Tag Archives: poultry

Empowering chickens: why Bill Gates’ plan may be flawed

gates chicken3

Are chickens the route to rural women’s empowerment? Bill Gates thinks so. In a recent Gates Notes comment piece he announced ‘a big bet on chickens’ with an initial distribution of 100,000  to rural women in Africa. With just 5 chickens, he argued a woman could earn $1000 in a year. Melinda Gates meanwhile emphasises the empowerment angle, arguing in a blog that “raising chickens is considered women’s work, and the money from selling chickens and eggs belongs to women to spend as they choose”.

Simply handing out chickens and expecting these to improve livelihoods is of course not so straightforward. That is a big income from an initial 5 chickens! There have been many well-meaning projects that have done the same over many years. The relationship between poultry, disadvantage and empowerment for women is complex.

As Joseph Hanlon and Teresa Smart point out for Mozambique commercial poultry production is a costly business. Successful businesses require basic infrastructure, veterinary care, assured supplies of day-old-chicks and effective markets. Few manage this, and as our profiles of new agricultural entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe, the new poultry producers must rely on established businesses and services for support, and not all the beneficiaries of such enterprises are of course women. Most rural people rely on a few chickens of local breeds that require little maintenance and provide an important source of nutrition and income, but not sufficient for economic empowerment, by any stretch of the imagination.

gates chicken2

In our surveys across the resettlement areas, nearly every household has a few indigenous, village chickens. These are widely used, but do not provide a stable or significant income. Across 400 households in our A1/A2 sample in Masvingo province, we found 16 new broiler operations, but only two of these exceeded the $1000 profit level being suggested by Bill Gates; most made about $500 profit and many much less. These were 50 to 100 bird operations, reliant on significant and expensive inputs, not available to most women, except in the few cases when they were organised in groups.

Hanlon and Smart contrast the Gates NGO model with that of Brazil. In the last few decades, Brazil has become a major producer and exporter of chickens. Frozen chicken cuts from Brazil undercut local production in many parts of the world including Africa. The Brazil model, heavily invested in by the state investment bank, BNDES, relies on large producers of chicks, and a major support network established through contracting arrangements with small-scale producers. This realises massive economies of scope and scale, which are very difficult to replicate in African settings.

In Zimbabwe, large-scale commercial farmers are often crucial links in the value chain in a fast-changing commercial poultry sector. In Masvingo for example, the Mitchells’ farm supplied day-old chicks to many farmers, and continues to do so across the communal and new resettlement areas, despite attempts at land grabbing. The presence of such an operation, with all the infrastructure, skill and market connections that it requires, has been crucial to the success of the medium-scale new entrepreneurs that we profiled. As Hanlon and Smart argue:  “As usual, the aid industry can only see the two extremes and ideas that come from outside – Bill Gates’ five hens or Odebrecht’s [a Brazilian company] millions of chickens. The successes in the middle, and the successes developed locally, are ignored”.

Bill Gates and his team have to understand the changing global political economy of poultry production in their announcement, as well as the range of enterprises that actually exist. As Jim Sumberg and colleagues point out for Ghana there are many competing narratives about the role of poultry production in economic development. Too often the NGO vision – often tied to naïve ambitions of local economic empowerment – dominates but does not match the facts on the ground.

Major evidence gaps exist in the debate, and the Gates proposal has fallen foul of these. In Ghana, as elsewhere, we simply don’t know how many chickens there are, and in what sized flocks they are being kept. There are confusions between a generic ‘chicken’, and different types – broilers, layers, and the ubiquitous ‘road runner’ chicken, seen in villages across the continent. Each require different inputs, feeds, management care, and levels of capitalisation, and they usually operate in very different markets. ‘Indigenous’ chickens are valued for taste, ritual slaughter and other uses; broilers and the ‘improved’ breeds that the Gates Foundation are distributing do not cut it.

Patterns of consumption of meat are changing too, with chicken often favoured over for example beef, due to cost. But it is the very cheap imports (from Brazil in particular, but also Europe and the US) that have driven this in urban areas, along with the opportunities that supermarkets provide for frozen products. This is not the vision of the mini flock of village chickens owned by newly empowered women. In Ghana as elsewhere, policy is confused and conflicting, as different interest groups compete, but often with a poor understanding undermining any pretence at ‘evidence-based’ policy.

