Poultry farmers in the Southern Highlands regions of Mbeya, Ruvuma, Njombe and Iringa are making it big in the business, thanks to modern poultry rearing skills offered by Silverlands Tanzania Ltd.
Through its poultry training centre in Ihemi, the company offers farmers a 5-day training on keeping Sasso chickens. Silverlands then gives the farmers Sasso chicks on credit, which they repay when they start making money from the birds.
The project, which targets women in poor rural wards aims at improving the living standards of women and their families through distribution of better chickens. The intention is to enable poultry keepers get a better income and improved nutrition.
Acquiring modern skills
Mary Sagamilwa, a resident of Mbinga District in Ruvuma Region is one of the beneficiaries. When she learnt about Silverlands’ project, the public servant who had been rearing chickens for a long time sent her daughter for training.
The 48-year-old farmer used to incur huge losses due to high mortality of the chickens because she lacked modern poultry keeping skills.
“Before I learnt about modern poultry farming, I lost about 400 chickens to various diseases. I have kept different types of chickens for a period of ten years but I basically got nothing because I wasn’t rearing them the modern way,” Mary says.
The mother of one started rearing Sasso chickens immediately after her daughter, Theresia Mashimba, 25, completed training on how to raise the chickens.
“We started with 1,000 chicks, which we tenderly looked after and started selling to small-scale poultry farmers after 30 days,” she says.
The first batch of chicks earned her a lot of money, tempting her to place another order for 1,000 chicks. Mary has since never turned back. She has already sold 8,000 chickens and her intention is to keep over 10,000 chickens per year.
Mary no longer incurs losses from chicken deaths, thanks to the training and the Sasso chickens that are less susceptible to disease. The death rate of the birds is not as high for in 1,000 chicks, only three or six die.
Mary also earns more money from the business. Her venture enables her to live a comfortable life. She is able to take care of all her family needs now that she is the sole breadwinner. Her retired husband has been paralysed for six years. Through the business, Mary pays her daughter’s college fees as well as her husband’s healthcare costs.
She is full of praise for the Sasso chickens, which she says are affordable, easy to raise and that they grow faster. Her daughter, is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in education and Mary is confident she will manage financing her PhD studies next year.
Although she was hesitant to mention the figure due to reasons she was not ready to disclose, Mary says her business is doing very well. She thanks Silverlands for extending its poultry training project to Mbinga District, where she says it has redeemed many, especially the poor, who had lost hope of ever making it in life.
Mary advises poultry farmers to stop doing business as usual if they want to increase their income. They need to start keeping chickens the modern way, she says.
Her dream is to one day be the owner of a big poultry farm for both egg and meat chickens. She says the Sasso chickens have a reliable market contrary to other species, and that they taste just like indegenous chickens. The Sasso chickens have also enabled Mary to expand her poultry sheds as well as running other development projects.
Mary cautions that poultry farming needs cleanliness, seriousness and modern technics.
Matilda Mhelela,40, from Mtwivila ‘C’ Street in Iringa Region says what she likes most about Sasso chickens is that they are not costly to keep as compared to other breeds. The chickens are also more productive as they can lay up to 240 quality eggs per year compared to indigenous chickens that can only lay 50 eggs per year, says Matilda.
Another advantage is that they are free-range and that a chicken weighing between 2.5kg and 5kg can start laying eggs at 18 weeks contrary to indigenous breeds that start laying eggs at 32 weeks when weighing 1kg.
After undergoing training and witnessing how farmers were benefitting from the business, Matilda chose to engage in poultry farming as a way to increase her income.
She got Sasso chickens, which were given to her on loan by Silverlands Company. Matilda has since been able to build a better house and pay fees for her children’s college education among other things.
Zena Mijinga, is the Kigonsera Ward Councillor, in Mbinga District. She too started rearing the chickens after attending training in Iringa.
The project has transformed Zena’s life too. Apart from constructing a better house, the public servant pays school fees for her children as well as engaging in other agricultural activities using the money she earns from her poultry project. She has so far been able to keep up to 5,000 chickens, which have earned her good money. She sells a female Ssaso chicken weighing 4kg at Sh20,000 while a cock weighing 5kg fetches her Sh30,000.
Improving standard of living
The African Poultry Multiplication Initiative project manager, Mwanamvua Ngocho, says the aim of the project is to distribute better chickens to enable poultry keepers get a better income and improved nutrition.
The project targets women living in rural poor wards to help improve their living standard. So far, around 600 poultry farmers have been reached in villages in 16 regions.
Mwanamvua says through the project, people’s lives have been transformed. Silverlands provides chicks on loan through different packages, depending on the size of a poultry shed.
The number ranges from 500, 700, 1000, 1500, and 2000. Those who receive training in turn offer the same to other poultry farmers.
Poultry farmers in this project normally get chicks on loan and are also provided with poultry feed. For instance, if one takes 100 chicks, they are also provided with one tonne of poultry feed for free and their chicks receive all vital vaccinations from the company’s workers.
“The one provided with chicks is required to make repayment after 56 weeks, soon after selling the chickens. Many have benefitted through the system and are happy since they continue taking chicks on loan and make repayments at the right time,” says Mwanamvua.
The project manager says the aim is to reach out to many small-scale poultry farmers in every district and every village so they can improve their income.
Igongoro Ward Livestock Officer in Njombe District, Godfrey Kitulama says the project has been a big relief to low income residents. He says that many have started engaging in poultry farming.