

Breeding pigs at the multiplication unit

Visiting the Ministry of Agriculture’s multiplication unit this morning was a very different experience from the two other farms we’ve seen thus far on the trip. Unlike he pigs at the multiplication unit, the pigs at FoodNet were more curious. The pigs at FoodNet approached the farm manager, were excited during feeding. 

Chunky growers at the multiplication unit

The pigs held by the multiplication unit were more nervous and jumpy, exhibiting signs that we later learned could arise from fighting with one another. Naomi and Diego keep their animals in family units in order to prevent the otherwise territorial animals from fighting. The multiplication unit did present us with an interesting idea: a larger open enclosure for sows to hang out instead of being kept inside cement pens all day. 

The afternoon we got to meet Mr. Mphinyane at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) headquarters in Gaborone, who works with the piggery sector. Everyone at the ministry was welcoming, from the random employee jumping into photos with Ellie to the smiling and singing MoA worker who shared our elevator ride. In addition to the smiling faces, the ministry gave us some more information about the constraints facing the piggery sector. From the cost of feed to the lack of slaughter facilities, the piggery sector is facing significant challenges. The meeting with Mphinyane though led us to discover that there is in fact an even larger farm, operating with over 100 sow units, better infrastructure, that were even incorporating the slaughter and processing facilities.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 1: Meeting with Naomi and day at the farm

Naomi  Makgolo is the founder and CEO of FoodNet Holdings Inc. 

We met Naomi at our apartment and learned the story of FoodNet over instant coffee. She got the idea to start a pig farm after her husband spontaneously bought 4 pigs at an auction in 2010 and kept them in the family garage.
Excited pigs at feeding time

After the initial shock of coming home to the porkers, she recognized an opportunity; Botswana demands 1520 tons of pork but only produces 443 tons. The cultural focus is on beef production and pork is traditionally only produced by a minority as supplement to primary sources of livelihood, like subsistence agriculture.

She purchased 30 sows (baby-making lady pigs) and old dilapidated pork farm, which she renovated. Never having raised pigs before, there has been a learning curve and she has had to teach herself as the business grew. Luckily, she hired Dieho as her farm manager. This man knows pigs! He handles all daily operations including feeding, cleaning, slaughtering, and sale of the pork.

Dieho with the aptly named Mugabe, one of the 3 boars
We visited the farm after our interview and arrived at feeding time. Hungry pigs are CRAZY.

Dieho briefed us on the opportunities and challenges of the pork sector. The market - a combination of supermarket retailers and individual customers - want more pork than FoodNet can produce. Naomi has personally funded the operation to date, but new sources of financing are needed for more piglets and to expand into processing. This is no easy task because more pigs require more feed, more space, and more management, and this is costly. 

FoodNet must plan a growth strategy and our SMART team is here to help. Over the next two weeks, we will investigate the pork sector and Naomi's business to help her decide what's next. We'll be writing a case study on the whole experience next semester, so stay tuned and prepare for a whole lotta Botswana pork.

Pike out.

SMART Botswana 2014

Welcome to the blog of the Cornell University 2014 SMART Program project in Botswana!

SMART brings together students from across Cornell's many disciplines to address problems faced by SMEs, NGOs, and other organizations in developing countries. 

Our team will be working with FoodNet Holdings (Pty) Ltd, a growing piggery farm in Bokaa, about 35km from the capital of Botswana, Gaborone. Since the company was founded, the farm has grown from 4 pigs bought on impulse at a local livestock auction to nearly 100 pigs in total. FoodNet primarily sells pork carcasses to retailers and wholesalers. Individuals are supplied with whole carcasses or portions on request. FoodNet Holdings also has hosted trainings for individuals interested in starting pig farms in partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture. 

The long term goal of FoodNet Holdings is to become a recognized leader in pork production, processing and packaging. 

During our two weeks in Botswana we will analyze the piggery and pork industry and use this information to provide expansion scenarios for FoodNet Holdings. 

The team visiting FoodNet Holdings Piggery Farm