UFH Postdoc fellow and Meat Scientist starts own Agribusiness

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Determined not to be an unemployment statistic, Dr Zimkitha Soji-Mbongo, currently a UFH postdoctoral fellow and experienced meat scientist, has used her skills and knowledge to start her own agribusiness. She is attached to the Livestock and Pasture department within the Faculty of Science and Agriculture.

The 29-year old has a PhD - Animal Science degree from the University of Fort Hare.  She is the founder of a mixed small-scale farm called SM Agri (PTY) LTD. Based in Mount Coke, outside King William’s Town, the business currently farms with poultry and vegetables and will soon add piggery and egg layer farming.

She started poultry farming in 2016 when she was doing her Masters. The business was officially registered early April this year.

Speaking to ThisWeek@FortHare, Dr Soji-Mbongo said she is left with only one month till she exits her Research Foundation (NRF) funded postdoctoral fellowship and is not willing to just sit on her qualification and expertise.

“After completing my PhD I could not find a job. Similar to the struggles of other graduates, I had first-hand experience of not being able to enter the job market.  This time around I refuse to go back to being unemployed”.

Soji-Mbongo’s started her fellowship in 2019. During this time, she published two papers focusing on beef production.   She used her last salary from her fellowship to register and expand the business. “I bought more chickens, expanded the vegetable garden and registered my business. I am currently building a piggery and will soon acquire egg layers.”

In addition to creating employment for herself, the business has also created part-time employment for unemployed locals. “When it’s harvesting or slaughtering time, I hire people from my area for a couple of days.”

She says the intent is to grow the business and eventually go into meat processing, which is her specialty. “I want to open an abattoir where I will be able to create more sustainable jobs. I also want to instil the culture of creating self-employment to young graduates out there, especially in the agriculture sector. We need to stop relying on government to create jobs for us, with our skills and knowledge, we can become the job creators.”

Dr Soji-Mbongo plans to impart her knowledge and train young agriculture TVET college graduates on the trades of the industry. “I strongly believe that there can never be enough food. There will always be a need to be food secure. We need to equip each other in this industry and grow more food, together.”

by Aretha Linden