Poultry farmers are strong together
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Luwero is a rural area located 50 km from the bustling capital Kampala. To reach this area, you have to take a car, taxi bus or local boda-boda (a real experience for adrenaline junkies). Although we pass a few villages and commercial centers on our journey, I can't get rid of the impression that agriculture is the principle economic activity. My travel companion, Mr. Richard Kirabira, finds his basic income in the agricultural sector as well. As owner of Chicken City Farms, he has successfully run his own chicken farm for several years. With a capacity of 25,000 laying hens he runs one of the largest chicken farms in the area. Richard succeeded in building a profitable business, but for many other local farmers this does not seem to be the case.
In contrast to many rural areas in South America, where agricultural co-operative organizations are springing up, the idea of a co-operative in Uganda is rather a vague and abstract term. Yet, with the help of his right hand, Jamil Kayondo, Richard succeeded in bringing together more than 50 chicken farmers from the neighborhood in such a co-operative. When I meet several members of the co-operative and visit their chicken farms, I quickly notice a great diversity in resources, scale and efficiency. As such, the contrast is large between the 25,000 chickens at Chicken City Farms and the barely 200 scratching chickens at a befriended chicken farmer further down the road.
Despite the significant differences between the different chicken farms, all chicken farmers seem to face the same problems. For example, the supply of chicken feed is dramatic for several reasons; the quality of the produced products and the financial situation of the farmers. Low quality of the feed combined with high and extremely unstable prices ensure that the farmers can not exercise their business activities in an optimal way. The same problems return when it comes to the quality of the delivered chicks, the medicines and the vaccinations that the chickens systematically must receive. More than once it lacks the farmers of necessary knowledge to keep production efficient and of a high quality. To complete the list, local farmers also struggle with bad roads, theft and a lack of water during the dry season.
The establishment of a co-operative will lead to major improvements for farmers thanks to economies of scale. For example, the chicken farmers will now be able to purchase their chicken feed in bulk which will lead to lower prices for each and every member of the co-operative. The same dynamic occurs when purchasing chicks, medication and the necessary vaccinations for the chickens. Furthermore, the members of the co-operative will be able to enforce a stronger position at the negotiating table with suppliers. Thanks to the substantial quantities that the co-operative wants to purchase, they will no longer be seen as a small customer of minimal value. Individual farmers often have to do with the remaining low-quality products. The co-operative also wants to focus on knowledge sharing in order to support each other through sharing knowledge about, among other things, new technologies, production techniques and hygiene. As partner of the co-operative, Exchange will help to facilitate this knowledge sharing by sending experts to the Luwero region on a project basis. These experts will use their rich knowledge in the chicken business to give specific and intensive training to the members of the co-operative. For example, missions are already planned around chicken feed, product quality and management.
The desire for change and the urge for entrepreneurship are characteristics that are of the utmost importance to Exchange. These characteristics are strongly present within the co-operative and are the key for this partnership. Luwero is clearly ready for a united player at the local chicken market!