Chicken farming in Africa has certain challenges, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses will help us solve problems. Apart from the challenges that face all poultry farmers around the world, Kenya, and Africa face other issues. Currently, over 21 million people rely on poultry farming for their livelihood and it contributes 6.1 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) generated from livestock.
Poultry farming uptake has boomed in Kenya’s rural areas where smallholder families, especially Western, Rift Valley, Central and Eastern provinces, have taken to the product over the last 10 years. There are approximately 30 million birds in the country, of which 76 per cent are free ranging indigenous chicken, 14 per cent are commercial layers and eight per cent broilers. But we are going to specifically concentrate on commercial chicken farming.
Here are some of the more common challenges, especially for those small poultry farmers and new chicken farmers who have just started, or would like to start farming.
Delivery of feed for chicken in remote areas is almost is very difficult. As many farmers are small farmers, the costs become prohibitive. Unlike large poultry farms, the small chicken farmer does not have the scale of benefits working on his or her side. Buying large quantities of feed presents its own challenge – cash flow being number one, closely followed by storage and shelf life. The result is that the small farmer pays a much higher price per kilogram and must find a way to purchase feed regularly.
Delivery of product to customers
Once the small poultry farmer has solved and faced the basic challenges, and has managed to get together a successful crop, delivering the product to market becomes a problem. Broilers will need to be taken to the market or delivered to customers every 4 – 6 weeks, whilst the egg farmer will need to get the eggs to market every 2 or 3 days. Bad roads and infrastructure also hinder deliveries and collections on small rural farms. Transport costs are a burden to these small scale farmers because they have to hire vehicles from the rural areas to sell in the city.
High costs for small quantities
Chicken farming is a very competitive business – buying feed, medication and supplies at a higher than average price is a sure way to fail. The economy of scale does not work for the small farmer – and less so if they are running a chicken farm from a rural area because of the current inflation in Kenya.
Many small farmers are hurt by corruption before they even start. Middlemen posing as Poultry experts often negotiate market deals on behalf of the farmer. Small farmers need every cent that is available to maintain a profitable chicken farm. If the middlemen were not taking such huge margins, the farmer would be able to acquire items like fans and heaters, and add storage to their farms.
Ken chic sales and marketing manager Humphrey Mwangi said that feeds, which consist mainly of maize and soya, account for approximately 70 per cent of the input costs. Allowing the importation of cheap maize and reduction of import duty on soya, which stands at 10 per cent, could help reduce production costs.
Rearing chicks in Kenya is expensive because they are fed on imported wheat products. The farmers get very minimum profits if any, we have witnessed extreme cases where farmers only get earnings of kshs 3000($25) a year. The government through the ministry of agriculture is on record proudly saying that agriculture is the backbone of our economy while farmers are getting nothing. The last decade has seen agricultural exports reduce drastically while imports increase; we are increasingly becoming depended on products from other countries while ignoring our own fertile land and able farmers.
We are a food deficit country but Kenya maintains barriers to trade in wheat which results in exceptionally high chicken feeds prices. Kenyan farmers would pay less which would increase their profits and therefore put a stop to poverty in the rural areas.
Maono Initiative started a commercial chicken project which offers employment opportunities to farmers by utilizing their resources. The project in Embu enables members to get chicks for rearing, feeds, drugs, supervision and a ready market to generate their own wealth thus improving their overall livelihood. The farmers who were previously earning less than $2 a day are able to get profits of up to $200 after 6 weeks, eight times a year which translates to $1600 a year. This is real transformation, these farmers have risen from the ashes and carved out opportunities for themselves and managed to become self-sustaining. We treat the poorest people with dignity and respect, which empowers them more than money alone can.
The government with the huge resources available to them can start similar projects on a large scale which would have an impact on thousands of poultry farmers.