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Bringing pigeon racing as a living to the townships - 19-year-old Lodumo Nkala

Lodumo Nkala

Lodumo Nkala

Published Jun 17, 2022


Nineteen-year-old Lodumo Nkala is breaking barriers and helping other young people in his pursuit of making pigeon racing his full-time career.

The little-known but lucrative sport involves carefully bred homing pigeons, which are released from distances to then return to their home (loft).

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They are fitted with lightweight, detachable electronic rings which measure the speed, distance, and time they took to fly. Ultimately, the pigeon with the highest velocity is deemed the winner.

Nkala, who grew up in Johannesburg, describes himself as a very calm individual, which is a major part of why he became involved with pigeons.

"These birds provide me with peace and hope," he says.

Nkala first set his sights on the sport in 2011 in Rustenburg, North West. His then-best friend's father kept a racing pigeon.

"It was my first time seeing a pigeon loft and hearing of such a sport. I then managed to learn and understand a bit more about the racing aspect, " says Nkala.

He set out to find a pigeon of his own. Luckily, his grandfather had a maize field in Hammanskraal and on a visit, Nkala spotted the birds.

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He managed to capture one and kept it in a spare room at his grandparents' house. When he returned to Johannesburg, he decided to build his own pigeon loft.

However, he had no materials with which to construct it nor building experience. So, Nkala opted to use recycled materials and whatever else his neighbours could spare.

He caught more pigeons with his newly developed skills and began to train them.

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"It was difficult attempting to train wild pigeons, as it was not what they were used to. They were often wild in the cage, and if they got out of the pigeon loft, they would often take off and not come back."

Nkala has created a project called Community Lofts, which is a pigeon racing academy located in townships and rural communities of the country.

The aim of the project is to have racing pigeon lofts located in the centre of these areas in order to provide community members with the necessary information and exposure to the industry and unlock economic opportunities that the sport could provide.

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"As a young black man, there are not many like me at all in the sport. In this industry, I am often the only black person in the room.

“The only other black people are employed through jobs here and there. As a young black person, the sport generally does not accommodate me through Club systems," he says.

Nkala aims to change this because such clubs often use the Afrikaans language exclusively. As a result, he says, as a non-Afrikaans-speaking person, he is unable to understand anything most of the time.