A primary school in Siaya County has been hailed for integrating fish and poultry farming.
Teachers at Tatro Primary School have won praise for making chicken lay and hatch eggs in coops erected over fish ponds.
When the school embraced fish farming, teachers thought it was wise to incorporate poultry as another source of income.
Tatro now boasts 20 standard fish ponds which occupy almost half the school compound.
On arrival at the school, we found pupils busy attending to a flock of chicken in coops erected supported over the ponds.
The cocks kept on crowing and chasing after the hens, in another corner, a flock of layers feasted on fish remains on special troughs.
Some of the pupils were using nets to capture and separate male and female mud-fish in one of the ponds.
“We constructed the cages in the ponds because fish like feeding on chicken droppings,” said Michael Hadulo, a teacher at the school.
According to him, they chose semi-intensive system (semi-free range system) of poultry farming because it is less labour intensive.
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In this case the birds are left to scavenge during the day and later they move into a poultry hutch.
Hadulo explains that chicken kept under semi free range system are more productive compared to free range since supplemental feed is offered.
During the day the birds roam in a fenced-in area enabling monitoring while keeping predators at bay.
“All we need is feeding and drinking troughs and laying boxes.”
Usually, the birds remain confined during hot morning hours and later they are let out to scavenge outside in the cooler part of the day according to Hadulo.
The school suffered a setback in the beginning after all birds they had stocked died due to cold.
“We were forced to bring in an expert to reconstruct the coops before we restocked,” said the teacher.
Experts insist that the coops must be designed in a special manner to allow chicken droppings to fall directly into the ponds and allow fish hiding under the poultry structure to feed on it.
“Usually, fish will be resting under the cages and will be able to eat the droppings,” said Khwisero Sub-County fisheries officer Churchill Oriko.
He said pond water so 'fertilized' water can then be applied on vegetables, bananas or Napier grass.
Both the school and several farmers around Khwisero practising integrated fish and poultry farming usually sell their birds between Sh500 and Sh1000 depending on the weight of the bird.
People visit the school to buy the chicken and fish. Others visit the farm to learn about farming.
A small fee is charged for those who seek to be taught poultry or fish farming.
Tatro headmaster Gabriel Owiegi said the venture has enabled the school roll-out a sustainable feeding programme for its pupils.
“We have a population of 500 pupils and all of them get their lunch in school, the income we get from the birds and fish is enough to sustain the programme,” said Mr Owiegi.
“We are working towards expansion of the project so that we can produce more fish and chicken and get higher returns.”
Many a times, pupils are fed on fresh fish and chicken during lunch time,
“We also have milk from our dairy cattle and green vegetables which keep them healthy and strong,” said Hadulo.
Pupils are actively involved in agriculture in the school and encouraged to replicate what they learn at home.
“By so doing, we have influenced families to embrace poultry and fish farming.”
Pupils interviewed said they never take agriculture as a punishment as is the case in other schools.
The school is a beneficiary of the defunct National Government Economic Stimulus project (ESP) and the Millennium villages project.
So far, the school has started reaching out to locals so that they could embrace the initiative as a source of livelihood.