By Bett Kipsang’
Rahab Githumbi from Kahuruku village in Laikipia west was selected by the national steering committee of PROLINNOVA, an organization promoting local innovations in ecologically oriented agriculture and natural resource management as one of the innovative farmers to participate at the East Africa Farmer Innovation Fair (EAFIF) held at Kenya Agricultural Research institute (KARI) grounds, Kabete on 28th and 29th May, 2013.
The journey started with the documentation of her farm activities by the Ng’arua maarifa centre. The article was posted on this blog. Later on, Rahab learnt from the centre of the innovators application at PROLINNOVA.
|Rahab Githumbi hold a turkey rearing hen's chick|
How the innovation started
Rahab Githumbi came across a turkey 13 years ago. It was a fat bird whose meat whets an appetite. “The seller told me that the flesh on the neck of a turkey was full of juicy fat,” she said. She bought two, 3 months’ old turkeys and started rearing them alongside her chicken. Rahab was amazed at the way the two bird species got along well with each other. “After a few months, the female turkey started laying eggs in a nearby shrub” said Rahab.
The fear that wild animals might prey on the eggs of her nice birds led to another innovative management strategy. She decided to collect the eggs in the evening and keep in the house. She always took one egg back to the nest in the morning, just before the bird realized that her egg was missing. The turkey needed to see an egg for it to continue inhabiting the nest.
Discovery and creativity
The initial intention by the farmer was to provide a delicacy. Turkey rearing has however come with multiple other benefits. A mature turkey is much heavier and fetches higher prices per kilogram than chicken. One turkey can sit on up to 20 eggs and hatch them successfully. The farmer can decide to mix turkey and chicken eggs, maybe half-half. Since turkey don’t discriminate the chicks, hens can be made to continue sitting on new eggs as the turkey takes care of the newly hatched chicks.
Within a household of 9 members, one mature turkey can provide meat for four days. One turkey on average weighs up to 17 Kgs when mature. Turkeys provide lean meat and eggs and on the other hand provides additional security at the homestead as they respond to strangers by making noise. “They make a lot of noise whenever a stranger enters the compound, thus alerting me even when I am far in the farm”, Rahab said.
Rahab observed that unlike chicken, turkeys are heavy feeders and their droppings accumulate very fast. A turkey produces about four times more manure than chicken, which is used to enhance farm fertility and growing vegetables. She added that it is important to feed the birds and maintain good hygiene in the poultry house.
Given the ready market, Rahab concentrates on production of three months old chicks which she sells. One turkey chick is sold at between Ksh. 300 to 500/= depending on the factors such as business patronage and quality of the bird. One turkey egg sells at KSh. 30 to 40. Most buyers visit and buy directly from her homestead as word spreads about her ventures. The chicken are left to mature then sold to the local market. Occasionally she sells mature turkeys that fetch over Ksh. 2500 locally.
This innovation has raised Mama Rahabs’ social status in the village and beyond. She’s much respected as an expert on turkeys and chicken production. From her home to Sipili market is about 4.5 Kms. This distance however,does not deter visitors from making their way to her farm. She gets different visitors including farmers, diverse professionals, scholars and leaders. This has made her become eminent as a ‘turkey champion’ in Laikipia!
An article featuring on this blog has attracted several inquiries about turkeys from the readers. Samples of email inquiring for the birds are as follows; “I would like a turkey or two to raise in my farm in Kiserian. How much does one cost? Your assistance is highly appreciated,” Samson Mugo.
“May be I would like to know the price of one turkey. I want to start a project at my farm and I need alot of information. Currently I reside at St Louis U.S.A. Soon I want to move to Kenya and do turkey business”. This comment was left by an anonymous reader on the blog; on November 20, 2011 at 7:11 PM. The reader however gave her email address.
The demand for turkeys is growing and sometimes she’s unable to meet it. Rahab has produced and sold over 1700 turkeys over the years in different parts of Kenya including Isiolo, Mombasa, Nairobi, Siaya, Kyuso, Muranga among others. She uses the income from the sales to pay school fees for her children and to diversify her farm activities.
Rahab plans to expand and improve her poultry production in future to meet the ever increasing demand for turkeys in Kenya. Her dream is to get some financial support and scale up her enterprise by starting the first ever mixed turkey and chicken hatchery on her farm!
She’s aware of the potential for value addition by recycling the bird’s feathers. These ventures will help create local employment to youths and strengthen community resilience to climate change and make a significant contribution towards the fight against poverty and hunger in Kenya and beyond.