I considered eggs (and beans) as accessible and affordable protein sources of protein for households, especially in rural areas where chicken are majorly kept in free-range or semi-free range systems.
Small-scale or large-scale really depends on the purpose of producing eggs; for home consumption or for the market. If for the market, then production must make economic sense to the farmer. In Nakuru and Western region of Kenya, the cost of chicken feed remains the biggest hindrance making local eggs unable to compete in the local market. For example, eggs from Uganda sells for as low as KSh 300 (USD 0.3), while eggs by local producers retail at KSh 340 (USD 0.34). The downside is quality. Consumers are not assured of quality bearing in mind the distances the eggs have travelled.
Local initiatives to tackle the feed cost issue include the use of locally available feed like sweet potatoes and cassava; foods that are largely shunned by people in favour of maize, rice and wheat. The tuber crops are planted off season have the primary maize crop has been planted. The available sweet potato varieties are drought tolerant and take shorter time – from 4 months. Even with this, protein sources for chicken feed remain expensive for farmers.
Indigenous and improved indigenous chicken breeds are popular with farmers, especially small-to-medium scale producers because they are hardy (resistant to diseases and can survive on locally available feeds), and they are they are dual purpose; kept for meat and eggs, something that farmers see as an advantage over the exotic breeds.
On increasing demand, finding creative ways to educate people on the nutritional benefits of eggs. I have seen farmers sell eggs to things like soft drinks for their children, which have lesser nutritional benefit compared to the sold egg. Together with this, In addition, increasing options for consume eggs at the home level makes is appropriate. At the moment, most households consume eggs as boiled or fried as a snack, used as a vegetable to accompany. For child nutrition, use with porridge or as an addition with other foods can increase demand and diversity of usage.
Generally, awareness creation and training of producers is the first level intervention to mitigate the downside of large scale production. This is factored into extension and advisory services as part of wider community development communication and outreach. Consumers can also contribute through buying of eggs from farms that treat their birds well. Consumer awareness through mass media tools like radio, television, agricultural shows and exhibitions, and now social media offer possible interactive and participatory channels. However, this can only happen where it is possible to trace the source of the eggs in the market. This can be handled through policy and enforcement at both national and county levels of government.
John Cheburet: Radio Producer, Nakuru, Kenya