Hendrix Genetics and development aid organisation Solidaridad have entered into a partnership dedicated to providing local African poultry farmers with access to a more sustainable chicken breed. The combination of the Hendrix Genetics SASSO breed and Solidaridad’s network infrastructure will help secure the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Mozambique and Zambia, while at the same time improving the availability of animal protein in people’s diets.
The market for animal protein is expected to grow exponentially across Africa in the coming years, and poultry and eggs are important sources of such protein that can also contribute to creating a sustainable food supply. The SASSO chicken bred by Hendrix Genetics is a typical ‘dual-purpose chicken,’ meaning it is suited for both egg and meat production. An added benefit is that chickens have simple needs: they do not require much space and can easily be kept on a small piece of land.
The SASSO chicks are initially reared in a ‘mother unit’ (also known as a ‘brooding centre’) in groups of around 500 animals under ideal conditions (in terms of feed, water, vaccines and care). After a breeding period of 4 to 6 weeks, small numbers of the pullets and cockerels are sold to smallholder farms located in rural Zambia (Katete) and Mozambique (Angonia and Gurue). This approach dramatically reduces the mortality rate among the chicks (approximately 5%, versus more than 40% with traditional approaches). On account of this strong start, the pullets and cockerels are also more productive, to the point where hens can lay more than 180 eggs a year, while roosters can grow to a weight of around two kilos within three months.
The Sustainable Access to Poultry Parental Stock to Africa (SAPPSA) project was created to improve the lives of local farmers and their families, and facilitate access to safe and affordable poultry feed. This is a significant challenge, as the distribution of the feed is concentrated around the major cities. Since farmers need to travel more than 500 kilometres to purchase poultry feed from each of the three project sites and are therefore unable to afford the travel expenses, Solidaridad is also promoting sustainable local soya cultivation as a source of poultry feed. With smallholder soya farmers gaining access to a profitable market, the soya industry in Southern Africa as a whole will ultimately be positioned to become more sustainable.
One of the main positive knock-on effects of the project is that it also contributes to improving the position of women in the area. In most African rural communities, rearing and selling livestock is restricted to men, while only small livestock (chickens, goats and sheep) is considered a socially acceptable alternative for women. By making this form of livestock farming more financially secure and appealing, women are given more opportunities and can earn a larger share of the family income.
Paving the way for greater impact
Over the longer term, partners Hendrix Genetics and Solidaridad aim to significantly strengthen local value chains within the African poultry industry by making smallholder farms more profitable and productive. They intend to do this both by improving the quality of the animals and the feed and by helping farmers to incorporate more professional approaches to animal health (access to vaccines), water, feed and management. They have also enlisted the support of influentials, who can help farmers overcome any resistance they may have to switching to alternative practices. This allows them to pave the way to create more impact.