When it became apparent to two farmers in Makueni County that they could no longer rely only on growing rain-fed agriculture, they decided to join hands to rear chickens and supplement their incomes.
For Ms Anne Mutiva King’oo and Ms Jennifer Mutunga of Kitisi Village, this was because getting a good harvest was not a guarantee anymore, thanks to the erratic rainfall due to climate change. They started by purchasing 100 day-old chicks, hoping for instant markets. However, this did not materialise.
Selling the domesticated birds proved to be difficult, since most buyers wanted a continuous supply of large quantities they could not deliver.
However, this did not dampen their resolve. Instead, they sought to fill the gap by forming a new group – Ten Poultry Keepers.
“We wanted to increase our production and wooed eight other farmers to join us, with the promise of earning good money. They agreed and in 2006 we formed the group.”
They bought lots of chickens. But still, nothing seemed to be working right. Their capacity was low and they faced challenges in management, expensive feeds, and epidemics, which led to poor performance and stagnation.
Today, however, the story is totally different. The group is a model of success and sells a minimum of 400 to 500 pieces of chickens’ worth between Ksh180,000 and Ksh225,000 every week!
Recently, they got a request to supply 4,000 one-month-old breeding chicks.
Ten Poultry Keepers group members are now financially secure and whenever rains fail, they do not panic. With the membership now at 13, they rear 6,000 to 10,000 chickens between them.
So, what changed?
Their style of doing things, thanks to Lutheran World Relief (LWR), which had realised that farmers in Makueni were going hungry because they did not know how to tackle climate change, and had no idea on how to diversify their incomes.
“When we came into the picture, the members were struggling with their chicken rearing projects. Their capacity was low, they had poor management, feeds were expensive, and disease outbreaks were common,” says Mr Joseph Musyoka, project coordinator, Lutheran World Relief, Makindu.
They first trained the members on poultry production, vaccination, disease management and feed formulation, using locally available materials to cut the high cost of feeds.
“We taught them how to formulate nutritious chicken feeds using their farm produce,” he adds.
Though the women are in a group, communal rearing of chicken is avoided because tending is done on a rotational basis, as some members would get busy and not attend to their duties on the agreed day. If vaccination was supposed to happen and did not, then the whole project was at risk.
“We advised the members to rear the chickens individually but sell collectively and this worked much better,” recalls Mr Musyoka The group also learned to record their inputs, calculate their profit margins and how to invest the money made.
The group, which initially operated a merry-go-round, was also trained on table banking and turned to Village Savings and Loaning Association groups (VSLAs). “They are able to earn an interest on their savings and can borrow every month,” he adds.
The loans also help to finance the group if they fall short on their orders. These interventions have changed their fortunes.