West Africa: Indigenous species prove adaptable—and profitable—for local livestock rearers (Coraf, Food Tank)

| September 17, 2018

Download this story

Gideon Anaba has been up since dawn caring for his birds at his home in Baku, northern Ghana. He has checked on his soon-to-hatch guinea keets [immature guinea fowl], fed the grown guinea fowl, and met with customers who have come to buy eggs and birds. Since he retired, the 64-year-old’s days have been fuller than ever. Increasing demand for guinea fowl has turned his part-time pursuit into a booming business.

He explains, “In local restaurants, people prefer guinea fowl to imported poultry meat.”

But guinea fowl is not the only indigenous livestock that is becoming more popular in West Africa.

In eastern Mali, a group of 10 women have started rearing Balami, a breed of sheep from Niger that is more adaptable to the changing climate.

After nearly 18 months raising the animals, there are signs that these farmers’ incomes are increasing because of the sheep.

Rahat Domboua is a 31-year-old mother of two in Bla, a village about 400 kilometres east of the capital, Bamako. She says that Balami sheep are helping improve her income: “I am essentially a stay-at-home mom. Rearing the Balami is my main economic activity. When I have a problem, I sell one or two and use the money to address the issue. They are better than the previous species I was rearing.”

She says customers jump at the chance to buy them. She adds, “Balami grows bigger compared to other species. The meat is tender and people tend to like it better.”

The guinea fowl and the Balami sheep, alongside the red Maradi goat, are among a number of species of indigenous livestock that are improving the lives of rural farmers, stimulating local economies, and improving nutrition.

Maradi goats are known for their protein- and vitamin A-rich milk.

The three indigenous species are well suited to West Africa, and possess a wealth of genetic diversity that make them more adaptable to a changing climate. This is important, says José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Mr. da Silva says: “In the face of climate change and other challenges to food security, it is critical we maintain the resilient characteristics of breeds that are well adapted to rough terrains, harsh environments, and limited feed and water.”

He adds, “And many breeds have valuable characteristics that help maintain landscapes and wildlife habitats.”

A project in northern Ghana is finding that, with proper incubation methods and protecting guinea fowl from predatory birds, guinea fowl farmers can improve their production by more than 500 per cent. To maximize production, farmers should properly incubate eggs, and deworm, vaccinate, and adequately house the nutritious, low-fat birds.

This is why the West African Agricultural Productivity Program is handing out starter kits and information to Ghanaian farmers. The program is also revitalizing production of a homegrown vaccine to combat Newcastle disease, a deadly poultry virus.

The project, run by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development, is also distributing red Maradi goats in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

The International Livestock Research Institute says that livestock can account for up to 80 per cent of farmers’ income in West Africa and nearby countries, making it important for farmers to rear nutritious and adaptable breeds.

For Adamu Mubarik, a guinea fowl farmer in northern Ghana, the profits are tangible.

He says: “Before [this program] gave us technologies and techniques to protect our birds from predators and disease, I couldn’t make more than 100 birds a year. Now our losses are very few—this year alone we had over 800 birds, so I hired people to help me.”

The extra income helped him pay his children’s school fees. Now, the 34-year-old entrepreneur hopes to pass on his experiences to others.

He adds: “Guinea fowl is an industry that is lucrative for every young man to go into. This is an area you can make profit. Young men should go into guinea fowl rearing—it can really change your lives.”

This story was adapted from three articles.

Two were published by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development, and titled “How’s Niger’s Livestock Faring in Mali,” and “A Taste for Guinea Fowl hatches thousands of jobs in Ghana.” The third, “In West Africa, ‘Customers prefer the local guinea fowl,’” was published by Food Tank.

To read the original articles please see:

Photo by Jesse Winter