Chickens are the most popular poultry species used for meat and egg production in Ethiopia. Dugda district, a LIVES intervention area in Oromia region, is known nationwide for its large chicken population (more than 100, 000). When asked why Dugda is important in poultry production, locals respond that it’s because the district is large, has favourable climatic conditions for chicken production, and there are many maize and wheat growers whose products can serve as chicken feed.
Chicken rearing is part of the lifestyle of the communities of Dugda, for poor and rich alike. Eleven Peasant Associations (PAs) neighbouring lake Zeway are famous for their high chicken production; the soil is fertile and there is a lot of fish by-products available which provide excellent chicken feed. Chickens from the associations (for instance Welda Qelina) of Dugda are claimed to grow faster, maintain their body condition longer during transportation, resist diseases and have bigger and more attractive eggs that those elsewhere.
Meki, the district town of Dugda, is a centre for chicken and egg marketing in the surrounding areas; it gets its products from the Ela rural market of Dugda district and Dugda Qella of a neighbouring district of SNNPR.
Abishu is a 28 year old chicken trader in Meki town. He started his business about nine years ago after being motivated by the profit his father gets from selling chickens in Meki markets. The small initial capital cost needed to start this business, which was only 200 ETB (20 USD) was an additional motivator. Abishu buys chickens from rural villages at a reasonable price and sells them at Meki markets. In times of high demand, he gets additional supplies from the Meki market itself and supply them to his customers. Abishu also has a permanent market linkage with rural chicken traders who directly sell to him. In addition, he supplies chickens for wholesalers coming from Addis Ababa, Mojo, Bishoftu, Akaki and other nearby towns.
Abishu’s marketing strategy includes: buying chickens from three markets in a week (Thursday and Monday markets at Meki and Saturday market at Alem Tena town), supplying wholesalers coming from Addis Ababa, supplying hotels and restaurants, and selling to individuals and occasional customers. His major customers are wholesalers from Addis Ababa.
Wholesalers generally order the numbers of chickens they require and then buy in bulk. To meet these demands, he goes to rural markets. In a regular week, he buys 15- 20 chickens each market day. He says he carries 3000 to 6000 ETB to buy chickens. The amount increases during holiday seasons when wholesalers from big cities place their orders. During holiday seasons, the numbers he buys may increase to between 40 and 50 per market day. Since wholesalers buy in bulk, Abishu calculates the average price of the chickens and then determines his selling price. During dry seasons, Abishu buys and sells hens for production and reproduction as this is a god time for hatching eggs and raising day-old chicks and pullets.
Chicken handling and transpiration has undergone its own transformation since Abishu started his business. He explains that about five years ago, to transport chickens, 5 to 7 chickens would be tied together, put upside down, and loaded on the top of a vehicle. Later, people would put 12-15 chickens in a jute sack with small airholes and then load the sacks on top of a vehicle. Nowadays, traders use plastic sacks (Madaberia). They sew two of these together and put 25 to 30 chickens into each. The plastic sacks are readily available in the market, are stronger and hold larger number of chickens than the jute sacks.
Dessie is another trader in Meki town. He is an egg trader who entered into the business 6 years ago after he completed his 10th grade education. A hotel owner in Meki gave Dessie an opportunity to supply eggs to his hotel as a business. Immediately, Dessie started his business with a starting capital of 300 ETB. Dessie’s main egg suppliers were rural farmers along the roads of Dugda. He sells his eggs twice a week at the Meki market, on Monday and Thursday. Sometimes he has bought eggs on credit from farmers, paying them back after selling the eggs.
When Dessie started his business, he purchased 7 eggs for 2 ETB. Now, depending on market condition, he buys an egg for 2.10 ETB and sells it for 2.25 ETB. His customers are tea shops, cafeterias and hotels and individuals during holidays. Currently, he supplies some 70 to 80% of the eggs needed by hotels in Meki town. On market days he buys 800 to 1,500 eggs.
Dessie explains that traders from other places like Addis Ababa, Bishoftu, Mojo and Adama used to come to buy eggs from Meki. They come less these days ans prices are similar across locations. They only come occasionally during holidays.
Both Abishu and Dessie say that their chicken and egg businesses have improved their livelihoods over the years. They were able to support their families and invest in their homes. They believe that chicken and egg businesses, if undertaken properly, are profitable ventures. They both have plans to expand their business and establish poultry farms, for which they need additional skills and knowledge and linkages along the value chain (hence their contacts with the LIVES project).
The availability of chicken feed in Dugda makes chicken production and marketing an ideal venture in the area. The supply of day-old chicks from Bishoftu and the introduction of exotic types through the extension service also contribute to the suitability of the area for the sector. Furthermore, farmers in the area seem to know about chicken production and marketing. The increased number of entrepreneurs in the sector, as compared to other areas, is a good indicator.
Women are also active participants in chicken and egg trading in Meki. When Abishu and Dessie started the business, there were no women involved in chicken and egg marketing. Nowadays, there are even women wholesalers coming from other places. Today, Abishu and Dessie estimate that 40 to 50% of chicken traders in Meki are women.
Though the chicken and egg value chain in Dugda is well developed, there is still a lot be done, especially with regard to planning production and marketing at different seasons. The common trend is for farmers to bring chickens and eggs on market days before holidays when supply tends to be high and demand is low. In such cases, it is only the wholesalers that benefit as they have plenty to choose from and they can set the prices. This results in losses for farmers as well as for local traders like Abishu and Dessie.
The LIVES project can contribute here by developing capacities and knowledge of farmers and traders on production and marketing strategies as well as by creating linkages with potential customers and market information sources.
Contributed by Abule Ebro (LIVES regional coordinator, Oromia)