Poultry production is an important income generating activity for Kenya’s rural smallholder families and contributes to the livelihoods of an estimated 21 million people. According to the recently released census the poultry population stands at 32 million of which 6 million are commercial hybrids and the rest are indigenous. Indigenous birds thus dominate as they make up approximately 81% of the total poultry population .The commercial birds consisting of hybrid broilers and layers are kept at the periphery of the main towns such as Nairobi, Thika, Nakuru and Mombasa due to ease of procuring inputs and ready market for the products.
Over the years the poultry industry in Kenya has grown tremendously due to the demand of meat and eggs, particularly in the urban areas. This increase in demand for poultry and poultry products has been attributed to two factors; an increasing proportion of middle class households and rising health consciousness amongst consumers leading to a mushrooming of poultry production systems in the urban and peri-urban areas. Thus practically all the commercial hybrids production systems are located close to cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu and other large towns.
Production systems for hybrids (broilers and layers) vary from large scale fully integrated systems (3000 – over 10,000 birds) to medium and small-scale systems (500 – 3000 birds). Indigenous chicken production on the other hand is largely a rural based affair that is subsistence in nature with flock sizes ranging from 5-13 birds.
The industry is thus an important source of food, income and employment and is said to contribute 1.6% to the agricultural GDP. The industry also has linkages with other sectors of the economy such as the feeds industry, hotel industry, and input suppliers. With regards to feeds, approximately 70 % of the feeds produced in the country are poultry feeds. However due to limited data on the linkages on the true value of poultry industry’s contribution to the entire economy is not known, but is likely higher than the estimated figures.
The initial poultry development approaches in the country were private sector led; either by individuals or companies. The advent of colonialism was accompanied by the introduction of exotic poultry breeds by white settlers. In the 1950s, attempts were made by the then Ministry of Agriculture to promote the industry. Subsequently, other public interventions on poultry improvement included the cockerel and pullet exchange programme under the National Poultry Development Programme (NPDP), 1976- 1994. However the programmes did not achieve the desired results and seemed to favour exotic breeds to the detriment of indigenous breeds. As such indigenous chicken production has traditionally been considered a side activity and has been ignored by animal breeders, veterinarians and policy makers which have contributed to the low the productivity of indigenous chicken.
Overall, the industry is constrained by challenges, such as loss of genetic diversity, low productivity of indigenous chicken, fluctuations in demand and supply levels of chicken and chicken products, poor marketing infrastructure and poor access to credit facilities. Other constraints include high costs of feeds vis a vis the quality, lack of business management skills amongst producers and limited knowledge on husbandry and disease control/prevention strategies. There is high mortality experienced in poultry production attributable to preventable poultry diseases notably Newcastle disease, Gumboro, Marek’s and Fowl pox among others. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) though not reported in the country remains a formidable threat to the growth and expansion of the poultry industry.
It is recognized that the industry has the potential to generate higher incomes and transform living standards of its players if appropriate interventions are developed and implemented. Indeed the Kenya Economic Report (KIPPRA’s 2009) identifies poultry as one of the lead livestock enterprises that can contribute the most towards the attainment of Millenium development Goal 1(MDG 1). The industry is therefore posed to play a strategic role in the ongoing socio economic under the Vision 2030.
In view of the above the ministry has initiated several measures to promote the poultry industry. These include;
- Creation of an enabling policy environment by the recent approval by parliament of the National Poultry Policy. The policy document responds to the challenges and present needs of the sector and in departure from the past has given a lot of attention to the development of indigenous chicken production. The ministry is also currently working on the poultry bill which will provide the much needed legal and regulatory framework for the industry.
- The development of Kenya National Poultry Improvement Programme (KNPIP) in partnership with USAIDs Winrock International Partnesrhip for Safe Poultry Production in Kenya programme (PSPK). The programme document for KNPIP proposes a value chain approach to improve production, biosecurity and marketing of indigenous chicken thereby improving the livelihoods of those engaged in the poultry production value chain.
- The Ministry been allocated KShs 25 million by the Treasury as poultry development fund. These funds are restricted to indigenous chicken development and will be channeled towards improvement of breeding stock and poultry housing in selected districts all over the country.
- The Ministry is also involved in continuous disease surveillance and reporting of poultry diseases