For most smallholder farmers in Amhara region, chicken production plays a significant role as a source of supplementary income and quality diet for household consumption. The business is suitable for smallholder farmers as it requires little initial capital, small space, and it is manageable by women and children.
Most (> 99%) of chicken products (egg and meat) in the region come from traditional village production system, which mainly use indigenous chicken ecotypes, and operate with minimal input costs. This traditional village production system, despite its significant share, is challenged by a number of factors: lower production and productivity (small number of eggs per head and poor growth rate), high chick mortality, and a lack of market focus. These mean that the supply of chicken meat and eggs in the region is far below the demand of the fast-growing human population. So, the current price of an egg and a live chicken in Bahair Dar town is about 2.50 and 150 ETB respectively, which is unaffordable to most poor dwellers.
Government organizations and NGOs in the region have attempted to improve the production and productivity of village chicken production by introducing improved exotic breeds with feeding, health care and housing packages. However, most of these efforts were unsuccessful, mainly due to lower adaptability of exotic animals to the traditional management conditions. Parallel to the village chicken improvement program, urban and peri-urban chicken business development is promoted in the region. A few entrepreneurs in and around Bahir Dar town are engaged in pullet production (as an input supplier to village chicken production), broiler production or egg production. This urban and peri-urban chicken production has its own challenges as well.
The Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains (LIVES) project recently conducted a rapid assessment on the status of chicken production in West Gojjam Zone, one of the project intervention sites. The assessment identified some major challenges such as lack of quality poultry rations, serious skill and knowledge gaps of producers to run chicken farm as a business, financial limitations, shortages in the supply of day-old chicks and veterinary drugs, inadequate health service provision and poor market linkages. Huge differences among producers in terms of knowledge and skills, financial capacity and access to market information were also identified.
To mitigate these production and marketing challenges, the project facilitated the creation of learning forums/platforms. The first activity was to organize innovation platform meetings, which help producers, processors, traders and experts share their experiences, views, challenges, and success or failure stories.
These innovation platform meetings laid a foundation for the creation of a the ‘Cherechera chicken producers’ association’. The association was established as most of the challenges identified proved to be beyond the capacity of individual value chain actors. The association has 19 members, of which 11 are women; it has five task forces where each is mandated to tackle specific challenges and find solutions on: 1) feed and nutrition, 2) capacity development, 3) marketing, 4) health management and 5) legal advice.
Based on the identified knowledge and skill gaps, LIVES and its stakeholders carried out demand-driven training on health management, breed selection, housing, meat processing, feed formulation and feeding for the value chain actors in the association.
Association members are already benefiting from sharing experiences among themselves on chick management, reducing mortality rate from 80% to 5%. For eggs, the members have learned that the key to getting yellow yokes, which is most preferred by consumers, is feeding green leaves. They are tackling supply problems by organizing themselves to carry out bulk purchase of feeds and day-old chicks from Debrezeit and Hawassa.
The association has set up a traditional saving and credit system ‘Iqqub’ to purchase required inputs. Each member contributes 1,000 ETB/week. The association has also realized the benefits of collective marketing, contractual marketing arrangements at sustained supply of products and market linkage promotion and thus is working towards building the linkages with potential buyers.
So far, association members are very much encouraged by the capacity development support LIVES gives and they plan to establish a feed processing plant and hatcheries at Bahir Dar town to serve their own needs and supply quality feed and day-old chicks at affordable prices to others.
Results show that value chain actors can innovatively solve their own challenges through innovating, learning from one another and demand-driven capacity development.
Contributed by LIVES Team – Amhara region
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