Deep in the remote Kyawango village, Mwala sub-county, sits the Nereus Poultry Farm, a state-of-the-art chicken farm that has for the last two-and-half years specialised in raising broiler chicken for the premium market.

The farm occupies 25 acres and most of its activities are computer controlled for high production and reduced spread of diseases by minimising human contact with the birds.

At the facility, feeds, water and ventilations are all automated to suit demand of the birds, which frequently varies as the chicks grow older.

“I started this farm in October 2015 with 2,000 birds. I requested my mother-in-law who had been rearing some few birds here if she would let me use her yard for an expanded poultry project, and she accepted without any objections,” narrates Jibek Luusa, the co-manager of the farm, who runs the business with her husband Marshal Luusa.

All the birds are Cobb500 poultry breeds and are directly sold to Kenchic.

With the nod from her mother-in-law, Jibek – then a fresh-hand in poultry farming – began the construction of a poultry coop before bringing in the 2,000 day-old broiler chicks. She also employed a few farm hands to run the farm.

As days rolled into weeks, the farmers sooner realised that the chicks had grown into chicken yet he had no ready market or an idea of where to find one.

“My experience as a green poultry farmer was a roller-coaster. After 35 days, the birds were ready for market, then it occurred to me that I needed to urgently find a buyer,” says Jibek, who has a Masters degree in crisis and security management from Leiden University in Holland.

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Jibek recounts visiting Eastleigh, Kawangware and Kangemi in Nairobi as she scouted for market, including from meat sellers. The scouting paid as she eventually found chicken butcheries that accepted to buy the stock.

Now, with a clear picture of the local poultry industry, she approached Kenchic which agreed to contract her as one of their farmers to be supplying them with broiler chicken.

CHALLENGES

In February last year, she expanded the structure to accommodate 10,000 birds from the initial 2,000 birds per crop or season, and the farmer has seven harvests per year as the birds mature in 30-33 days.

“The benefit of being a contracted farmers is that the aggregator provides all the poultry services such as the chicks, feeds, veterinary services,” says Jibek, a Russian.

The more she got her foot on the ground, the more she desired to enhance her production.

The couple modernised Nereus Poultry Farm late last year by injecting Sh25 million into a new automated structure with a capacity of 40,800 birds. They are hopeful of recouping investment in two years.

Once a flock is sold off, manure is removed, the house is cleaned then disinfected before newer birds are brought in.

“Over a year ago when I was building a house for my 10,000 birds, I was inquiring about water services, then a friend who is also in the poultry industry referred me to the Big Dutchman because he thought they are water solution providers. But I also learnt that they provide modern poultry equipment as well,” Jibek explains, adding that she engaged the company in the construction of her modern poultry farm.

Since the farm will be producing significant amount of manure, the farmer said she will sell it at a reasonable price.

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“The journey hasn’t been rosy. It was difficult finding a consistent supplier of materials, bringing them from Nairobi, so you have to negotiate with local traders which isn’t easy either. Power was also a challenge therefore I had to dig deep to get connected to the power line which was about 2km away,” remarks Jibek.

But despite the obstacles, the farmer says the poultry project has created employment opportunities as it also bridges the gap in the country’s poultry production as well.

Roland Denz, Big Dutchman general manager, explains that environment controlled poultry houses such as the Nereus provide the ideal conditions through which production can be optimised efficiently.

UNSATISFIED MARKETS

Due to restricted entry of people into the environment, mortality rates in chicks is extremely minimal because the housing provides biosecurity.

Rearing birds in a manual system, according to Denz, is a cheap investment but costly and less effective in the long run.

This is because one needs farmhands who manually feed and water the birds while at the same time the birds get into contact with many people which exposes them to dangerous diseases.

“The housing has a computer where the farmer is able to check on factors such as temperature, lighting and humidity and regulate them to be in line with best practice for high yields. Whenever water or feeds are cleared, the system raises an alarm to alert the farm manager,” explains Denz.

He noted that market for chicken and eggs is unsatisfied since the country is far from over production.

The expert disputed allegations that farmers inject their birds with additives and hormones, noting the activity is not only illegal but too expensive.

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Charles Njura, Mwala assistant county commissioner, points out that the farm is a big investment that will open up the sleepy village for business awareness.

“We are pushing to have the local road network improved and enhance security for a better business environment,” he says.

***

The poultry meat production in Kenya

  • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that Kenya has a supply of 2.0 kilocalories per capita, per day of poultry meat compared to Rwanda’s 4.0, Uganda’s 5.0 and Tanzania’s 6.0.
  • Notably, Kenya is below the regional average as far as supply of protein meat is concerned and hence there is urgent need to increase supply in order to meet the growing demand for the protein rich diet.

By LEOPOLD OBI
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