How FIPS-Africa’s Village-based Advisors are helping farmers to improve incomes from their indigenous chickens by reducing chick mortality

The number one cause of death of young chicks in Makueni County is predation by the dreaded eagle. Farmers may lose up to 100% of their young chicks to birds of prey in the first three weeks of their lives because they allow them to stray far from the house. Considering that a mature chicken can be sold for KES 500 or more, the eagle is responsible for the theft of millions of Shillings per year.

FIPS-Africa’s Village-based Advisors (VBAs) in Makueni County in Eastern Kenya have been advising farmers to prevent thief of young chicks by eagles by stopping them from straying from the homestead, and also by painting young chicks with GV (Gentian Violet). This Mother hen has had her chicks dyed with GV and has been tethered by a piece of string to prevent her from straying to danger areas. She hatched 8 chicks and all 8 chicks have survived!

In addition to advising farmers how to control predation, VBAs are also assisting farmers to gain access to a thermostable vaccine to control the Newcastle disease.

As a result of these simple interventions, FIPS-Africa is helping thousands of farmers in this semi-arid part of Eastern Kenya to increase their chicken populations. Women, who own the indigenous chickens, and their families are benefiting from increased consumption of meat and eggs. They are also generating income from sale of chickens and eggs to buy food and other basic necessities, and even pay school fees for their children.

Can the traditional “Kavila Cha Iviu” sorghum variety make a comeback in Makueni County?

The “Kavila Cha Iviu” sorghum variety used to be grown by most small-holder farmers in Makueni County in Kenya. It is drought-tolerant and is fairly resistant to attack by birds. Following a series of crop failure in consecutive seasons due to drought, many farmers lost their seeds, and switched to planting maize when it was distributed as relief food.

However, maize is not well-adapted to the low and poorly-distributed rainfall in the County, and farmers frequently experience crop failure. There have been many initiatives to promote improved high-yielding, dwarf, white-grained sorghum varieties such as “Gadam”, but these are loved by and attacked by birds, resulting in low yields.  Therefore, FIPS-Africa has started to distribute small (50 g) seed packs of the traditional “Kavila Cha Iviu” variety to encourage farmers to grow the variety again.

In the current 2016/7 long rainy season in Makueni County, rainfall started late and ended early. Most maize crops have failed, but farmers with the “Kavila Cha Iviu” variety are expecting to harvest grain. They say they will increase the area planted to the variety next season.

This work complements FIPS-Africa’s campaign to vaccinate chickens against the Newcastle disease. The sorghum can be fed to chickens which can be sold to purchase maize grain, which farmers now prefer to eat.