By Victoria Bowes
Members of the Women’s Group meet for an interactive poultry training workshop.
“We love kukus*” is the exuberant cheer rising from the women of the Gatima Women’s Group, Meru County, Kenya.
*kuku = chicken
The women, mothers, daughters, and grandmothers, have walked dusty, rutted roads from their farmsteads to attend one of the first Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) Poultry Training workshops. They are curious, inquisitive, and eager to learn more about how they can keep their laying hens healthy so they can continue to provide nutritious eggs for their families.
They listen attentively as the spoken English is flawlessly translated into Swahili by Eric Munene, a talented livestock technician and one of the local Kenyan FHF staff gems. He can even make some of the lame jokes seem funny in translation.
Eric Munene inspecting the nest boxes. Looking good!
It seems that everywhere you look there are chickens, scratching in the ditches, outside the markets, in farmyards, and yes, even crossing the street, although we still don’t know why. This hardy breed of chicken is the indigenous Kenyan breed, with a small body frame and a tendency to “go broody” after just a few eggs are produced. Probably a survival adaptation to ensure she’s able to care for the few chicks she hatches out. Great mothering for sure but not a good choice if sustainable egg production is the goal.
Eggs are a valuable source of protein for children in an area where protein sources are scarce and expensive. The goal of the FHF Poultry Project is to empower women farmers to produce enough quality eggs to feed their family and to possibly provide an additional source of income though egg sales.
This is an example of a FHF-supported coop with a flock of 10 hens and 1 rooster of the improved breed.
The FHF Poultry Project is currently working directly with eight Kenyan Women’s Groups. Within each group 10 women are selected to receive support from FHF in establishing a closed flock of the improved Kenyan breed of laying hen called the Improved Kienyeji Chicken. Who gets a coop is often decided by the Group Chair based on need. Coop #1 in each group is constructed to FHF specifications and the other 9 poultry keepers inspect the built coop and return home to build similar coops. FHF provides the poultry wire, a feeder, a drinker, a bag of mash and a ready-to-lay flock of 10 hens and 1 happy rooster. There are now 80 FHF supported coops in Meru County. Eric is on speed dial to all of them and will be providing ongoing support.
A healthy flock of Kenyan chickens.
The success of FHF efforts to provide self-sufficient agriculture solutions to Kenyan farmers struggling with unimaginable social, economic, and environmental challenges, can be attributed to the dedicated partnership of Canadian funding agencies, the FHF Board and project staff, the support of local government, and the enthusiastic Kenyan extension staff.
A vision, decades in the making, is being realized and everywhere we travel FHF is recognised as a divine blessing. Sometimes the graciousness can be overwhelming, but always truly humbling.
Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.
Q: How do you change the life of a Kenyan farmer? A: One FHF seminar, one clinic, one conversation at a time.