Success story: Smallholder poultry producers

Smallholder broiler production has really taken off in the rural areas on the back of a growth of poultry production more broadly in the country, writes IAN SCOONES.

The poultry industry in Zimbabwe has restructured from large, high-tech operations to a much more diverse set of small production units. While a few large operations exist, including the well-established companies such as Irvines and Suncrest and some newcomers such as Lunar Chickens run by former Reserve Bank chief, Gideon Gono, most operations are much smaller. And this is the segment that is driving the new poultry industry in the rural areas.

In 2014 we did a survey across our 16 A1 and A2 sites in Masvingo province. We found 13 new broiler businesses, and one new egg production business. All were individual household based enterprises, except one group project. These complement the almost universal keeping of (mostly indigenous) chickens for meat and eggs. These operations stand out for their scale (most had around 50-100 birds), and the level of inputs required.

Case Study 1

Mrs AM, 44, in Wondedzo. I started the poultry project in April 2013 with funds from farming. I started with 50 birds but numbers kept going up. At present I have 100 broilers. I employ a casual worker but my husband assists to do the work, as well as children when they are on holidays. Broiler rearing knowledge comes from several sources. My husband qualified as Ordinary Master Farmer. I also attend development meetings, field days and area shows. In the last 12 months the chicken budget was as shown below.

I source drugs and feeds from Masvingo town from shops that include Chifefe hardware, Metro Peach and Farm Supplies. Coccidiosis is the most common disease, which resulted in some mortalities. I sold 444 broiler units in the last 12 months. Some broilers were sold locally but most were sold in Masvingo town in Mucheke township, the ‘train market’ and food outlets all over town. Broiler income in the past 12 months:

Marketing challenges include bad debtors and late debt repayments that negatively affect smooth running of the business. Some transporters charge steeply. Competition is stiff during public holidays at Christmas, Easter and Heroes’ Day. During such times I keep more broilers but try to quickly clear the stock to avoid extra feed costs. The urgency to sell quickly sometimes results in risky buyers easily getting birds on credit but taking their time to repay. Income from my broiler project was used to purchase day old chicks from Mitchells, to pay school fees and groceries and to buy clothes for the family. Future plans include building more chicken houses and establishing permanent markets which buy in bulk, such as boarding schools and Masvingo town hotels.

Case Study 2

We started our Wondedzo broiler group project in June 2013 with 25 day old chicks donated by the then aspiring MP for Masvingo North, Mr Marapira; now Deputy Minister of Agriculture. This was a God-sent because we had always wanted to venture into a project to raise money for school fees, groceries and clothing for our families. Mr Marapira also provided feed and drugs to cover 10 birds up to marketing. We have not looked back and expanded the project housed at N’s homestead. . At present we have 50 birds. We operate the project on a roster basis providing our own labour. In the last 12 months the following costs were incurred:

Inputs were sourced from Masvingo town shops, including Musa Hardware, Farm Supplies and Bilcro. When we buy day olds four extra chicks are added per 100 to offset mortalities. In the last 12 months we sold 110 broilers as follows:

Profits are shared among members who use the money to cover family basic needs. Problems faced include lack of finance to build proper housing. At present we house the day old chicks in a mobile mesh wire cage. After two weeks we place them in a bigger fixed cage at home. Watering for the birds is a big challenge as water is fetched from Mutirikwe river 2 km away. We want to expand and reach out to boarding schools, supermarkets and food outlets in Masvingo town.

Case Study 3

My name is Mr M. I work as a labourer on this A2 farm in Northdale with 3 others. I manage their broilers in addition to other work I do at this farm which includes horticulture, managing cattle and a piggery which has just started. The broiler project started in 2013. The farmer decided they could make better money from some of their maize produce through feeding it to broilers and selling meat instead of grain.

Another reason for keeping broilers was the quick turn over in this kind of business. It takes just six weeks for a batch to get marketable. A minimum of 100 and a maximum of 700 broilers are kept at the farm at different times since 2013. The last batch had 400 broilers and only 36 remain. Mr M himself does the purchasing of broilers feeds and chemicals. Inputs are bought from Pro Feeds and Masvingo Farm Supplies. Straight feeds such as broiler starter mash are complemented by mixes of concentrates and home grown maize. Breakdown of inputs for a 100 batch of broilers is shown below:

The broiler value chain involves raising them here at the farm and selling meat at their Njeremoto Superette in Masvingo town. I am not privy to selling prices in Masvingo but I think they fetch around $8 per bird. Here on the farms, locals in Northdale and Salem also buy some live broilers at the Farmgate at $7 each. Some income from broilers returns to the farm as our wages. The four of us earn $150 each. Some of the money gets ploughed back into the business – purchase of new broiler stock, buying feeds and drugs.

Challenges

Challenges faced by the broiler business were mostly the high price of concentrate feeds and transport costs to the market. Masvingo is more than 60 kms away. Mr M owns a pickup truck. Diseases are not a problem here because Mr M is a former Agritex head with vast experience. Diseases get controlled quickly before they spread. The family wants to scale up broiler production by increasing numbers in batches from 100 to 200. More broiler pens will be built. They also want to send me for training courses on broiler management.

Case Study 4

My name is Mrs M from Clare farm in Gutu district. My husband died recently. The project started in 2011 with seed money sent by our son who works in America. We employ two permanent workers for the project and other general farm hands. They earn USD$80 per month each. We keep a minimum of 100 broilers and a maximum of 300. Expenses for the last batch of 300 birds are in the table below:

We buy day old chicks from Tree Wood in Masvingo town and feeds from Pro Feeds also in Masvingo town. Small amounts of inputs are bought from Chatsworth shops. The major market is Rufaro boarding school where most of the broilers were sold for USD$7 each followed by local farmers, Business is brisk during public holidays. We sold 457 broilers in the last 12 months which realised USD$3199. The family ate 25 broilers and 16 died of diseases.

During the rainy season and cold weather chicks develop problems of weak legs due to lack of sunlight. Unfortunately most of the money was used to pay hospital bills for my late husband. Main challenges apart from the loss of my husband include the high cost of bought feeds and the cost of transporting these to the farm. My future plan is to build good fowl runs for broilers, increase flock size and venture into new markets such as restaurants and supermarkets.

Links to day old chick producers are key – and the presence of the Mitchell’s farm operation in Masvingo is an essential part of the wider chain. This is a large-scale, white-owned commercial farm that is widely valued by people across the region.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba. – This post appeared first on Zimbabweland

Post published in: Agriculture

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