Empowerment of course is a political process. It’s about recognition, rights, voice and participation, not just about chickens, and new sources of income. Empowerment must also challenge the wider structural political-economic factors that keep poor people poor, and women disenfranchised. Cheap frozen chicken from Brazil will not go away as long as free trade regimes and cheap oil allow transnational value chains that can often undercut even the most diligent producers in rural Ghana, Mozambique or Zimbabwe. As we’ve long learned, giving women new assets without the requisite changes in gender relations and shifts in power relations in the domestic economy, can result in intra-household struggles, with men often benefiting more than women.

Easy gestures from rich philanthropists are insufficient, and must address these wider issues if the highly commendable focus on poorer rural women and their empowerment is to be addressed. Handing out chickens may not be the simple solution that it first appears.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs II: Poultry

Broiler production has really taken off in the new resettlements. This is on the back of a growth of poultry production more broadly in the country. This has seen a significant rebound as the poultry industry has restructured from large, high-tech operations to a much more diverse set of small production units. While a few large operations exist, including the well-established companies such as Irvines and Suncrest and some newcomers such as Lunar Chickens run by former Reserve Bank chief, Gideon Gono, most operations are much smaller. And this is the segment that is driving the new poultry industry in the rural areas.

In 2014 we did a survey across our 16 A1 and A2 sites across Masvingo province. We found 13 new broiler businesses, and one new egg production business. All were individual household based enterprises, except one group project. These complement the almost universal keeping of (mostly indigenous) chickens for meat and eggs. These operations stand out for their scale (most had around 50-100 birds), and the level of inputs required. Four cases are shared below:

Case 1: I am Mrs AM and am 44 yrs and live in Wondedzo. I started the poultry project in April 2013 with funds from farming. I started with 50 birds but numbers kept going up. At present I have 100 broilers. I employ a casual worker but my husband assists so do the work, as well as children when they are on holidays. Brolier rearing knowledge comes from several sources. My husband qualified as Ordinary Master Farmer. I also attend development meetings, field days and area shows. In the last 12 months the chicken budget was as below:

Input type Amount Cost $USD
Bought in broiler chicks 450 birds 450
Drugs    
Stress pack 900ml 27
ESB 3 900ml 153
Sulphur drug 900ml 45
OTCS 900ml 45
Feeds    
Broiler starter mash 450kgs 342
Concentrate 450kgs 315
Broiler finisher 2250kgs 1575
Transport Moving broilers in and outCarrying feeds 105
Total   2505

I source drugs and feeds from Masvingo town from shops that include Chifefe hardware, Metro Peach and Farm Supplies. Coccidiosis is the most common disease, which resulted in some mortalities. I sold 444 broiler units in the last 12 months. Some broilers were sold locally but most were sold in Masvingo town in Mucheke township, the ‘train market’ and food outlets all over town. Broiler income in the past 12 months is shown below

Market Broilers sold Amount
Masvingo Train Market 250 1750
Mucheke township 100 700
Food outlets 44 308
Local market 50 350
Total 444 3108

Marketing challenges include bad debtors and late debt repayments that negatively affect smooth running of the business. Some transporters charge steeply. Competition is stiff during public holidays at Christmas, Easter and Heroes’ Day. During such times I keep more broilers but try to quickly clear the stock to avoid extra feed costs. The urgency to sell quickly sometimes results in risky buyers easily getting birds on credit but taking their time to repay. Income from my broiler project was used to purchase day old chicks from Mitchells, paying school fees, groceries and buying clothes for the family. Future plans include building more chicken houses and establishing permanent markets which buy in bulk, such as boarding schools and Masvingo town hotels.

