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Co-operatives give poultry in western Kenya wings to soar

Abisai-Nandi

Abisai Nandi, a poultry farmer in Kisumu. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • For years, poultry has been perceived as a supplementary investment to dairy and crop farming especially among local farmers.
  • This perception has seen individuals rearing chicken casually engage in the venture thus hardly reaping the deserved benefits.
  • At the same time, middlemen or brokers as they are commonly known, have exploited the gap of the lack of proper market structures to rip off smallholder farmers.

For years, poultry has been perceived as a supplementary investment to dairy and crop farming especially among local farmers.

This perception has seen individuals rearing chicken casually engage in the venture thus hardly reaping the deserved benefits.

At the same time, middlemen or brokers as they are commonly known, have exploited the gap of the lack of proper market structures to rip off smallholder farmers.

By simply moving around homes and small markets, they end up buying the birds at exploitative prices only to sell them at higher prices.

The brokers would literally determine the buying price for the small-scale chicken farmers.

However, in parts of lower Nyanza region where fishing is the mainstay, a formal poultry market is gradually taking shape, thanks to formation of farmer organisations.

These societies, also referred to as producer organisations, are streamlining the poultry sub-sector straight from production, marketing and selling with the help of non-State actors.

Producer organisations are made up of individual smallholder farmers or smallholder farmers’ groups, and accommodate membership of up to over 2,000 people.

In Kolweny village, Nyakach Sub-County, Kisumu county we find members of Hera Women Group who have been in the game from 2019 attending to their flock comprising 120 rainbow rooster chicks.

The farmers began their investment with 100 chicks they bought through Great Wang' Chieng Cooperative, a Homabay-based farmer organisation.

Celestine Adhiambo, the group’s chairperson explained that members contributed the money for the start-up.

When the chicks matured, the organisation introduced them to buyers.

“Some buyers took 50, some took 20 and we ended up selling the entire flock. We are on our second batch which comprises 250 birds,” Ms Adhiambo said.

Besides selling the chicken for income generation, the group members are also allowed to buy the birds to supplement their nutrition at a discounted rate.

“Members can buy chicken which we sell at Sh700 at a discounted rate of Sh500. This has promoted inclusion of chicken in a diet that was dominated by fish,” said Ms Adhiambo.

With more than 2300 members, Great Wang' Chieng is one of the largest poultry producer organisations in Homabay county.

The organisation serves farmers both in Homa Bay and Kisumu counties.

“Farmers rearing chicken had a big hurdle accessing profitable markets to boost their income and sustain their investment because they lacked organised structures. The drive to overcome this hurdle saw us establish this group. It has seen the venture turn from a part time activity to a reliable economic one,” said John Ogina, Chairman of the Great Wang' Chieng.

The producer organisation works in partnerships with various poultry value chain actors whose key responsibilities are enhancing production, initiating marketing, promotion and advancing the chicken consumption campaign.

Lilian Ochola, a member of Bora Poultry Marketing Cooperative Society, says market access has been made much easier through the cooperative.

Initially, she noted, most of them used to sell through brokers.

“Currently we do so collectively through the producer organisation and we have the negotiation power to determine the price of selling our birds,” said Ms Ochola who resides in Manywanda village in West-Uyoma, Siaya county.

She added that members of the group are like shareholders and therefore benefit from loans with their chicken acting as collateral.

The loans can be repaid through sale of chicken, eggs or supply of feeds.

"I sell two crates of fertilised eggs a day. Each egg goes at Sh20. Instead of getting Sh 20 per egg I get Sh18. Sh2 goes to the organisation as a contribution towards growing my shares. We get dividends for the shares at the end of the year,” Ms Ochola added.

Through partnerships between Heifer International and off-takers, poultry farmers can profitably sell their chicken and poultry products.

“We only come in at the point where the chickens are being collected and we pay the farmer organisations who in turn pay the farmers. The structure simplifies everything,” said Abisai Nandi, CEO Chicken Basket, an off-taker based in Kisumu.

Siaya Seed Sacco Manager Victorine Owino lauded the arrangement which she termed a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

“Partnerships with Heifer International is a win-win one. The latter has enabled us develop a business plan for poultry farming. On our side we are mobilised in organised groups. Heifer’s move to facilitate agricultural extension officers who guide and educate farmers will have a long-term impact in growing the sub-sector,” Ms Victorine explained.

"These farmers-owned agri-businesses have been able to identify a business case for themselves to operate. Examples of these business cases include feed aggregation, slaughter of live chicken, aggregation of live chicken and eggs among others." added David Ojwang, Heifer international Director of Programmes.

This model has attracted more people especially youth and women to venture into poultry farming since they’ are assured of profit for their investments.

Charles Oyuga, 30, a resident of Uyoma village in Siaya said he was convinced to quit fishing to try a hand in poultry farming courtesy of the model.

“I learnt about poultry farming through social media and decided to take up the challenge in 2019. I currently have over 100 rainbow rooster chicks which I am optimistic will fully mature and I’ll get good returns from them,” he said.

Despite Covid-19 restrictions that have affected the hotel industry which is a lucrative market for chicken farming, the farmers said they still get some returns from their investment.

Heifer International in collaboration with Cargill is implementing a life-changing initiative through the Hatching Hope Kenya project in Homabay, Kisumu, Migori and Siaya counties in Nyanza region.

"Value chain actors are entities involved from initiation of production up to access to market point. We have identified and signed agreements with reputable institutions we believe shall add value to lives of locals in targeted areas,” said Christopher Webo, Hatching Hope Kenya’s Project Manager.

According to Webo, the initiative is majorly focused on ensuring farmers who are part of the producer organisations avoid losses and transform chicken rearing into a modern day gold mine.

“We sell day-old chicks to farmers and engage experts we work with to train them on proper chicken rearing procedures.

Edwin Odero, Kukuchick Limited Sales Manager, Nyanza Region notes that, experts’ input helps in cutting loses through reduction of mortality rates.

“Survival of as many birds in the new flocks means more profits when they mature in terms of production and numbers,” said Mr Odero.