Hello everyone! This blog post takes you through the journey of my third work visit to Kenya since Healthier Hens inception of operations in the country. Here, I achieved the goal of conducting farmers workshops in 2 Kenyan counties, while establishing new professional connections and information in the hen and animal welfare space on areas relevant to our work.
Our farmers training workshops kickstarted our major outreach activities to educate and sensitise farmers in Kenya on hen welfare and introduce them to our dietary interventions. In these workshops, we educated farmers through a variety of key topics such as understanding animal welfare and sentience, animal welfare legal frameworks in Kenya, hen welfare practices, and hen housing. We then engaged them in discussions on keel bone damages/fractures, possible dietary causes, their impact on hen welfare and health, and our potential dietary intervention to combat these issues.
The training workshops were each conducted over 2-day events in 2 counties respectively - Nakuru and Muranga - and we were joined by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) and Dr. Maurice Karani, who supported the workshop with co-facilitation of topics. In total, 44 farmers were reached with information and education across the 2 counties.
Our farmers’ audience consisted of both young and relatively older farmers, with one farmer who started farming in 1963! In general, many of the farmers were previously unaware of hen welfare practices, KBFs, and animal welfare laws in Kenya. A lot of the farmers expressed complaints and issues with prevalent low quality feeds that have deteriorated over time, and increasing feed prices. Due to these issues, some farmers indicated that they had to downsize their larger flocks to smaller ones because of the rising cost of feed and lower productivity of their hens.
On animal welfare legislation in Kenya, many farmers were unaware that such laws existed and were appreciative of the knowledge. While discussing animal welfare violations, they corroborated that occurrences of animal welfare violations are happening and rife across the country. Some cited examples included transport of poultry on boda bodas (small motorcycles), owners hitting donkeys with sticks so they go faster, overloading of donkeys etc. On discussions around welfare-enhancing housing for hens, they confirmed the seemingly increasing acceptance and adoption of caged housing, as was presumed to be the best in the country and indicated that they were being promoted at farm expos, where a large number of vendors sell the cages. All in all, farmers were extremely appreciative of the knowledge they learned from the workshop.
Farmers indicated interest in being a part of our potential research on KBF prevalence and feed fortification trials and showed commitment to being more conversant with the quality of feed they provide as a way to support their hen’s welfare and health.
To evaluate the immediate impact of our workshop in terms of awareness, knowledge and willingness to adapt lessons learned from the workshop, all farmers were asked to complete pre- and post-workshop survey questionnaires. The results of this would be analysed and developed into a report that will be shared at a later time soon.
Farm visits with potential data collectors
Our team visited a Hen Farm with prospective data collectors to provide some preliminary demonstration on the examination and determination of keel bone fractures through live bird palpations. The farm had about 2000 birds distributed equally across 4 housing units on a one-storey building. The team randomly selected 7 to 10 hens from each housing unit and discussions and directions were provided on the palpation procedure for keel bones. This was a very productive meeting with the HH team, data collectors and the farmer where we also provided additional feedback to the farmer on the need to build in perches on her farm for the hens to improve spacing, expression of normal hen behaviour and mitigate the risk of crowding.
Engagement with Relevant Professionals
In the course of the country visit, the HH team and I were able to meet with some key personnel across the veterinary, animal welfare and animal nutrition sector - with whom we engaged in informative discussions on hen welfare, hen nutrition and the animal welfare space in Kenya. These included Dr. Mwenda Mbaka - Veterinarian, livestock and animal welfare specialist; Prof. Folorunsho Fasina - ECTAD-FAO Team Lead for Kenya; and Prof. Charles Karuku Gachuiri - Veterinarian and Professor of Animal Nutrition. Through these conversations, we got engaged with representatives from the East African Community to learn more about the feed value chain and feed standards in the East African region, and facilitated our participation at the just-concluded Africa Animal Welfare Conference (AAWC). We were also able to support organisation’s registration with the Kenya Veterinary Board (KVB), elicit information on prospective hen or animal welfare work within the FAO, and prospectives for hen nutrition research and intervention strategies in line with our mandate as an organisation
It was indeed a productive work trip to the city of Kenya and I look forward to more engagements with the team including farmers and other stakeholders, as we seek to make high impact on improved hen welfare.