Case 2: We started our Wondedzo broiler group project in June 2013 with 25 day old chicks donated by the then aspiring MP for Masvingo North, Mr Marapira; now Deputy Minister of Agriculture. This was a God-send because we had always wanted to venture into a project to raise money for school fees, groceries and clothing for our families. Mr Marapira also provided feed and drugs to cover 10 birds up to marketing. We have not looked back and expanded the project housed at N’s homestead. . At present we have 50 birds. We operate the project on a roster basis providing our own labour. In the last 12 months the following costs were incurred:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Day old chicks 100 100
Transporting broilers, feeds 75
Drugs    
Terramycin 300g 12
Stress pack 100g 10
Starter pack 400g 14
Feeds    
Broiler starter 125 kg 100
Concentrate 65 kg 49
Growers 150kg 108
Finisher 100 kg 76
Total   530

Inputs were sourced from Masvingo town shops, including Musa Hardware, Farm Supplies and Bilcro. When we buy day old 4 extra chicks are added per 100 to offset mortalities. In the last 12 months we sold 110 broilers as follows:

Market Broilers sold Amount USD$
Local farmers 74 518
Local shops 7 49
Project members 26 182
Sanangwe primary school teachers 3 21
Total 110 770

Profits are shared among members who use the money to cover family basic needs. Problems faced include lack of finance to build proper housing. At present we house the day old chicks in a mobile mesh wire cage. After two weeks we place them in a bigger fixed cage at home. Watering for the birds is a big challenge as water is fetched from Mutirikwe river 2 km away. We want to expand and reach out to boarding schools, supermarkets and food outlets in Masvingo town.

Case 3: My name is Mr M. I work as a labourer on this A2 farm in Northdale with 3 others. I manage their broilers in addition to other work I do at this farm which includes horticulture, managing cattle and a piggery which has just started. The broiler project started in 2013. The farmer decided they could make better money from some of their maize produce through feeding it to broilers and selling meat instead of grain. Another reason for keeping broilers was the quick turn over in this kind of business. It takes just six weeks for a batch to get marketable. A minimum of 100 and a maximum of 700 broilers are kept at the farm at different times from 2013. The last batch had 400 broilers and only 36 remain. Mr M himself does the purchasing of broilers feeds and chemicals. Inputs are bought from Pro Feeds and Masvingo Farm Supplies. Straight feeds such as broiler starter mash are complimented by mixes of concentrates and home grown maize. Breakdown of inputs for a 100 batch of broilers is shown in below:

Input Quantity Cost USD$
Broilers 100 100
Broiler starter mash 4 x 50 kg bags 136
Concentrate 4 x 50 kg bags 148
Home grown maize 24 buckets 96
Transport 60
Stress pack 1 kg 8
OTC 200g 10
Sulphur demidine 400g 16
Total   574

The broiler value chain involves raising them here at the farm and selling meat at their Njeremoto Superette in Masvingo town. I am not privy to selling prices in Masvingo but I think they fetch around USD$8 per bird. Here on farms locals in Northdale and Salem also buy some live broilers at the farmgate at USD$7 each. Some income from broilers returns to the farm as our wages. The four of us earn USD$150 each. Some of the money gets ploughed back into business – purchase of new broiler stock, buying feeds and drugs.

Challenges faced by the broiler business were mostly the high price of concentrate feeds and transport costs to market. Masvingo is more than 60 kms away. Mr M owns a pickup truck. Diseases are not a problem here because Mr M is a former Agritex head with vast experience. Diseases get controlled quickly before they spread. The Ms want to scale up broiler production by increasing numbers in batches from 100 to 200. More broiler pens will be built. They also want to send me for training courses on broiler management.

Case 4: My name is SM from A1 Lonely Farm in Gutu district. We started the project together with my wife in 2013. Keeping of egg layers has improved our household nutrition. We always have eggs for breakfast now. We decided to go into egg production as a way of diversifying our farm enterprises. The idea came from our cousin Mr M who sourced the 6 month old 100 point of lay pullets for us paying USD$500 dollars of his own money. We later repaid him over some months. We also gave him some maize bags in appreciation.My wife and I worked on the project at first but we recently employed a farm worker who we pay USD$80 per month. We built a house for the layers and when necessary collect grass used to spread in the deep layer system we use. Water is available from our high yielding well at the homestead. We purchase some straight feeds and concentrates which we mix with home grown maize at a ratio of two parts concentrate to three parts crushed maize. Inputs for two months are in table below:

Input Quantity Unit cost USD$ Cost USD$
Layers Mash 300 kg 6 / 50 kg 204
Concentrate 200 kg 38 /50 kg 152
Combivit M A 5
Maize 450 kg 10/ 50kg 90
Vitamins 4 packets 5 / packet 20
Total     471

