Embu poultry farmers decry high cost of feeds

Farmers in Embu County are concerned about the high cost of feed, which is threatening to derail their aim of making a living from poultry.

Farmers who have begun raising improved kienyeji chicken for the market are worried that their investments will be lost unless the government takes action to reduce the cost of completed feeds or raw ingredients for creating their own.

The poultry farmers are involved in a number of projects funded by the Agricultural Sector Development Support Program (ASDSP), which assists farmers in the county in commercializing their farming activities, developing sustainable value chains, achieving food and nutritional security, and increasing income.

According to Stellah Mukami, the county’s ASDSP Co-ordinator, the project has focused on poultry, dairy, and banana value chains in Embu county, with farmers being helped to organize in groups that not only produce together but also market their produce together in order to bargain for better prices.

Mukami claims that, as part of a five-year strategy, ASDSP has identified and is working to address gaps in the three value chains so that farmers’ earnings can grow.

The project assisted farmers in the Makima area of Mbeere South sub county in acquiring breeding stock of the KARI Improved Kienyeji chicken. KARI Improved Kienyeji chicken is more durable than native chicken and grows faster to market weight.

The breeding stock is administered by the Makima Community Based Organization (CBO) in a multiplication facility that provides day-old chicks and fertilized eggs for brooding to the rest of the community.

Ms Bines Ndunge, Chair of Makima CBO, stated that despite some teething problems such as disease shocks and a lack of market for their eggs and chicks, farmers have seen the benefits of commercial chicken rearing; not only increasing family incomes, but also providing some economic independence to the area’s women folk, who are the main players in the chicken venture.

Ndunge claims that, in addition to ASDSP’s aid in getting the initial 850 breeding birds, the initiative also provided extension services, such as disease outbreak advice.

Mr David Njue, a committee member of Makima CBO, stated that the project also assisted them in acquiring skills required in creating their own feeds as feed prices began to rise and threatened to eat into all of their income. The comfort provided by the formulation, however, was fleeting, since the prices of feed raw ingredients such as soya, sunflower, and fishmeal skyrocketed or the products were no longer available in the market.

Jane Kithome, one of the project’s pioneering farmers, stated that diseases first disappointed her, but veterinary professionals showed her how to deal with and prevent sickness.

“What I learned from dealing with the diseases is that there are diseases to be prevented with vaccines and those to be treated with drugs when they occur,” Kithome said.

The success of the chicken business has attracted additional investors, including Agatha Munyiri, who purchased a brooder and now sells chicks to other farms.

She stated that she purchases fertilized eggs from the Makima CBO multiplication center, broods them, and then sells the chicks to others when they are a month old.

“I discovered that month-old chicks fetch better prices than day-old ones,” she said.

Ms Mercy Njeru, the co-ordinator of the poultry project with ASDSP, stated that one of the initiative’s successes is that farmers no longer view chicken farming as a pastime but as a valuable investment.

She noted that the project is beneficial to farmers in the area who have traditionally relied on crop farming and goat husbandry, both of which have been negatively impacted by irregular weather in recent years.

She stated that in order to help with chicken marketing, they enabled the foundation of the Mbeere Twins Cooperative Society, which collects market-ready chicken from farmers and negotiates higher pricing for them.

She went on to say that the effort has allowed the chicken population to rise from an average of 10 chickens per home to around forty.

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