This post summarizes my scoping visit to Kenya from June 13-July 5. We met with farmers, feed millers, several government officials, and active members of the academic sector. Overall, the main focus was to update previous assumptions and advance work towards starting the planned studies and trials.
Work Prior to Visit
Prior to my visit, Isaac, Head of Logistics, visited Kenya in May. He was able to connect with farmers, millers and several industry and government officials. His visit allowed us to reconnect with several previous stakeholders, make contact with new connections, and explore a couple of counties new to us. The activities gave us new insights into what struggles farmers and millers face, informing our outreach strategies and improving our operational processes (e.g., optimizing Key Informant Interviews and data collection).
I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 13. Faisal, our Country Manager, picked me up - we finally got to meet in person. After discussing the plans for the upcoming couple of days, I arrived at the AirBnB to recover from the journey. Most of our planned work was set in Nairobi but we did end up traveling to scope Kisumu county in the West, and visited several nearby counties (Nakuru, Kiambu, Murang’a).
The first week had us busy running around and meeting a wide range of key stakeholders including feed industry players, research organizations, active academics, local animal NGOs, regulatory body representatives and feed testing laboratories. We were also happy to connect with the local EA chapter. The second week saw us reconnect with more of our academic contacts, volunteers and establish a connection with a well-known animal welfare professor and a progressive feed mill. We ended the week by taking part in an inspiring discussion held by Give Directly, organized by EA Nairobi.
During my last week, we met with the feed producer association, gave an interview on live TV, visited a couple of farms and agroshops, and held an active animal welfare workshop for the members of EA Nairobi.
In Kisumu we were able to visit several farms and mills, engage the local office of the Kenyan Bureau of Standards, and see what feeds are available at local agroshops - all the while collecting some samples for analysis.
We spent several days in Nakuru during the second half of my country visit. Once there, we met local academics, attended a farmer exhibition, and visited several farms. We also held our very first farmer workshop, where many participants seemed to benefit greatly from learning about animal welfare, with great interest in the topic of keel bone fractures and feed quality. We finished the trip off by visiting a couple of local feed mills.
We had the opportunity to visit farms
and agroshops in Kiambu and Murang’a counties. In Murang’a, we were very fortunate to connect with the county livestock office where the staff keeps robust data, are active in the community and operate farmer extension services.
I’m happy that I also had several days off, which allowed me to explore the surroundings a bit and learn about Kenya. I particularly enjoyed jogging in the nearby forests, learning about the history, struggles and development in Kibera, tasting local teas, and learning how to paint the classical Savannah sunset.
Overall, the visit provided us with valuable knowledge, with the following main takeaways:
Farmers struggle with current feed prices, suspect quality issues, and are eager to learn how to improve hen health and welfare.
Several industry stakeholders expressed their willingness to collaborate with us.
We now better understand which counties we should prioritize for baseline studies and which collaborators we have to choose from.
Relationships have been strengthened with local academics that will help us ensure we attain high quality data.
Phase 1 Work Conducted
We were able to visit ten farms (one caged and nine cage-free) during our visit. Flock sizes ranged from 150-2000, and 21000 hens in the caged facility. All farmers were concerned about the current prices of commercial feeds. Some also expressed concerns about feed quality. Poor biosecurity (lack of or improper use of disinfectant), ventilation, feeding just once a day and the lack of perches were some of the recurring risks and welfare issues.
None of the farmers were aware of keel bone issues, but most were interested, especially in the link between feed quality and animal health. Many have experienced poor productivity, issues with low body weight or delayed onset of lay.
Finally, we organized our first farmer workshop,
where we were able to learn more about the concern the farmers face and, together with Dr. Karani and representatives of ANAW, introduce the farmers to animal welfare and its multifaceted importance for their farming practices.
We also had the chance to meet with and discuss feed issues with 4 commercial millers. Many expressed the view that this year is one of the most difficult for them due to the high prices and low availability of high quality (e.g., low in aflatoxin) feed ingredients, mainly maize, wheat and soya. Market insecurities and production economics were among the top reasons voiced for hesitance to test or introduce new formulations.
One mill was undergoing significant staff changes in order to overcome the above issues, while another one suggested that they are at the mercy of the market and might close soon if nothing changes. In fact, most of the smaller mills shared that they are simply unable to compete with the large players to get good quality raw materials in this heavily contested market. Finally, the representative of the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers (AKEFEMA) shared that they are working hard to help their members. Most particularly, the association is keen on allowing GMO crops to be imported for the production of feed
Phase 2 Work Conducted
We managed to meet and learn about more departments of the Kenyan Bureau of Standards (KEBS), with informative discussions between us and the standard setting and feed testing departments. We are happy to see their enthusiasm in making sure that feed quality is high and uniform across the country. The way forward will be a joint effort to help the hens get feed that they truly need.
We had the opportunity to connect with two directorates: Livestock Production and Livestock Policies Research & Regulations. Those were great meetings where we got the chance to better understand what is the current focus of the upcoming policies and how recommendations can be made for future improvements. We also visited a couple of county livestock offices, where we discussed ongoing extension services offered to farmers and what egg farming data is available at the county level.
We reconnected with several local animal NGOs through our farmer workshop and general in-person meetings and engaged the local Effective Altruism community. Not only were we able to learn from Give Directly’s work and successes in the country, but also hosted an animal welfare workshop for EA Nairobi members, where we discussed the importance of animal welfare as a cause area and practiced evaluating interventions through the lens of importance, tractability, neglectedness and cost-efficacy.
After my visit, the team discussed potential next steps, which included following up with key stakeholders, engaging strategic partners with regards to collaboration, continuing to test samples, and exploring a couple avenues that seem promising. For our next visit, we will also ramp up our farmer outreach activities, which should allow us to:
Improve how we communicate animal welfare effectively;
Identify and engage new cage-free farmers in our key counties of interest;
See what capacity or knowledge is most needed to empower country livestock offices to include animal welfare training as part of their extension services.