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How 7 graduates rose above cash issues to set up poultry empire

Isaac Lumbasi, Wycliffe Lubale and James at Ebubole village in Mumias East on April 13, 2021. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

After completing their studies at the university, seven graduates from Ebubole village in Mumias East subcounty, Kakamega, found themselves in a tight corner.

Tired of being seen as a burden by their family, they combined forces and formed Terry Agri centre, a self-help group, and started table banking in 2018.

The seven friends include James Ndege,  a graduate from Kenyatta University in Dryland Agriculture and Enterprise Development, Nicholas Ambembe with a degree in General Agriculture from Egerton University, Rose Okello with a degree in Statistics and Programming and Penninah Ocholla with a degree in Finance. Others are Josephine Wanzala, Isaac Lumbasi and Wycliffe Lubale.

Pool resources

To start off, they each contributed Sh500 every week from the menial jobs they did and after 10 months, they had saved a total of Sh140, 000.

Luckily, along the way Rose, Nicholas and Penninah secured well-paying jobs and used their payslips to secure a loan of Sh250, 000 each totaling to Sh750, 000.

“We used the money to buy two pieces of land in Kakamega Central and Mumias East at a cost of Sh500, 000 and Sh350, 000 respectively. The plots were half an acre each. After securing the plots, we decided to try a hand in poultry farming as we shared a common passion in the same,” says Ndege.

Although they were from different areas, Ndege says they made sure that they had a get-together meeting every weekend to strategise.

They agreed to start a joint poultry project in January 2019.

Ndege, who now manages the project given his rich background in agriculture, says they put up a makeshift structure in Ebubole village in Mumias East where they had bought one of the plots and started with 250-improved Kienyeji chicken that was two weeks old.

“We bought the chicks from Engokho poultry farm in Bungoma at a cost of Sh150 per chick totaling to Sh37,500. After three months, we sold them to leading hotels in Kakamega and Mumias towns at a cost of Sh450 each and got Sh112, 500,” explains Ndege.

According to Ndege, they used the money to buy 1,000 day-old chicks at Sh100 each and the balance used it to buy feeds. The birds were all layers.

They also took part of their savings and bought an additional 500 day-old chicks and this one they kept specifically for meat. They sold most of the birds for events like weddings, funerals and birthday parties though this attracted low-profit margins.

James Ndege, who graduated from Kenyatta University where he studied Dryland Agriculture and Enterprise Development. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

First tough months

To boost the survival of the birds, they follow a strict vaccination schedule.

“On day one, we gave the chicks Marex vaccine and at seven days old, we administered gumboro vaccine and at day 14 we gave them the Newcastle vaccine. At three weeks we repeated Gumboro and then Newcastle vaccine at week four,” says Ndege.

“The first five months is not a walk in the park. You spend from your pocket. Our savings were almost drying up but when they started hatching eggs, we got relief as we used part of the money to buy the feeds."

For the first seven days, they fed the chicks on starter mash and changed to chick mash then to growers mash when they were two months. They changed to layers mash when they started seeing the first eggs in September 2019.

 “We would collect between 700 and 820 eggs daily totaling to about 19,200 eggs a month. We would hatch three quarters of the eggs and the balance we sold it to the locals at Sh25 each since they were fertilised eggs,” says Ndege.

Terry Agri Centre now has almost 4,000 birds in different stages.

How Covid-19 affected business?

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, hotels were closed and the government applied breaks on events like weddings and birthday parties as well as restricting the number of people who should attend funerals.

According to Isaac Lumbasi, to remain afloat, they went back to the drawing board and started using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram to market their products.

Lumbasi says they also had to change tactics and ventured big time into the chick hatching business.

“It’s expensive to rear chicken until maturity and yet there is no market. During the pandemic, we discovered that chick hatching was a lucrative business. We have three incubators with a hatching capacity of 528 eggs meaning every month, we hatch more than 1,500 chicks,” said Lumbasi.

On value addition, Lumbasi says they also started slaughtering the birds and sell it to the locals in pieces.

 Wycliffe Lubale says they also grow sukuma wiki, Amaranth, Nightshade and pumpkins, which they feed on the birds and sell it to the locals.

The team has stationed their headquarters in Kakamega and also offer extension services to farmers in Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga and Busia counties.

So far, the biggest challenge they face is high cost of feeds and electricity especially for the hatching of chicks.

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