In a dry region where keeping livestock like camels, goats and cattle, is tied to culture, it is rare to see farmers engaging in poultry farming. Noordin Elias Jama, a businessman in Wajir County, is one of the pastoralists that decided to go against the grain and is reaping the rewards.
Wajir is among the 23 Arid and Semi-Arid (Asal) areas counties, with majority of residents living from pastoralism and small-scale farming.
Slowly some pastoralists like Jama are changing the narrative by embracing poultry farming and moving away from pastoralism to boost their incomes.
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In 2021, after doing intense market research and engaging veteran poultry keepers, Jama started a poultry farm christened Ej's Poultry and Agro Farmers located in Bulla Madina, Wajir East.
"My people have lost a lot of animals because of the drought that is now very common in this area. I was moved when I saw how helpless people were after losing all animals to hunger. To help my people, I was challenged to come up with an alternative source of livelihood, a venture that needs little capital to start and is profitable. I settled on poultry farming and the rewards are evident," Jama says.
At the farm, they keep day-old chicks, week-old and month-old chicks all vaccinated and ready for sale.
From his more than 700 chickens, Mr Jama collects almost 1,000 eggs and sells 650 while the remainder is placed in the machine for hatching.
The hatchery machine can hold a maximum of 528 eggs per cycle. His clients for eggs and meat are the big hotels in the area.
His business has picked up fast because many people are moving away from red meat because of the health risks, and opting for healthy options like white meat.
"There are a lot of lifestyle diseases nowadays like diabetes and high blood pressure and many people want healthy diets to stay strong. Poultry farming in Wajir is also profitable because not many people have discovered it," Jama says.
Being a pioneer of chicken farming in the area, his farm is now a demo farm of sorts. Students from various learning institutions in the area visit to receive first-hand training on best practices in poultry keeping.
Though he has broken even, he still faces some challenges.
The high cost of feeds is the biggest challenge and to overcome that, he makes his own feeds through the help of an animal feeds expert.
"The cost of transporting the raw materials is still a challenge," he says.
Wajir is a hot region hence heat stress is also a big problem for the birds. To overcome that hurdle, he ensures that his poultry structure is well-built and ventilated to ensure that air circulates freely, to keep the temperatures low.
When he started, disease attacks were common. Luckily, he has learned how to keep diseases at bay by ensuring that all the birds are vaccinated from the chick stage and he follows up with vaccination regimes at all critical ages.
He also adheres to strict biosecurity measures, which he has learned from veteran poultry keepers.
"I always ensure that the poultry units are clean and dry. I also limit visitors from the units because they can transfer diseases from outside to the birds. If you must enter the chicken units, you must first step into a foot bath that has disinfectant."