We pick three crates of eggs per day which we sell at USD$5 each or USD$15 per day or USD$400 per month. A crate contains 30 eggs. During school days, Rufaro boarding high school serves as a ready market. Business is down during school holidays. At that time the market is composed of local farmers and few teachers remaining at the school. In a year we gross above USD$4000. Money realised goes to school fees, groceries, purchase of feeds for layers and buying agricultural inputs. Challenges are the high cost of concentrate feeds and bad debtors. Future plans are to increase flock sizes and number of layer pens. We also want scale up our horticulture. Manure from layers provides fertility to the garden.

Case 5: My name is Mrs M from Clare farm in Gutu district. My husband died recently. The project started in 2011 with seed money sent by our son who works in America. We employ two permanent workers for the project and other general farm work. They earn USD$80 per month each. We keep a minimum of 100 broilers and a maximum of 300. Expenses for the last batch of 300 birds are in table below:

Input Quantity Cost USD $
Day old chicks 300 300
Broiler starter mash 300 kg 204
Concentrate 500 kg 360
Maize for crushes 30 buckets 90
Stress pack I Kg 8
OTC 200 g 10
Sulphur demidine 400 g 16
Total   988

We buy day old chicks from Tree Wood in Masvingo town and feeds from Pro Feeds also in Masvingo town. Small amounts of inputs are bought from Chatsworth shops. The major market is Rufaro boarding school where most of the broilers were sold for USD$7 each followed by local farmers, Business is brisk during public holidays. We sold 457 broilers in the last 12 months which realised USD$3199. The family ate 25 broilers and 16 died of diseases. During the rainy season and cold weather chicks develop problems of weak legs due to lack of sunlight. Unfortunately most of the money was used to pay hospital bills for my late husband. Main challenges apart from the loss of my husband include the high cost of bought feeds and the cost of transporting these to the farm. My future plan is to build good housing for broilers, increase flock size and venture into new markets such as restaurants and supermarkets.

A number of themes emerge:

  • Organisation and ownership of the businesses: arrangements are quite varied – from very small operations (25-50 birds) to quite large (400-700 birds).
  • Women are much more involved than in the piggery projects profiled last week. Group efforts have taken off too.
  • Start-up finance has been crucial. This has come from a variety of sources, including remittances, and campaign gifts from prospective politicians.
  • Inputs, including feed and veterinary medicines are important input costs, with links to reliable supply chains essential
  • Cross-links with other farm activities are important – including supplying food and delivering manure for gardens.
  • Infrastructure upgrading is occurring as people scale up, especially building new poultry housing.
  • Employment generation is happening, but on a small scale.
  • Markets are largely informal and local, but some are supplying to urban supermarkets and institutions (such as boarding schools etc.).
  • Links to day old chick producers are key – and the presence of the Mitchell’s farm operation in Masvingo is an essential part of the wider chain. This is a large-scale white owned farm that is widely valued by people across the region, because of this.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared first on Zimbabweland

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Zimbabwe’s poultry industry: rapid recovery, but major challenges

Zimbabwe’s poultry industry has shown massive growth since 2009. A range of sizes of units have sprung up everywhere – from the medium size units of 1000 birds to massive industrial scale operations. Chickens are big business.

Meat consumption has changed significantly in Zimbabwe over the last 20 years. Beef used to be the most consumed, with Zimbabweans eating on average 13kg per annum in the 1980s. According to a recent USAID report (see below), today this has dropped to only 3.3kg, the lowest in the region. Chicken and pork in particular have replaced this, with chicken consumption is now half of all meat consumed. Beef has dropped to only 35%. Meat consumption has rebounded since 2009 as the economy has improved, now estimated to be 11000MT per month, up by 20%. But the pattern of consumption has changed. This has been driven in part by taste, but also austerity as people looked to cheaper sources of protein. According to the USAID report, the retail price of economy beef which has the highest demand is between US$4.60 – US$5.00 per kg compared to the average chicken retail price of about US$3.30 per kg.

