Bongi's business skills and determination - a winning combination

Bongeka Mahlasela’s journey in poultry farming is a remarkable story of determination, growth, and the value of farm and business management skills.

Bongi completed a Poultry Production course at Buhle in 2022, in our partnership with Sasol, the Department of Agriculture and the African Farmers Association of South Africa. To house her first 100 chicks at her farm in Sasolburg, Free State, she built a homemade structure in her backyard. In her first cycle, 20 of the chicks died, but her resolve never wavered and by her second cycle, her mortality rate drastically improved to only 2% – and now it is at 0%!

Such is her determination that on her fifth cycle of her broiler production she kept 100 chicks inside her kitchen while waiting for the completion of her chicken house!

Her commitment to continual improvement led her to complete courses in farm management and business management which, coupled with her growing experience, empowered her to secure funding for a new chicken coop. Operational since early January 2024, this coop houses 1000 chickens – significantly scaling up her operations.

Bongeka has been innovative in her business approach. At first she sold live chickens, but by her third cycle, she began slaughtering them, adding value to her products. She also sold chicken parts like heads, feet, livers, and intestines. Her pricing strategy evolved with her business, starting from R80 for a live chicken and increasing as she added slaughtered chickens and other products to her offering.

A cold storage facility, built along with the chicken house, enables her to store her slaughter chicken and start new cycles without having to wait for all chickens to be sold first.

Bongeka’s success is evident in her sales and income growth. By maintaining a zero mortality rate, she made substantial gains in her income. Her ability to adapt her pricing in response to changing costs and market demand showcases her astute business acumen.

A notable aspect of Bongeka’s journey is her community network. She has built strong customer relationships, contributing to a reliable customer base. Also, she collaborates with other local farmers to ensure that all of them can ensure a steady supply of products to her customers.

Additionally, Bongeka’s venture has had a positive impact on employment in her area. She currently has one employee and plans to increase her workforce as her operations expand.


Introducing Buhle

There are many thousands of new farmers in South Africa needing skills, guidance and capital to grow a viable farming business. Buhle Farmers’ Academy is a non-profit organisation that trains, mentors and supports these new farmers.

We offer holistic courses covering all the farming and management skills these farmers need (see Programme section for more details), and trainees come from all over the country to learn at our campus near Delmas, Mpumalanga. Our farmer support offices mentor as many of our graduates as possible, and we manage several programme providing financial support to some of our most promising alumni.

Since we opened our doors in the year 2000 we have grown from strength to strength, and have now trained over 7 000 emerging farmers - half of them women and 60% of them youth - in vegetable, crops, poultry and livestock production, and mixed farming. Even better, about 14 000 jobs have been created due to Buhle, based on the assumption that for every new farmer established, at least one additional job is created.

Our Mission

Buhle’s mission is train and support aspiring farmers from across South Africa to run farming businesses that are both profitable and sustainable. The effect is that we are helping to alleviate poverty by creating jobs, while ensuring food security.

Over the years, Buhle has developed a best-practice model that could help make a huge difference in helping to transform agriculture in South Africa.

In the rural and poorest areas of our country, the biggest employers are government, agriculture and mining. Most of these employers are unlikely to radically increase their take-up of employees. Our biggest hope lies in developing a culture of entrepreneurship, and agriculture is one of the key sectors for doing so.

Universities and training colleges are expensive and have strict academic entrance criteria, which many aspiring farmers cannot fulfil. They need accessible, practical training with the follow-up coaching and support that enables them to overcome the myriad, unpredictable challenges of agriculture.

Buhle fulfils these needs.

Our History
In the years after 1994 – when South Africa became a democracy – our newspapers were peppered with stories of how farming ventures fail after being handed over to black farmers. It became clear that transferring land was simply not enough. Emerging farmers also needed farming skills and ongoing mentorship.

A group of concerned citizens with agricultural expertise decided to address this problem. In the year 2000, they got together to form the Food Health Hope Foundation and, under its auspices, Buhle – meaning “It is good” – was established.

Our founding partner was Monsanto, now Bayer, who donated to us the fertile land that became our training farm and gave us the start-up capital we needed. We developed our first curriculum in conjunction with Tshwane University of Technology, focusing on vegetable production as it has a short production cycle. Two years later, we added poultry, livestock and crop production courses.

In 2004, we registered the Buhle Farmers’ Academy as an NPO in order to continue our fundraising efforts. We have grown from strength to strength over the years. From our first cohort of 57 students in the year 2000, we trained over 500 in 2018, and we have now trained over 6 000 farmers over the years.

Our heartfelt thanks go to every one of our funding partners. With your backing and partnership, we are indeed fulfilling our mission: to transform dreams into reality for many thousands of aspiring farmers.

Our Approach

Buhle has developed a best-practice model for training aspiring farmers, which includes:

  • A sound theoretical knowledge base in agricultural technology
  • Competency based practical skills training
  • Training in farm business management
  • Training in appropriate life skills
  • Effective follow-up and support services.

Our People

Our staff are the people who make it all happen, and behind us is the highest authority of our organisation, the Board of Trustees of the Food Health Hope Foundation.

The Board oversees our vision, mission and activities. Motivated entirely by their sense of philanthropy, they donate their time, knowledge, experience and prestige to help grow and guide the Buhle Farmers’ Academy.

A picture of our staff on each campus is below, and underneath that is a list of our board of trustees.


Our Partners

Our heartfelt thanks go to every one of our partners, who make our work possible: