Farmers reap big from Wezesha Kirinyaga empowerment projects - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 24 December 2020

Farmers reap big from Wezesha Kirinyaga empowerment projects

 

It's a bright Thursday afternoon when the Star visits Janet Mburia's home in Kutus, Kirinyaga county.

In her vast compound stand two strong iron sheet structures surrounded by wire mesh supported by wooden posts.

The clucking of chickens fills the air. Hundreds of birds live in the hen houses. A  middle-aged woman enters the compound and heads straight into the chicken houses.

She is Catherine Githaka, chair of the 28-member Mwireri Women Self-Help Group who are engaged in poultry farming in Kirinyaga county.

It’s her week on duty together with three members to tend to what we later learn are 1,250 layers.

They clean the houses, feed the chickens and collect the eggs amounting to an average of 30 trays per day.

Mwireri is one of 32 poultry groups spread across all the 20 wards of Kirinyaga county under the Wezesha  Kirinyaga empowerment projects, an initiative of the county government.

Each group rears about 1,250 layers.

Poultry farming is one of the four value chain projects under the Wezesha programme, a partnership between the county government and the World Bank.

Other projects are tomatoes, dairy and avocado farming.

Githaka says the project has transformed her life as well as those of other members.

The project that started in March and was commissioned in August by Governor Anne Waiguru targets the youth and women.

“This project is a true testimony of how 'Wanjiku' has directly benefited from the county government. Through the project, we are able to fulfil our everyday needs as well as those of our families. Our financial status has also turned around tremendously,” Githaka says.

Mburia in whose compound the chicken houses stand says for five years she had practised poultry business but never reaped the fruits of her labour as she made little profit.

Under Wezesha, however, she says her group is able to make much more profits thanks to the support of the county government.

“For the first six months after the project started, the county government supported us in rearing the chicks. They supplied us free feed on a weekly basis as well as equipped us with the necessary training on how to care for the tender chicks," she says.

A member of Mkulima Bora group collects eggs taken from a chicken house
A member of Mkulima Bora group collects eggs taken from a chicken house
Image: WANGECHI WANG’ONDU

Earlier in the day, we had visited another poultry farm in Ndia, Kirinyaga West, accompanied by Titus Maina, the chairman of the 32 groups that have formed a cooperative.

Maina is the chair of Mkulima Bora poultry group in Ndia. He says they collect an average of 30 trays of eggs per day, which translates to 900 trays per month.

The eggs are taken to a storage facility in Kiaga where the county government through Kirinyaga Investment Development Authority sells them on behalf of the groups.

As we carry on with our interview, a vehicle loaded with sacks of poultry feed drives into the compound. The feed is sourced from Kiaga, where the eggs are sold.

“We take all our eggs to Kiaga, where they are sold at Sh280 per tray. We are grateful we work with clients who abide by our prices and who pay before they are served,” Maina says.

He says the Department of Livestock consistently equips the farmers with the necessary information on chicken rearing.

The farmers work with the Department of Veterinary Services to ensure the chickens are free of diseases.

When the birds hit their productivity peak, they will be sold for meat and another brood of chicks will be bought.

“Under the current project, we sourced chicks from Isinya, Kajiado county, under competitive bidding, where the pricing was Sh300 per a month-old chick,” Maina said.

Image: WANGECHI WANG’ONDU

County executive for Agriculture Jacqueline Mugo hails the project as a milestone and a learning experience for the county and the community involved.

“Under this pilot project, we encountered several challenges like during the formation of the groups we had to resolve the conflicts that cropped up in some groups. Also, it was a gruelling task convincing some of the group members to change their mindsets and more so the youth who for long gave farming a wide berth due to a long-held misconception that farming is not profitable," she says.

"We also had to keep an eye on some groups so that they could catch up with our project’s intended mission.  All in all, it has been a learning experience to both the county government and the community.”

Mugo says through the project a lot has been achieved. The farmers have managed up to produce the projected one million eggs per month.

She says with the expected rollout of an additional 45 groups in phase two and another 45 groups next year, the project will produce up to three million eggs per month.

“Our clientele is wide. This is inclusive of our local egg business entrepreneurs who buy the eggs from us. We also have clients from various counties and so far Nairobi is our biggest client.”

The county assembly is drafting a Wezesha policy which will guarantee the project's continuity regardless of changes in the county leadership.

“The other thing is training. As long as our farmers are being pushed to produce more through the training, workshops, trade fairs which we do often at the grassroots level, they would like the programme to be sustainable, ” Mugo says.

The Wezesha project has attracted the attention of other counties which have placed requests for benchmarking trips.

Mugo says her department is working on reinforcing the other three value chain projects. The tomato project is taking shape. The county intends to put up a Sh100 million tomato processing plant in Kangai ward.

“We are at a very advanced level as far as the other three projects are concerned. For the tomatoes, we are helping the farmers construct greenhouses that will enable them to grow suitable varieties. This is as we await the final approval by the World Bank who are our partners in the project so that we can commence construction of the plant.”

The county plans to increase the production of milk from an average of two litres to eight litres per cow by acquiring better breeds and improving the pastures.

Mugo says the county intends to increase the number of avocado trees as well as promote certified nurseries from where the farmers will get high-quality seedlings.

The Wezesha Kirinyaga project has transformed the lives of many residents who rely on farming for their livelihood.

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