Gloria Wakeo, 15, is a special child. She is deaf but is a budding poultry farmer. Her parents, John Munene and Alice Kinya are amazed at how she has embraced poultry farming. She runs her own mini poultry at the family farm in Embu.
"Though my parents kept chicken for home consumption, I had an interest in commercial production. See, there was a poultry project at school which opened my eyes. From the farm, I learnt about the best breeds for high production and how to make more profits," Wakeo explains through her intepreter teacher Michael Nyaga.
Wakeo is in Class Eight at St Luke's Primary School for the Deaf in Gachoka. A member of the 4K-Club, Wakeo is helping her parents to commercialise the project. From her school project, she has learnt how to construct a poultry house, caring for chicks, feeding, identifying disease, collecting and storing eggs and keeping the house clean.
High cost of feeds
"My parents were not keen on some critical aspects. They never provided clean water to the local breeds we have at home, and they would release them every morning to go search for feeds on their own. But during the training, we were told chicken need a lot of clean water, and keeping their housing and environment clean is key in cutting spread of diseases and infections," Wakeo says.
Keziah Thari, the head teacher, says the poultry project was started in 2019 as a way to empower pupils with skills in poultry management.
Ms Thari explains that they wanted poultry to provide eggs for pupils to improve their nutrition, and also for sale to generate income.
"Keeping poultry is easy. We wanted once the pupils learn the skills, they can use them to start their own poultry in their homes," says Thari, who is also the 4K-Club patron.
To start off, they set aside Sh9,000 for purchase of first batch and construction of housing structures. But that was barely enough. The teachers had been trained by agricultural extension officers on best practices and they in turn imparted this knowledge on the learners. Coincidently, around that time, they met the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP), whose objectives is to strengthen community level institutions' ability to identify and implement investments that improve their agricultural productivity, food security and nutritional status. The NARIGP is a government project implemented through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation with funding support from the World Bank.
Thari says they applied for funding as vulnerable and marginalised group, and got Sh100,000 seed capital.
"The money was god sent because our idea could not be actualised due to lack of funds."
They used the money to purchase materials for constriction, 100 chicks and feeds. Thari reveals the poultry project has been a success, providing eggs and income to the school and also inspiring several students to start the same in their homes. One such student is Wakeo.
After seeing her passion and determination, her parents resolved to sponsor her project. "First, we constructed a good poultry house as per her instructions, then bought watering and feeding equipment, chick mash and 50 chicks," explains Munene.
Making sure the project is profitable has not been a walk in the park. Wakeo says the project started well. However, after two months, they were hit by a strange disease. She lost 10 chicks. The rest grew to maturity.
Her mother, says Wakeo loves being with the chicken.
"The first thing Wakeo does after waking up is rush to the poultry house to check on them. She starts by cleaning the house, then water and feeding troughs and then gives them feeds," says Kinya. At times, you will find the teenager sitting on one of the perches inside the poultry house, reading a book.
When in school, her parents or elder brother take care of her 50 birds. The biggest challenge so far is the high cost of poultry feeds. The teenager collects at least a tray of eggs a day, which she sells from the farm. Her mother says through selling eggs and other mature birds, Wakeo is able to buy stationery and personal effects.