Ghana: Guinea fowl farmers tuning in to radio to keep keets alive

| May 2, 2016

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Albert Asorgae places an egg on a rack and shines a light underneath. The egg-scanning technique helps him distinguish the good eggs from the bad. He transfers the good ones to an incubator to ensure their survival.

Mr. Asorgae is a guinea fowl expert from Mirigu, a village 25 kilometres north of Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The 49-year-old businessman and farmer has been raising guinea fowl since he was 30, and describes himself as “serious about the guinea fowl business.”

He is an active member of his community, organizing community listener groups and providing support to his less experienced fellow farmers. Mr. Asorgae also acts as the regional resident on raising guinea fowl with the local guinea fowl farmers’ association.

He currently raises about 160 guinea fowl. But it’s a tough business, even with the egg scanner. The birds are sensitive to weather conditions, prone to disease, and eat large amounts of feed. He says, “Before they can survive, you have to suffer.”

Apialore Alagiwugah raises guinea fowl in the nearby village of Banyono. He has been raising the birds since 2008, but struggling to keep the young ones alive. On average, 70% of keets—baby guinea fowl—do not survive.

He explains: “Actually it’s the small ones [that are] very, very big trouble, because right now they will hatch properly, [and then] all of them will die. Or we get about 1,000 of them, [and] maybe 500 will die, or 700 will die. No matter what, they will die, so I don’t know what to do about the small keets.”

Anastina Asiah is a young mother from the nearby village of Sumbrungu. The 22-year-old is having trouble with high mortality among her guinea fowl because of inadequate housing. She explains, “We didn’t know that you have to provide proper housing for the fowl, and keep them out of the rain.”

But the guinea fowl farmers are now getting support from URA Radio in Bolgatanga, which aired a 16-week series of radio programs on raising guinea fowl. This was followed by a 16-week series on marketing guinea fowl, a series that is currently on air. The programs reach communities in the Upper East Region of Ghana, as well as parts of Burkina Faso and Togo.

Raymond Wegwi is the host of the program, “Valla maga,” which means “Time with farmers” in the Kasem language. He travels to the field to interview guinea fowl farmers and presents the interviews on air. Mr. Wegwi says the program discussed housing, egg selection, incubation, record keeping, and good husbandry.

Those who can afford to build a brooding house to keep guinea hens and keets together, safe and warm, find that fewer keets are dying. According to experts, brooding houses should be built from chicken wire, wood, and roofing sheets. They should be raised 20 centimetres above the ground, with secured feeders and drinkers—such as tin cans, pots, or plastic containers. A lantern or electric bulb provides light and heat during the night. In cold weather, brooding cages should include an area that is completely enclosed.

The brooding house has helped Mr. Alagiwugah keep his keets alive. He explains: “The small ones are good as long as we can just keep them where the cool cannot enter. At times, we can put a box on {the brooding house] … to maintain the heat, so that the cool cannot get in, so they don’t get pneumonia.”

He adds, “So we can confine [the keets] very nicely for three or four weeks, and then open [the box].”

The advice shared on “Valla maga” has helped many farmers lower the mortality rate among their keets. Radio host Mr. Wegwi says, “The farmers who for the past [few] years were not having guinea fowl now own not less than 10—and they are very happy.”

With more guinea fowl surviving to adulthood, farmers are facing another problem—marketing. This is now being discussed on “Valla maga.”

Most farmers depend on middlemen, who buy at low prices in order to maximize profits. Mr. Asorgae explains, “Even if you are trying to sell for 20 cedis, they will come and tell you that the guinea fowl is [worth] 10 or 12 cedis.”

Despite these challenges, Mr. Asorgae is hopeful for the future. He says: “I used the guinea fowl to support my children to go to school, so my hope now is that I should be able to build my house, and build a very nice poultry farm so that I can … deal in thousands, not hundreds, of fowl.”

URA Radio’s program on guinea fowl is supported by Farm Radio International as part of FRI’s project to promote the development of value chains in Ghana, Mali, Malawi, and Tanzania.