Indigenous chickens also known as ‘chicken makayas’ production is practiced by the majority of subsistence crop producers in most of Zimbabwe’s rural communal areas serving as a vital food (protein source from meat and eggs) and socio-economic pillar for rural households as it integrates well with crop farming contributing in improving nutrition, gender partaking and advancing rural economies over the years (Chisango, 2017). The birds possess high genetic diversity with unspecific breeds, varying considerably in size, colour, shape of comp and other features. Poultry is a profitable agro-industries which over the years in effectively tackled problems of unemployment and underemployment in the rural communal areas. Production demands low capital requirements ensuring a regular flow of income through the marketing of products (Balamurugan and Manoharan, 2014).
The Published estimations of the quantities of indigenous poultry in developing countries of Africa vary from 70 to 95%, with 80% mean. Regardless of comprising about 20% of the national flock, the impact of indigenous chickens to total table eggs is estimated to be small because of natural incubation by hen on most of the eggs laid, low growth rates and high mortalities. Contribution of indigenous poultry to general poultry meat consumption was projected to be almost 50% in some African developing countries where Zimbabwe falls (Pym. et al. 2006).
According to NewsDay, (2011), Indigenous chickens in Zimbabwe were estimated to be between 15 and 30 million. The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency went on carry out an agriculture and livestock survey in A2 farms in Zimbabwe and the total number of farms in 2010 was 16 306, with estimated number of 724 615 indigenous chickens, in 2011 there were 16 280 farms with a decreased estimated number of 347 777 indigenous chickens, in 2012 there were now 15 687 farms with a decreased estimated number of 371 394 indigenous chickens and in 2014 there were now 11 138 farms with an estimated total number of chicken being 288 479. The statistics showed a declining trend of both indigenous chickens A2 farms and the total number of chickens. In national region 4, estimation of the indigenous chickens was 61 006, and Matabeleland South province estimation total number was 26 362 (Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, 2015).
In Zimbabwe, rural communities’ small scale production which can be referred to as backyard poultry production, consist of extensive and semi-extensive production systems keeping indigenous chickens with very poor production performances and limited application of management interventions to improve the flocks’ performances. According to Sonaiya and Swan, (2004), in African rural communities, the most common household indigenous chickens flock size is estimated to be 5 to 20 birds composed of eight chicks, six to seven growers, four to five hens and one cock. Generally the limit is due to lack of capital mostly in terms of housing pens, specified feeding, and labour. They went on to say that any substantial increase in the flock size usually result in malnutrition due to the limited provision of feed supplementation. In the rural communal areas, a mainstream of indigenous chicken populaces is reared under traditional scavenging system which is frequently characterised by low throughputs. Communal areas’ indigenous chickens are left to scavenge in order for them to mollify their dietary requirements with limited or without supplementation, which predisposes them to predators; ingestion of venomous matters; physical damage which can be from environmental extremes and/or injury; external and internal parasitic infestations like lice and worms; and, transferable infections caused by microbial organisms which are bacteria, viruses in some cases, fungi. These coincide in a scavenging setting contributing to reduced production and causes mortality when fatal. The subsistence rural farmers traditionally invest less in solutions to overcome these problems leading to poor performances of indigenous chickens’ production (Malatji et al. 2016).
According to The Herald 2018, Zimbabwe’s poultry production dropped ominously in 2017. Table eggs dropped by 31% and poultry meat production declined by 10% on the market, comparing with the meat and table eggs produced in 2016. Zimbabwe vulnerability assessment committee ZIMVAC also confirmed that there is a sharp decline in number of indigenous chickens over the years due to the increased preference for exotic cheaper genetically modified chicken products imported from other counties like South Africa (Chisango, 2017). Modern chicken breeds result in high profit margins quick turnover, hence, it is gradually replacing the indigenous chicken breeds as farmers’ preference has shifted from indigenous to broiler chickens production as an impeccable substitute. In rural communities of Zimbabwe, less importance is now attached to indigenous chicken breeds, culminating not only to their decline in numbers but also the fear of total extinction driven by the current genetic erosion (Getu and Birhan, 2014).
