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    A project to promote indigenous chicken in 2011 proved to be a turning point for Mary Muhatia, a widow from Kakamega County. The project which was initiated by the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP) aimed to promote the venture as a business among smallholder farmers in the region. Mary who started with 12 chickens now has a stock of more than 10,000 birds which she supplies to Kakamega Golf Hotel on a weekly basis earing her between Sh60, 000 to Sh90, 000 a week.

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    “When my husband died in 2010, I had to take care of my family of four, single-handedly. I took up odd jobs including working as a house help and selling illicit brews. At times I did casual labor at nearby farms, just to provide for my children” said Mary.

     “However when I heard about the training on indigenous chicken management by KAPP, I joined a group of farmers who had expressed interest in taking up the indigenous chicken project as a business.”

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    The farmer joined the local Itenyi poultry keeping group in Kakamega County and attended the KAPP training sessions on poultry housing, pest and disease control, poultry feeding and nutrition and implemented all that she learnt.

     She benefited from the linkages made to the local Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) among other stakeholders. The bank trained her group members on credit management, after which she borrowed Sh50, 000. She used the money to procure 500 improved indigenous chickens from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Naivasha at a cost of Sh100 per chick. She also improved her poultry house by purchasing feeders, drinkers and feeds.

     Six months later in late 2011 she was in business. Her first crop of birds was ready. This happened at a time when the service provider firm had just linked her group with the Kakamega Golf Hotel. The hotel required 200 birds every week, part of which she could supply. The firm later introduced her to the concept of relay stocking and she again procured a loan of Sh100, 000, which she used to improve her chicken house. She partitioned it into six units which she stocked at monthly intervals for sustained production of volumes demanded by the local market.

    This approach has converted the enterprise into a full time occupation for Mary. She currently maintains a stock of 10,000 birds. She sells between 100 and 150 birds per week to the Golf Hotel at Sh600 per bird. She also sells eggs. This gives her gross earnings of between Sh60, 000 and Sh90, 000 per week.

     Besides acquiring half an acre piece of land, she also bought a dairy cow that gives her milk which she sells at the local market. From her earnings, she has moved into dairy, piggery and goat rearing as a business. But she still retains indigenous birds which have enabled her educate her children comfortably in addition to earning income to sustain her livelihood.

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    Beekeepers can increase their honey yields by 100 fold by adopting the use of modern bee hives which allow the bees to build honeycomb into frames enabling them to be moved with ease.

    Kimosop Kibet, an Ogiek bee keeper farmer from Elburgon, Nakuru County for instance, has increased his honey harvests from seven kilograms to 800 kilograms after investing in 40 modern Langstroth bee hives.

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    The Langstroth bee hives have frames that are designed to prevent bees from attaching honeycombs and therefore enable easy management. In this, the Ogiek farmer who hitherto is a crop and livestock farmer has since increased his earnings to Sh400, 000 per harvest in a season up from Sh1050.

    The Ogieks have for a long time been relying on the wild to keep bees and sustain their livelihoods. But times have changed. The Mau Forest, which has been Ogiek’s traditional habitat, has been invaded by other communities. The invasion has depleted the forests resources including the habitat for bees. This greatly destabilized Kimosop and other traditional bee keepers in his area who depended on selling honey to sustain their livelihoods.

    “After visiting Baraka Agricultural College 2015, I was trained on improved hives which in turn would improve productivity as well as quality of my honey. I soon felt empowered after the trainings and decided to invest in the modern hives. The honey enterprise supports my family expenses and I am able to save some for other investments,” said Kimosop.

    The college produces improved Kenya top bar and Langstroth hives. They also have a processing unit which they use to train farmers on the production of quality honey and honey products.

    Kimosop and other 39 members from his community were trained on apiary management, honey harvesting techniques, marketing and market linkages. Other issues emphasized included apiculture as a business, business planning, honey processing, honeybee botany and forage establishment, environmental conservation, marketing strategies, product diversification of bee products and co-operative management.

    In mid-2015, he bought Langstroth bee hives from Nakuru town at a cost of Sh1500 each. Langstroth bee hives allow bees to build honey into frames, which can be moved with ease. The frames in the hive are designed to prevent bees from attaching honey combs meaning Kimosop extracts each individual comb without destroying them. Initially, he used to harvest honey by smoking the traditional bee hive but this method proved inefficient as it drove bees away and affected the quality of the honey.

    Kimosop in collaboration with other bee farmers in the area have opened a business outlet in Mariashoni, in Elburgon division of Molo. The outlet serves as a honey collection center as well as an outlet for local and regional markets, including Nairobi. They sell a kilogram of honey at Sh500.

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    Two thousand farmers in West Pokot County have increased their earnings from Sh55m to Sh215m in 2017 by adopting artificial insemination services, good feeding routines, access to extension services and organized marketing system.

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    These practices have also increased their milk production from about 20,000 liters to 35,000 liters per day.

    “For a long time, farmers in the region have experienced low milk production occasioned by poor feeding regimes due to insufficient fodder and pastures, frequent disease outbreaks, hawking of milk, inappropriate cattle breeds and inadequate artificial insemination services” said Samuel Maiyo an extension officer at the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP).

    “With support from KAPP, farmers are able to develop workable agribusiness interventions to address the identified dairy production and marketing challenges.”



    Milk collection at Kabichbich village, West Pokot county/PHOTO/KAPP


    The farmers were educated through barazas (public meetings) where those interested were enrolled as members of common interest groups to enable them increase their incomes through a series of well laid out interventions. This included providing technical guidance with the aim of raising milk production from four to eight liters per cow per day.

    The farmers were also challenged to use existing cooperative societies to market their milk instead of hawking. Besides this, they were trained on: pasture management, feed formulation, pest and disease management, clean milk handling, group dynamics, record keeping, breed improvement, gender mainstreaming, environmental and social safeguards and business plan development.

    At least 50 per cent of the farmers who participated in the exercise have since established pastures and fodder crops such as Napier grass, Boma Rhodes grass, oats and lucaena species to supplement natural pastures while another number of farmers have adopted zero-grazing as a production system.

    Incidences of disease infections and pest attacks have gone down through improved livestock husbandry practices like spraying and deworming.

    With the creation of grant management structures and business plan development, farmers have been empowered and are able to manage their own resources. They are also able to keep their own records thus enabling them to determine whether they are making profits or not.

    “Nowadays our wives no longer beg for assistance from us. This is because they can fend for themselves through the sale of evening milk. They no longer hawk the milk. We are happy as they are also economically empowered,” says Charles Rumot, a dairy farmer in West Pokot.

    These sentiments were confirmed by the West Pokot county dairy value chain chairman, Pius Lokita. “Our milk production has increased compared to the times before KAPP started working with us. Our farmers have started engaging in other developments like building better houses and buying better dairy cows”








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