To succeed in poultry, understanding the best farming methods is more important than level of investment. This was the overall impression after last week’s media tour of Kasolwe stock farm in Kamuli.
Poultry farming is one of the most delicate sub-sectors in agriculture because it requires a lot of dedication on top of continually learning new trends in breeding and technology. Oftentimes, poultry farmers have to endure several losses before gaining experience to master the trade.
In that regard, most success stories in poultry are those of farmers who invest heavily, leaving many smallholder farmers struggling to make a decent profit.
However, that is set to change in Busoga region, with many farmers venturing into poultry at the inspiration of the Kasolwe stock farm located in Bulawoli sub-county, Kamuli district.
Kasolwe sits on more than 2,000 hectares and was set up in 1965 to be a model farm to provide farmers in the region with the best farming methods, right from providing the top breeds, trainings in farming as well as marketing their produce.
Over the years, however, the stock farm’s impact on farming waned to the extent that the communities stopped seeking its support.
When Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, visited the farm in January last year, she was impressed with the upgrade of the facility even though she noted there was still a lot needed in order to transform communities in Busoga. “Now I can see there is some life; some time back you could come here and it was just a bush,” she said. “What is needed is to involve the communities and educating them about overcoming poverty instead of merely giving them good breeds.”
Over the past five months, the management of Kasolwe has engaged the communities through their leadership by equipping them with the best farming methods.
During the media tour at the farm led by Dr Franco Mubiru, the director Rural Poultry Program at the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Databank (NAGRC&DB), it was evident that livestock is the dominant activity. However, most of the farmers interacted with pointed to poultry as the silent success story.
There were dozens of farmers, some of whom had travelled from as far as Bugiri and Namutumba, to attend trainings in poultry farming. Afterwards, each participant was given free chicken to kickstart their poultry ventures. For one, Nicholas Isooba had been a poultry farmer for 10 years but was yet to make any significant profits in the venture until he started attending trainings at Kasolwe. “The first time I came here was in September, 2020 to buy kuroiler chicken for farming,” he says. “I was shocked when the management insisted to train me first before giving me the chicken. I hesitated at first but I’m grateful that has helped improve my farming skills because I now have more than 1,000 chicken.”
Meanwhile, Annet Namugga, a local poultry farmer, also credits Kasolwe for helping her gain skills in chicken rearing. “I paid close attention to the breeds that generated more money…I also learnt about common diseases and how to identify them, treat them and vaccination, among other things. I had never paid attention to this since my mind only focused on subsistence rather than commercial rearing of my birds,” she said. “From Kasolwe, I was also able get starter chicks thanks to the presence of a hatchery and a brooder,” Namugga echoed proudly.
These success stories are part of the road to transforming subsistence farmers into commercial farmers as a main objective of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in conjunction with the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Databank (NAGRC&DB). Serving as a centre of learning and excellency in livestock farming to boost knowledge sharing for increasing productivity in Busoga, many of the local farmers in the region have been able to boost their production quality and quantity.
Dr Peter Beine, the NAGRC&DB acting executive director, credits this to leap to Kasolwe’s new approach of “teaching them how to fish instead of providing them with fish.”
At Kasolwe are fresh poultry structures with capacity to keep 50,000 chickens.A total of three parent stock poultry rearing units have been set up to house dual purpose birds that are to be bred and effectively distributed to communities in the sub-region to enhance efforts towards poverty alleviation, improved health and improved livelihoods. In addition, there is a 100,000-egg capacity hatchery and brooder.
Dr Beine notes that the rural poultry program will lead to production of 1,040,000 chicks per year, benefitting 2,080 households with an estimated earning of Shs 10,000,000 per year, per household beneficiary.
To achieve this vision, Dr Mubiru has identified three stages of the value chain. Each has its own vision, which has been used to identify opportunities for stimulating systemic change within the poultry value chain.
“Primarily, we are targeting to improve poultry production and to help farmers get market. We are also equipping them to add value, increase efficiency and maintain quality to meet market requirements,” he says. “With that in place, preferences will shift whereby farmers will not be looking for market, but the market will look for them.”
Meanwhile, Dr Beine says that in the coming weeks, NAGRC&DB will start implementing a special youth program for training, skilling and equipping youths with everything they need to succeed in being sustainable income earners from the poultry enterprise.
“This way, we will significantly contribute to managing the youth demographic challenge we are facing as a country,” he says. From the ongoing activities at Kasolwe, it is hard to disagree with Dr Beine and if managed well, Kasolwe could become the poultry basket of the region and the country at large.