Poultry sector in the country during the last ten years has witnessed cyclic boom and burst phenomena due to accelerating factors such as high demand for poultry products as a result of overall economic growth and consequent rise in incomes, investments from food giants, disintegrating joint family system leaving limited scope for home cooking etc. on one hand and decelerating factors such as high feed cost due to instable supplies of agro-feed ingredients, emergence of deadly poultry diseases and resultant distortions in domestic as well as global poultry trade, limited investments in poultry infrastructure etc.
Majority of country’s population living below poverty line is suffering from malnutrition wherein poultry can serve as an important tool to provide household nutritional security and supplementary incomes especially to the vulnerable sections of society. Therefore, technological support is crucial for the development and consistent growth of the poultry sector to protect and safeguard the interests of all stakeholders in the poultry value chain particularly the more vulnerable small poultry holders throughout the Country.
Rural poultry also called poor man's meat/ bank/ social safety net etc. is a major prospect to pastoralist fraternity since land size is depreciating and therefore calling for a need to practice enterprises that require limited land. In Narok South Sub-county, Narok County, the women and youth have already ventured into this enterprise, although its growth path is full of hurdles.
In the Manyattas, families keep small flocks ranging from 10 – 30 family chicken, mainly indigenous birds. Birds are left to forage during the day and housed at night. There is no supplemental feeding. Housing is still a challenge them having constructed poultry houses. These houses are in poor condition, subjecting birds to adverse weather conditions and predators at night. Ownership of these birds is solely a women and youth affair with older men concentrating with livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys).
Diseases and pests are a major impediment to poultry farming among the rural community. Maasai community is known to keep livestock and are undoubtedly knowledgeable as far as livestock diseases (diagnosis, treatment, control and prevention) concerns. However, when it comes to poultry, they have scanty to no information hence leaving survival of these birds to fate.
Despite several challenges Poultry farming has uplifted their economic status. Where an egg is retailed at Kshs 15 and a grower chicken at between Kshs 400- 500, selling fifty eggs and 1 chicken in a fortnight generates sufficient income to supplement the husbands little left-behinds for running home food budget for the family, since their financial budget is minimal. Economically, this project has proved viable with high turn-over of new recruits into the enterprise and financial gains from sales. There is therefore a critical need to holistically address the challenges affecting the poultry keeping enterprise among the Maasai community (women and youth) in Narok South Sub-county.
In order to improve this enterprise, I recommend the following measures:
· Veterinarians and animal health workers: volunteer constructive information on the poultry keepers on poultry diseases, their diagnosis, treatment and control. This information will go a long way to equipping the poultry keepers hence plan for future contingency measures. Also use of Over-The-Counter medications to treat poultry incase outbreaks of treatable diseases occurs.
· Livestock production experts: provide extension services to poultry farmers on poultry breeding, nutrition, housing and husbandry among other issues in order to maximize the output from the stock.
· Veterinary Pharma players: this is a virgin ground for marketing of poultry products and therefore establishing brands among the consumers will boost your future sales in this area. The challenge is to start. Training poultry keepers on various products and their safe use is wanting.
· Developmental Non-Governmental organizations: the women and youth need your assistance. And as part of project pool to choose from, poultry keeping (rural indigenous chicken) is a very profitable industry already established and running. Therefore, expanding this project by supplying starter stock (to those who doesn’t have), better breeding stock and also advocacy on use of poultry and poultry products by the Maa community rather than just keeping them for sale will be a substantial contribution to the rural welfare in general (cheap proteins and income).
· Business fraternity: through increased buying of these birds and their products, you will be encouraging more production of the same. Flock from these areas can contribute to an unmatched demand for poultry and poultry products in the urban areas all the way to Nairobi. Giving poultry keeper’s competitive prices for their products is a sure way of winning more into the enterprise through financial behavioral change tact.
As a personalized initiative: I have offered to educate poultry keepers on diagnosis of various poultry diseases, and subsequently advice them on poultry nutrition, housing and breeding whenever a chance comes up (more especially when I visit homes to treat or vaccinate livestock). Let us put together our limited resources and establish this enterprise among the pastoral community. It is our obligation.