Residents find reprieve in cheap duck oil

A group of young enterprising youth in Mabatini area of Mathare slums are cashing in on the rising demand for oil from ducks that they rear, a demand buoyed by the affordability and nutritional value of the oil compared to conventional refined oils.

The slow walking birds considered by many as dirty are valued by farmers in this region for their nutritious meat and more so, their oil rich skins. After completing his O level education in one of informal secondary schools in the area, 30 year Marcident Okello scouted for casual jobs in the city's industrial area in vain before settling on urban farming. '' I planted some vegetables in sacks and hanging gardens before the practise became popular amongst residents hence affecting my market. My cousin from upcountry brought me two ducks in 2008 and as a result, I now have 128 ducks,'' narrated Okello who is now sought after for the duck oil.

Dennis Amudavi another youth rearing the ducks for the oil took a change of heart after noticing the growing demand in the area. “We now get double benefits from this bird. Besides selling ducklings, young ones of a duck, we sell its meat and extract oil from their skins,” explained Amudavi. According to James Wachira, a nutritionist and veteran poultry keeper, duck fats contains less cholesterol than conventional vegetable oils a fact that has attracted more buyers to the oils.

To extract oil from the duck skin, the farmers slaughter the bird by cutting its throat half way and pressing it on the ground to avoid resistance until it dies. Just like chicken, it is immersed in hot water to loosen feathers and legs scales for easy pilling. The skin is now ready to be pilled. The farmers then use a sharp knife to pill the skin from the breast. The skin is then cleaned thoroughly. Duck is an aquatic bird hence the skin is oily to prevent water from penetrating into its body. The skin is then fried to extract the oil.

“Locals here are not interested in the duck meat but its cheap oil,'' explained Sharon Minayo who operates a kiosk along Mau Mau road that cuts across Mathare. She says that after buying the duck oil from Mathare Youth Development Agency (MYDA) that keeps and slaughter ducks for oil, she then sells them to households in Mathare and its environs. I weigh the liquid in assorted containers with the least being a 10 millilitre which goes for Sh5. According to Tracie Mueni who regularly buys this kind of oil, it is cheap and tasty compared to other conventional vegetable oils.

“The oil is affordable to me as it merit my daily food budget of Sh.100,'' said Alice Akinyi who buys Sh.10 oil daily to cook vegetables for her family of five comprising of her husband and three children. According to Minayo the vendor of the oil it is not easy selling the oil. She says that one is supposed to heat the oil regularly to maintain it in liquid state. She however maintains that the business is profitable as she obtains a profit of at least Sh600 from every 20 litre bucket she buys form the group at Sh1200.

Goerge Kisaka, Chairperson MYDA approximates the number of ducks slaughtered in a week at 140 which they sell to different restaurants within the city as well as extracting five buckets of oil which they sell to their clients.

According to a World Health Organization report, poor people mostly from developing world like Kenya fall prey to substandard oil products and duck is oil is deemed as a cheap and safe option to people who survive on less than a dollar a day.