Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
AS urban farming gains traction, the importance of animal husbandry as a piece of the puzzle has become a must-act issue.
One such farmer who has decided to be part of the puzzle, joining a number of urban dwellers to turn his backyard into a thriving agricultural enterprise is Mr Aggrey Moyo of Nketa 9 suburb in Bulawayo.
Mr Moyo retired from teaching in 2013 after more than 30 years, 12 of which he worked in neighbouring Botswana.
Upon discarding the chalk, Mr Moyo dedicated most of his time to various agricultural projects, notably horticultural production and poultry for income generation to sustain himself and his family.
It was only last year that Mr Moyo who before that reared a substantial number of free range chickens at the backyard of his home decided to enhance his business and the decision seems to have struck him gold.
He now rears more than 100 free range chickens made up of six breeds namely boschveld, blue australorp, black australorp, koekoe, white leghorn and splash while he also raises guinea fowls and a few turkeys.
“The guinea fowls have already started laying eggs and a number of farmers have started booking chicks. We also have a few turkeys and we are also looking forward to breeding quail birds in a big way. People didn’t experience consuming quail birds’ meat and eggs much as its phenomena just collapsed before the public could gain from its nutritious and health benefits.
“As for free range chickens we take one breed at a time when we are satisfied we push it onto the market. We are contemplating deliberately cross-breeding the australorp breed with boschveld. The australorp produces about 300 eggs a year while the boschveld produces about 200, thus a crossbreed of the two will most likely produce more,” said Mr Moyo.
The enterprising farmer hatches the birds’ eggs using his large capacity micro-biological incubator and sells to a number of enthusiastic poultry farmers drawn from Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and North provinces as well as some parts of Midlands.
He also generates income by hatching eggs for other poultry producers.
Mr Moyo’s exploits have even attracted some non-governmental organisations that are buying chicks for their community projects.
“We are having people coming as far as Mberengwa, Zvishavane while others come from Gwanda, Tsholotsho and Nyamandlovu to buy chicks, which I sell for $1 each or $2 depending on the breed. We have also drawn the attention of NGOs, schools and even officials from Bulawayo’s Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development visited us with the intention of mobilising women so that I could impart to them the requisite knowledge of rearing free range chickens,” he said.
Over the past five years or so, numerous traditional food eateries have been opened, while hotels have been putting traditional dishes on their menu.
This has served to push demand of traditional food even in supermarkets as some people prefer to cook for themselves at home.
Such is the rising popularity for meals that include free range chicken meat popularly known as nkukhu makhaya, guinea fowl, turkey, rabbit and duck meat to go along with traditional starches such as isitshwala.
Mr Moyo has also started manufacturing chicken feed through mixing a number of crop produce and various concentrates.
“We are now making feed using traditional crop produce. We make sure the feed has three sources of protein, as well as energy including calcium which comes from egg shells which we heat for the purpose of killing any possibility of bacteria or any other infections and then mix it with the other ingredients,” he said.
Mr Moyo said there was considerably low fertility rate among the chickens during the summer due to soaring temperatures.
“Poultry farmers should always be wary of climatic conditions and feed conversion rate. At this period (summer) production is very low largely due to the fact that chickens will be suffering from heat stress.
“There is high infertility among cocks and in most instances they will be inactive and at this time as well, incubators tend to fail due to heat. The machines must be positioned in well-ventilated areas,” he said.
Riding from the success of his backyard poultry project, Mr Moyo is now thinking big.
“I have long thought of getting a bigger piece of land to embark on a massive free range chicken project. I applied for the land from the local authority but it seems it’s all in vain. As it is, council requires a limited stocking number in a residential property.
“I was even thinking of setting up an agricultural training centre on that particular piece of land for the training and supporting of disadvantaged in communities such as widows, orphans and even the youths,” he said.
The enterprising farmer also harbours ambitions of venturing into massive stock feed manufacturing.
“I have prospects of enhancing my animal nutrition skills and my biggest dream is to run a stock feed company in the near future thus the reason I want to keep my latest chicken feed formula a secret at the moment,” said Mr Moyo.
Mr Moyo said the local authority was not giving much priority to small stock production as it was according to crop or horticultural production.
“There is a missing link in our appreciation of urban farming. It seems it is more biased towards allocating plots for cropping purposes and not for small stock rearing.
“In countries like Botswana you have a piece of land within residential areas being allocated to poultry producers and that way disease control issues are effective,” he said.
Mr Moyo said there was a need for the local authority and the Government to prioritise agricultural projects as the sector plays an integral role in ensuring the country’s food security as well as turning around its economy.
“Agriculture is the oldest and largest industry in the whole world and at times I feel it’s not given the attention it deserves, especially by our local authorises and the Government at large,” he said. -@DNsingo