A very small flock of chickens can elevate a farmer above the poverty line and even make a sustainable income venture. Farmers alone need training so that they can improve management and increase the number of the flock they keep. Most farmers never used rare exotic breeds because of lack of skills and money to venture in such activities. However, Reach The Children realizes that it can use what the local people have to empower them. And this is why the indigenous chicken projects were developed and they are doing very fine in the villages. The resources that are really needed include extension services, proper poultry housing skills, marketing strategies, poultry health education and probably exchange tours.
Ibrahim Amakobe is one of the many beneficiaries of the poultry projects being conducted in western areas of Kenya. Ibrahim has a very small parcel of land and he earns some wages from his teaching job. He survives on this with his wife and two sons. With the cost of living gradually increasing, the money he earns from his job alone cannot sustain him and allow him to meet all his needs and send his children to good schools. However, he participated in Self Help Group some two years ago and became a member of the EBINATE self help group. Members of this group meet regularly to discuss their developmental affairs and have developed a strategy of expanding poultry projects in the area. Through their contact with SHIEBU, a self help group that RTC uses to facilitate projects and disburse resources to the people, some of the EBINATE members benefitted by receiving five birds each. They made agreements that those who got the five chickens would breed and pass on five birds to the rest of the members until everyone receives the five birds in a rotational manner.
Ibrahim says he has had an interest in rearing chicken since when he was young and based on his experiences in agricultural activities, as a teacher and his keen interest in this project, he decided to take the project seriously when he got the five birds. Indigenous breeds are simple to rear but slow in reproducing. In order to understand this better, Ibrahim visited other experienced farmers in the area and was trained with the SHIEBU members. The training was facilitated by RTC and was free of cost.
Although the initial stock Ibrahim received was only 5 birds, by using the skills he had learned previously, he was able to increase the stock to ten chickens in a very short time. However, the flock was attacked by disease and he lost most of the chickens and remained with only four birds. He however did not loose hope and he is springing back with more vigor and enthusiasm. His rearing venture is now picking up pace and he is about to hatch 30 chicks. He intends to specialize in keeping birds for meat. This is whereby, after hatching, he fattens the chicks with broilers mash or feeds used specifically for that purpose and then sells these chickens for profit. This is reasonable money considering that one bird may be sold at $5. And being able to sell 30 birds in two month would mean that he makes $150 in a month. This is the equivalent of 45000 Kenyan Shillings. However, since he does not have a large enough flock yet, his production of the chickens would be intermittent since after hatching, the birds take some days before they start laying again. He is nonetheless planning to increase the brooding chickens so that he produces more chicks.
The poultry rearing project is going to be a good source of income for ‘Ibra’ as he is fondly known among his peers. Through this, he will be able to meet his household financial needs and also get a good source of nutritious food for his family. With the surplus income that will be generated from his project, he can purchase better chicken feed to supplement what he prepares in his home and can even save some money and acquire assets. This is the spirit in which Reach the Children initiated this project and supports it. The goal has been to empower the local people in meeting their individual needs, especially basic needs like food. Besides, such an approach benefits the children who are the central target of the RTC project as they seek to provide support for families. Ibrahim can teach his children how to rear chickens by actual practice, use the money to provide for their other needs and these children will grow up understanding the importance of hard work. Better still, they will have hands on experience from an early age on how to rear chickens.
Ibrahim has caught the vision of how to raise chickens and he is no longer an active member of EBINATE group, He will also be managing his chicken farm and finances from his home very soon. Even though his first cycle of birds was not as successful as he had hoped, he remains optimistic and he has risen to the challenge to make the second cycle and subsequent cycles more succesful.
Rearing indigenous chickens in Lunza area of western Kenya, where Ibrahim comes from, is not as technologically advanced as some other part of Africa. The chickens are reared on the traditional system of scavenging, though farmers provide minimal supplements. The chickens are currently being reared as a source of income rather than for intrinsic value or sign of wealth as in the past. For family use, chicken meat is consumed on important functions, like when the family has visitors, a family gathering or on special holidays like Christmas and so on. Hatchability and productivity are relatively high regardless of the poor systems of housing, inadequate feeding, poor management and high death rates. Generally women have played a very important role in this project. Although Ibrahim’s wife is not actively involved, she gives enough support to her husband in this project when he is away. It is evident from the many poultry projects that RTC has supported that raising indigenous chickens is helping to alleviate poverty, improve nutrition and promote gender equity in the African patriarchal societies. Villagers need to be encouraged to consume more chicken meat and the government might help by developing appropriate interventions to enhance production of these local chickens. We can conclude that indigenous chickens are a potential source of wealth and development and poverty alleviation. This can be further improved by training farmers on better management skills and marketing strategies.