Zinenge, (2013) noted that the poultry industry of Zimbabwe has been significantly affected by trade liberalization which started in 1991 following the implementation of Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), which was approved in most African developing countries as part of ‘Washington consensus’ policies. Zimbabwe conversely upheld a trade surplus in poultry from 2000, until a shortfall was recorded in 2008 typically due to abruptly increasing modified chickens’ imports.
Immense declining of indigenous chicken production, meat and egg productivity impacts the consumption patterns by the rural local market negatively and besides in Zimbabwe, it as has been prominent in other rural communities of African countries in the Sub-Saharan region (Kingori et al, 2010). Statistics by the department of Veterinary Services in Zimbabwe, (2016), plugs to increasing morbidity and mortality rates as the resulting into to low performance of indigenous chickens in rural smallholder farmers. The statistics points to Newcastle disease being the most prominent infection in free range systems accounting for 70% mortality logged in the Zimbabwe yearly (FAO, 2016).
Since farmers are preferring modified exotic chickens, they should however bear that due the indigenous chickens’ high reproduction rate per unit time, efficient feed conversion ratio, aptitude to scavenge, escape predators, hardy to non-arid climate of the Southern Africa regions and tolerance to poor management which is characterised with feed deficiencies and un-quantified feeding regimes, they should remain a reservation in Zimbabwe as the chickens have revealed inordinate probable to survive where genetically modified breeds have failed, making the indigenous strains better for resource poor rural areas (Getu and Birhan, 2014).
It is alarming that in spite of abundant recommendations on improved farming methods targeting to advance productivity of indigenous chickens, advancement still remain hindered in Insiza district and the entire Matebeleland South province at large, as copious challenges continues to soothe any expressive expansion in the enterprise. A survey to assess obstructions hampering production leading to viability of the enterprise was therefore premised on the quest to find ways of unlocking the value in indigenous chicken to advance sustainable livelihoods among the rural populace. Ultimate to the study was assessing performance, establishing challenges limiting production of indigenous chicken enterprises with particular reference to Isiza district in Matebeleland South, Zimbabwe.
The declining trends in Zimbabwe’s indigenous chickens’ performance and popularity’ production curve has reached at a level of concern in the rural communal areas. Customarily the reserve subsistence producers have always banked on indigenous chickens’ meat and eggs as an affordable base of protein, money and to a lesser extent, source of manure for crop production. This traditional value chain is being continuously disrupted by the declining quantities of chickens reared by subsistence farmers owing to intricate of challenges restricting output and capability of this sector.
Data generated during the free range chickens workshop held at a Figtree hotel, Matabeleland South by department of Agricultural Research and Extension services AGRITEX, 2018, authenticates that the decreasing patterns of indigenous chickens continues to intensify (Nsingo, 2018). In place of market forces being suppressive on the locally produced indigenous chickens resulting from the prevailing Zimbabwe’s economic challenges, consumers are unwillingly going for low-cost commodities, hence driving the confined local industry to shrink, impacting detrimentally on the livelihood of the resource poor rural communities. It is therefore imperative for the study to reveal challenges affecting the productivity and feasibility of indigenous chickens in Zimbabwe’s rural community in Isiza District in Matebeleland South, assessing the ways adapted by the farmers to overcome them.
This study centres on the performance, constrains of indigenous chicken production in Insiza district and evaluating measures used to solve these limitations. Furthermore, it will provide endorsements of additional ways which farmers can adopt to aid in overcoming indigenous chicken production challenges principally for improving production performances. The study is intended primarily to add to the existing knowledge on the indigenous chicken production and to aid as a secondary base of data for advanced studies of indigenous chickens’ production in Insiza production.
Indeed, the indigenous chicken producers of Insiza district stand to benefit immensely from this study since it conveys out the numerous challenges that confront poultry production, and techniques used to overcome these identified challenges. Looming poultry farmers of Insiza district can also use the results of the study as to avoid likely pitfalls in their indigenous chicken enterprise.
Particularly in Insiza district production, utmost indigenous chicken farmers are operating with lack of sound organisation and technical ways. Hence, conducting a survey in this district is very vital and can play excessive role on the development of indigenous poultry production, facilitating poultry farmers to increase their income profits and also enhance their dietary supplies; thus in due course uplifting their living standards.
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