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Andrew Makatiani and his wife Lillian Muhabi at their farm in Eshitungu in Kakamega town. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]
Farming involves a lot of toiling with no guarantee of profits. Breaking even may take years and several false starts. But with consistency and determination, you reap the fruits.

Andrew Makatiani and his wife Lilian Serenge — who run Lianfam Africa Ltd in Musonga village, Kakamega county — have seen it all in poultry business and having persevered, they made their first million shilling. And as they share with Smart Harvest, it has not been a walk in the park.

“You know when people come here and see this huge investment, they think it happened overnight. But far from it. It’s been plenty of tough moments behind the scenes. But we never gave up,” says Makatiani, an Accounts and Information Technology graduate.

Because of their brand name and investment capacity, they have won lucrative contracts from the county government and numerous awards and visitors keep streaming in to learn how they do it.

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In 2017, they entered into a contract with the county government of Kakamega to brood 4,750 day-old chicks until they are a month old.

In 2019, they made revenues almost hitting Sh5 million from selling chicks.

“Last year was great for us. It is the year our business reaped maximum benefits. That was a big deal for us and a vote of confidence that finally our sweat is paying off,” says the farmer.

But it has not always been this smooth for the couple. They began with only 14 kienyeji chicken four years ago with many false starts.

Aggressive marketing

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“Back then I was jobless and I thought poultry would be my ticket out of poverty. From the parent stock, I got 25 month–old chicks and sold each at Sh220,” recalls Makatiani.

Along the journey disease struck and he lost a number of chicks.

“That was a huge blow and it set us back couple of thousands. But we picked the pieces, learnt from our mistakes and moved on,” he says.

There was no turning back. Gradually, the numbers increased to 300 chicks.

To ensure they have a regular clientele base every season, his wife brought in her marketing prowess and aggressively sought for buyers from far and beyond using social media and other networks.

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“My wife is a great marketer and she put out her skills to ensure we have a ready market whenever we had produce to sell. In Western, the market is flooded with poultry farmers and cheap imports from Uganda. To navigate such tough waters, you need intense marketing of your products,” says Makatiani.

Cheap imports have been one of their biggest setbacks but they found a way to survive. With possibility of being edged by cheap imports, the couple strategically opted to specialise in brooding.

“We learnt the hard way. We realised if we were to stay in business, we had to change our model and stick to brooding. To sharpen my skills on this, I have attended several training in brooding and even visited the best managed poultry farms in Germany,” says Makatiani.

They have invested in an automated brooder with a capacity to hold up to 5,000 chicks.  

Unlike traditional brooding methods such as the use of charcoal stove where farmers only estimate the temperature, the digital brooder gathers actual data which is automated to fit temperature requirements.

“When the temperatures are high, the lights go off automatically and when it is too cold, the digital brooder will adjust temperatures accordingly,” Makatiani explains. They hatch eggs on the farm and take care of the chicks, observing recommended vaccination and proper feeding programme.

But the venture has not been without challenges.

“Sometimes, delayed payments by the county governments threaten to cripple my business but we have to look for alternative sources of income to remain afloat,” he says. Other challenges include diseases and expensive feeds. 

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