Nelly Bassily | February 22, 2010
Omar Msham proudly displays his chicken coop. It’s about half a metre high, so he has to crouch to check on the contents – only four chickens today, since he recently sold the rest. But it’s the coop itself of which Mr. Msham is most proud. Red bricks form three of the coop’s walls and a sturdy wire mesh encloses the front. The coop was a significant investment for the farmer, but he is confident it will pay off.
It was two years ago that Mr. Msham began to raise chickens. At the time, he and his wife were struggling to feed their three children. Their two hectares of maize provided food, and one hectare of sunflower provided income, but the family ate only two meals a day.
Then la year later, Mr. Msham purchased some baby chicks. Some chickens were used for food. Others were sold at maturity. With this operation, Mr. Msham earns about 20,000 Tanzanian shillings (about 15 American dollars or 11 Euros) every six months. The extra food and income means that his family now eats three meals a day.
The venture was not without problems, however. Chickens running loose are vulnerable. Every six months, Mr. Msham lost four or five chickens to disease or collisions with bicycles. Other chicken farmers in his village of Kitete in the Morogoro District of eastern Tanzania had similar problems. Many have invested in raising chickens but lose part of their stock each year to injury, disease, theft, and attack by animals such as birds and cats.
The farmers shared their problems with a local radio station, Radio Maria. This radio station is working with Farm Radio International on the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AFRRI aims to discover the most effective ways of using radio to improve food security. As part of the initiative, Radio Maria asked the farmers of Kitete village about the challenges they face. The farmers confront many issues concerning the production and marketing of crops and livestock, but Radio Maria decided to first address the problem of chicken loss.
Lilian Manyuka has volunteered with Radio Maria for more than five years. She now hosts a weekly program called “Busy Village.” Kitete’s farmers say they always find time to listen to her show on Saturday morning. It has taught them some of the details of building chicken coops, such as what dimensions a coop should be, and how many chickens can be kept in a coop.
Mr. Msham was one of the first in Kitete to construct a chicken coop, at the cost of 50,000 Tanzania shillings (about 38 American dollars or 28 Euros). Other farmers are now building coops to protect their chickens.
Havintishi Salumu started raising livestock last year when she purchased one chicken. She now keeps about 12. It used to be difficult for Ms. Salumu to obtain meat, but now her family eats eggs twice a week and chicken twice a month. The chickens are an important source of protein for her family. Still, she is frustrated with having chickens stolen and baby chicks killed by birds.
Ms. Salumu built the framework of a chicken coop with sticks her oldest son gathered in the forest. She planned to complete the coop within two months. Her hope was that, with fewer chickens lost, she would earn enough money to send her oldest son back to school.