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Kenya’s poultry farmers overcome climatic challenges

Kenya’s poultry farmers overcome climatic challenges

In the East African state of Kenya, climate change is being blamed for increasingly erratic weather patterns. As well as local initiatives to encourage poultry farming, innovative farmers are finding ways to overcome the challenges, experimenting with different breeds and new feed ingredients.

Finding the costs and challenges of producing chickens using commercial breeds prohibitive, one farmer in central Kenya has turned back to rearing local varieties of bird.

According to a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation (the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters) in News Trust, Elly Joy Kanini has been much more successful rearing traditional native chickens, which can better tolerate the sometimes extreme weather conditions in the area. There may be low temperatures or heavy rains, as well as drought that pushes up the price of commercial feeds. Native breeds are generally more resistant to diseases, she added, and so she has reduced the use of antibiotics.

The commercial birds she reared for two years grew faster, but they drank more water, needed to live in houses that could be heated by costly electricity, and frequently suffered from disease.

Kanini said the more frequent and extreme weather in Kenya that is linked to climate change had been making all these issues more challenging.

Strong local demand for the meat and eggs of indigenous chickens was the reason given by another farmer in a neighboring county for switching away from commercial breeds. According to Elijah Kimani, the birds thrive with minimal management and irregular feeding, even in the rainy season. Furthermore, consumers are prepared to pay up to one-third more for the eggs of native birds, and the meat birds are an ideal size for the local market requirements.

According to a local agriculture ministry official, the indigenous breeds of poultry provide good-quality protein for their owners’ families, and help to provide an income, particularly for the rural population and young people.

Insect meal as a high-protein, sustainable energy source

Using insect meal as a protein source in feeds for poultry and other livestock has been much in the news lately.

Frustrated by the high cost and variable quality of animal feeds available to him as a poultry and pig farmer in Kenya in 2015, Eric Kamau, set out to find a solution. Using KES350,000 (US$3,500) of his own savings, he identified the dried pupae of the black soldier fly as a potential new high-quality protein source while working at the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, reports Business Daily Africa.

Kamau found the pupae to be high in protein and fat, at least equal to locally available traditional feed ingredients like fish meal, soybeans and hydroponically grown fodder. The larvae are also less dependent on water and feed shortages that have occurred in Kenya in recent years.

Producing the pupa meal is a painstaking process, which starts with Kamau leaving buckets of poultry and pig manure at strategic points to attract the female flies. Their eggs hatch after about four days into larvae, which grow and develop for around two weeks in the nutrient-rich waste. The pupae are then harvested, dried in the sun or by direct heat, and ground.

Using a mixer bought from China, he began producing feed for his own use and for sale to other farmers by combining ground corn and wheat with the dried fly pupae.

The business has now grown to employ 10 people, despite the challenges Kamau faced in marketing his feeds for dairy cows, poultry and pigs against cheaper competition. He is now training other local farmers to produce the insect meal, as well as developing the product for the aquaculture sector.

Poultry as a solution to sustainable food production

Poultry farming in the west Kenyan county of Kisumu is set to receive KES100 million (US$990,000) in funding from Kenya Industrial Estates to help improve food security in the area. According to Standard Media, the money will be offered to producers in the form of soft loans at low interest rates to increase the size of their flocks, and to train up to 1,200 new farmers. It is also reported that U.S. fast food chain, KFC, has been contacting poultry producers in Kisumu with offers to take their chicken to supply its new restaurant, rather than transport the meat from Nairobi.

Recent erratic weather patterns blamed on climate change have also impacted on the traditional pastoral way of life by the people of south Kenya. To help them diversify into other economic activities, the Kenya Broadcasting Company reports that 2,500 women from that Maasai community in Kajiado County have been offered three months of free training in poultry keeping. At a cost of KES7.5 million (US$74,000), the project is sponsored by Monsanto and supported by the Latia resource center. As well as the training, it provides each participant with five chickens and sufficient capital to feed and fence the birds. It is expected that each farmer will be able to fund their enterprise independently after a period of two years.

Kenyan poultry production appears to have been erratic over recent years, according to data from FAOstat, the statistical agency of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. For 2013—the most recent year for which data have been published—it calculated domestic output of chicken meat at 25,761 metric tons (mt). This was more than the 24,700mt of the previous year, but down from the 2011 figure of 26,500mt. Official data on FAOstat put chicken egg production at 84,132mt in 2016. This represents an apparent recovery in the sector following after two years of much-reduced output.

After avian influenza broke out in Uganda early last year, Kenya banned imports of poultry products from its neighbor. That ban looks likely to be lifted soon, according to The East African, as Uganda is now free of the disease. This move follows a gradual reopening of the trade in August of 2017, when the Kenyan government issued imports licenses to three approved Ugandan poultry companies. Poultry imports would help the supply of animal proteins for the Kenyan population, but it is likely to increase market competition for domestic producers.

 

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