After the stabilization of the economy, many invested in poultry as a sure-fire way of making money. The data in the graphs below are from a recent World Bank report, showing the rapid increase in both broilers and layer production of day old chicks, according to Ministry of Agriculture (MAMID) data.

Day old chick production (layers)

aaazim4

 Day old chick production (broilers)

aaazim5

But there are significant challenges to these new producers.  These centre in particular on competition from cheap imports, including illegal dumping. ZIMSTATS shows that in 2011 chicken imports were 25,500 MT at a value of $13.644 million or an average of only $0.53/kg. The low price suggests much of this is offal (including ‘waste’ pieces), which is illegal to import. Additionally the volume exceeds the official quota by over 100%, representing 20% of the total demand for chicken nationally, according to a recent USAID report (see reference below).

In addition the costs of feed have escalated. Soya production has been slow to rebound in Zimbabwe, and imports are costly as only Zambia produced GM-free soya in the region. These imports are expensive as Zambia tries to protect its own growing poultry industry. This really took off when Zimbabwe was suffering outbreaks of avian influenza in the early 2000s, and then subsequently when the Zimbabwe economy collapsed, and along with it its poultry industry.

The 2013 budget statement laid out the challenges for the Zimbabwean industry clearly:

• Stiff competition from cheap imports for both table eggs and meat, threatening viability of producers;

• Rising input costs, particularly maize and soya meal, following poor harvests; and

• High volumes of illegal imports which are being sold in the domestic market at sub-economic prices

The USAID study highlighted the challenge of cheap and illegal poultry imports for the meat industry as a whole. Much of the imported poultry meat comes from Brazil which has a massive poultry industry. Products that cannot be sold in the Brazilian markets are often transported elsewhere in the world. Feet, skin, necks and other ‘offal’ are frozen and packaged and sold at rock bottom prices. Chicken pieces too are packaged and sold, again at highly competitive rates. Go to any Zimbabwean supermarket and you will find 1kg of chicken pieces being sold at $3, sometimes considerably less.

How these prices can be so low is beyond me. Maintaining a cold chain from Brazil to Zimbabwe must cost a fortune, let alone the cost of the product and its processing and packaging. While there are import quotas, many believe these are being exceeded through illegal imports. The import of offal is also illegal due to health and safety concerns. The USAID study recommended tighter import controls and the banning of offal imports, arguing that cheap imports were not only damaging the poultry industry, but also the beef industry as cheap meat alternatives were suppressing demand.

This is not just a Zimbabwean problem. In 2012, the South African government slapped on surcharges, provoking a row with the Brazil. Brazil responded by taking the dispute to the WTO, claiming that the South African’s protectionist actions were threatening the new friendship developed between the nations as a result of the BRICS partnership. It seems the diplomatic heat, and the threat of a WTO case that the South Africans have backed down, at least for now.

Undeterred by this dispute from across the border, Zimbabwe has now responded to the same problem. The 2013 budget statement noted:

“Due to unfair competition from imports of chicken, local breeders are increasingly cancelling orders for day old chicks as they fail to secure customers for their chicken as imports from outside the SADC/COMESA region retail at prices significantly lower than locally produced chicken, notwithstanding the 40% duty levied on imported chicken…. Investigations indicate that chicken imports are either smuggled or are grossly undervalued for duty purposes. In instances of smuggling, the necessary veterinary and health hazard permit controls are undermined….”.

From mid-November, the government introduced a higher customs duty “in order to level the playing field between imported and locally produced chicken”.

This is an important and welcome move. Let’s see if it has the effect it needs to. Hopefully the Brazilians will be less heavy-handed with Zimbabwe where the market is much smaller, and a trade dispute can be avoided.

Unfortunately, the issue is not just about formal trade. As already noted it is perhaps the illegal trade which is most significant, and damaging. This is well embedded in local Zimbabwean business networks, sometimes with high-level connections, and veterinary control and customs enforcement capacity remains weak. While chicken smuggling is perhaps less dramatic than drugs or diamonds, it has just as devastating an effect on the economy, lives and livelihoods.

Sukume, C. and Maleni, D. (2012). Beef CIBER Study. Constraints to Competitiveness. Unpublished report to the Zimbabwe Agricultural Competitiveness Program, DAI/USAID

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized