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Climate shocks haven't spared poultry keepers

Smart Harvest By Dr Joel Khobondo | November 28th 2020 at 12:50:00 GMT +0300
To conserve energy, the medium and large farms should use of low-energy bulbs which emit less heat in brooders.[David Njaaga, Standard]

The world faces the hazards from climate change due to Green House Gas emission.

Greenhouse gas pollution originates from agriculture industry, forestry and other land use. Kenya’s total greenhouse gas emissions stand at 73 metric tonnes carbon dioxide gas equivalents in 2010. Of this, 75 per cent is from the land use.

Therefore, climate change is a threat to poultry production due to the negative impact on quality of feed crop and forage, water availability, diseases, biodiversity, agro ecological zone, food security and heat stress.

The effects of heat stress alone on poultry results in lower feed nutrient utilisation, reduced feed intake, compromised production, low reproduction efficiency, deteriorated health and high mortality. These factors affects  production and lowers profitability forcing farmers to adapt. Adaptation is the mechanism by which farmers adjust to new environments or to changes in their current environment to sustain profitable poultry production.

Adaptation measures involve production and management system modifications, breeding strategies, institutional and policy changes, science and technology advances and changing farmers’ perceptions. Therefore, adaptation strategies can improve the resilience of poultry productivity to climate change. In the wake of climate change, here are strategies that poultry farmers employ to remain a float:

Producers’ management systems modifications

Adaptation to heat stress are dictated by size of the farm and operation. Small farms in Kenya and elsewhere can invest in traditional strategies such as early stocking, frequent litter change and raising of local genotypes/breeds. More small scale farmers are now rearing the naked neck chicken due to their ability to dissipate heat.

The medium and large farms can adopt modern technologies such as air and water ventilation and use of low-energy bulbs which emit less heat. Giving the birds vitamins and medicines when they are sick, litter spreading and de-caking of the chicken houses, also helps. Intergrated poultry-fish farming and pasture based poultry production systems are also beneficial.

Breeding strategies

Research and higher learning institutions like Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Egerton university are involved in development of climate smart chicken breed and improvement of indigenous chicken productivity that are resilient to hot temperatures. The demand for this chicken are ever increasing.

Institutional and policy changes

The poultry subsector has benefited from a number of public and development projects that addressed increased productivity and profitability. Key among them is the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) that has prioritised the chicken value chain.

The National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP), has also prioritised the chicken value chain.

State Department of Livestock Development, the lead body championing change in the poultry sector has made progress. Under the big four agenda, the department is building hatcheries for multiplication of adapted chicken breeds, modern slaughterhouses and encouraging farmers to form cooperatives. These initiatives will help increase producers involvement in poultry as a diversification strategy hence provide more climate resilient food and income source. For example, despite the negative impact of climate risk, chicken production can mitigate effect of drought on food security. 

At international level, the removal of taxes by East African Community on raw material for the manufacture of animal feeds has encouraged private investment in feed industry. 

[The writer is Director, AGLIVEDS Consultancy Ltd, lecturer, livestock specialist]

KALRO Poultry Farming

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