In Makueni county, Kibwezi East sub county, Nzambani location you will meet all kinds of farmers. Amidst the dry environment that characterises the area, it’s hard to imagine that any kind of farming takes place here. Amongst these farmers, there is one Esther Mwili Daniel who before December 2018 had not considered farming as something that she could do.
All these changed one day when she joined a group of farmers on a visit to a farm in Kikuyu. “The SNV Drylands Development (DryDev) project took us for an exposure visit to Ian’s farm. Ian is a lawyer and he seemed very fulfilled as an indigenous chicken farmer and that is what inspired me” she says. Once Esther got home from the exposure visit she decided to try this type of farming and bought thirty four chicks. “After a month I realized that the chicken were actually growing at a fast rate and decided to purchase seventy five more”. So far she has sold some and have a total of ninety six chicken.
Esther confesses that chicken farming is not a daunting task. “All I do is feed and give them water and then go about other businesses. You can manage to keep chicken and do other things on the side.
Esther checking whether her chicken are ready to sell
After four months the chicken are usually ready for the market and one chicken can fetch her between 800 and 1200 Kenya shillings.
In order to have a healthy brood she has to keep up with the medication, vaccinations and even the right feed. In a week she spends three thousand shillings to buy a 50kg bag of feed.
“One of the things that you have to keep in mind is having proper housing for the chicken. Most people who consider this type of farming do not think that it’s necessary to build them a house.” Esther attests. These are just some of the lessons that she has picked up through the Digital Classrooms System or Smart Projector sessions that the DryDev project has set up where farmers can learn more on chicken farming and other types of farming.
In addition to building her chicken houses, Esther is using a hatchery that is owned by Nzamu CBO, the Community Based Organisation of which she is the chairlady, to hatch eggs and brood chicks.
The selection of eggs for brooding takes into consideration the built and health of the chicken in question. Healthy chicken will produce healthy chicks.
Benjamin Mwongela and Esther Daniels in their incubator
Esther has immensely benefited from the farmer training that is provided by the DryDev project on poultry farming and these include poultry housing, vaccination and disease management, breeds improvement, feeds formulation, record keeping and marketing.
Esther has become a model farmer in her community and recently she was visited by a group of teachers from the Nthogoni area of whom she trained on how to keep indigenous chicken. “Some of them have already began to keep chicken and I am elated that they came and gained knowledge which is now benefiting them”. Esther comments enthusiastically.
For those who would like to get into indigenous chicken farming in the dry areas Esther says “start small and grow slowly. In the long run, through the sale of eggs and chicken you will begin to afford chicken feed.”
In the next two months Esther is looking at increasing her flock by three hundred chicks and with the community brooder now in place, that dream is not far-fetched.
Poultry farming has increased Esther’s household resilience since it reduces her food and income risk exposure that comes with crop farming given unreliable rainfall patterns in her region. “My family’s income resilience has increased as a result of the DryDev project” Esther says gladly.
Esther is not the only farmer that the Dry Dev project has had a positive impact on. Within the Nzamu CBO where she is chairlady, farmers have been trained on pasture farming, Financial Literacy, financial management, record keeping, market access and gone on exposure visits where they were exposed to indigenous chicken farming.