Poultry production is knowledge and skill intensive; it requires immediate responses when management appears suboptimal. The consequences of delayed actions include high morbidity and mortality of chicks, substantial economic losses, and total disinterest in poultry production.
Due to the delicacy of day old chicks, rural poultry in the Central Zone of Tigray is organized around the work of trained chick distributors. These distributors assume diverse roles as growers, marketers, trainers, and input suppliers. They help overcome an important knowledge and skill gaps that ordinary farmers face when they try to engage in market-oriented poultry production. Girum Asfiha and Nega Abraha are chick distributors operating in the Central Zone of Tigray. Both participated at the recent zonal workshop organized by the LIVES project.
They have created formal and informal links with day-old chick suppliers in Mekelle, Kombolcha and Debre Zeit. They buy the chicks for 29 Birr/chick and sell them for 54 Birr/chick after feeding and managing them for 30-40 days. During this critical stage, they provide starter and grower feeds and apply scheduled vaccinations against major viral and bacterial outbreaks. The combination of improved management with timely vaccination has dramatically changed rural poultry intervention in Central Tigray. This once slow and often neglected activity has become an enterprise that contributes to the livelihoods of rural households.
The major customers of Girum and Nega are smallholder farmers in Laelai Maichew and Adwa. Sometimes they expand outside their local areas to meet market demands. In the past two and a half years, they have sold more than 100,000 chicks.
For Girum and Nega, getting hold of inputs is a major challenge. They have had to buy veterinary medicines from as far as Addis Ababa. Now days, they are considering how they themselves could become intermediary traders by linking smallholder poultry producers to large input suppliers.
As well as growing and selling chicks, Girum and Nega also train their clients in ration formulation and regular mass vaccination. They formulate and sell poultry rations from ingredients purchased locally. Maize, wheat bran and middling, cakes from noug, peanut and sesame, dried whole fish (captured from local rivers), alfalfa, limestone, bone and meat meals, premixes, and other antibiotics are their ingredients. For ingredients not available locally, they get supplies from large feed ingredient suppliers in Mekelle and Addis Ababa (GASCO Trading PLC and Slaughterhouse). They charge 850 Birr for a pack of formulated chick food.
Abrehet Tareke is a woman farmer who lives near Axum. She was trained about chick management by Girum. After her training, she bought 100 Bovan Brown chicks and started her farm. She is also a member of the poultry platform that LIVES established in Laelai Maichew . After joining the platform discussion in July 2013, she expanded her poultry farm and planted alfa alfa as a feed source for her layer hens.
Abrehet’s hens started laying eggs in their 24th week and she now collect some 25 eggs a day, selling them each for 2.5 ETB in Axum city. She also sells fertile eggs to other farmers who incubate the eggs under natural setting. Now that she has new skills and knowledge, her immediate plan is to grow her flock size to 500 birds and build a truly market-oriented poultry farm. She plans to realize her vision by establishing a marketing group in her village with other interested farmers.
The recognition given to chick distributors and the training support has moved poultry interventions to a new phase and is contributing to the rapid adoption of improved poultry in rural areas. The distributors have assumed many roles along the poultry value chain and are filling in important knowledge and skill gaps faced by ordinary farmers. More efforts are needed to create links between distributors and private/public vaccine providers throughout the egg production life of layers. They also need to engage more youth, especially women, in market-oriented poultry production, which in turn attracts other value chain actors.
Contributed by Yayneshet Tesfay (LIVES regional expert, Tigray) and Haile Tilahun (LIVES zonal coordinator, Central Tigray Zone)