Story By JAMES KARIUKI
From Africa Review.
Seventy two-year-old Philip Gichohi is busy making money ‘restoring’ men’s vitality via sale of quail eggs — a rare venture licensed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to help farmers earn handsomely from the wild birds.
Mr Gichohi’s project — the first in Kenya’s Nyandarua County — has won him orders from four-star hotels in the capital Nairobi, which have been receiving eight egg trays every week form his farm.
“Age is just but a number as all we need is to eat the right food like the Japanese, Chinese and Indians have done for ages. They prefer eating wild fruits, animals and drinking water from springs thereby avoiding highly-processed foods and drinks,” he says.
His venture into quail farming was motivated by a visit to a quail farm in Kiambu County where he saw a farmer rearing the wild birds as a commercial enterprise and was surprised at the low input and maintenance cost required.
While a mature hen consumes an average of 150 grammes of food per day and requires a regular administration of drugs, a quail eats 20 grammes per day and hardly requires any drugs.
Additionally, while a kilo of poultry meat goes for Sh280 ($3.30) on average, quail, which hardly weighs half-a-kilo at maturity attracts, Sh500 (about $6).
“A quail lays an egg daily which costs Sh15 ($0.18) and the demand is so high that I am unable to meet it both here at home and in Nairobi where my eggs are sold to tourists at exorbitant prices,” he says.
While addressing a group of forest edge communities in his county recently, Mr Gichohi noted that quails take about eight weeks to mature and their meat is highly recommended for people keen on boosting their immunity against many diseases.
Waving a consumption dose for eggs by people wishing to treat various ailments, he said it is more profitable to keep quails as they are less demanding than chicken.
To visit his farm at Mathingira location in Nyandarua North District, farmer groups pay Sh100 ($1) per person and have to pass through a fumigation pool at the entrance before seeing his hatcheries. This acts as another source of income for him.
To boost production, he has bought a Sh14,000 ($165) egg incubator after discovering quails incubate their eggs with difficulties since they keep moving in fear of predators. This has helped him boost his laying population to over 50 birds.
“They are very poor feeders but good layers and all one needs is a licence from KWS allowing you to keep quails since they are wild birds,” he says.
Every visit to Nyahururu town also sees him drop by the veterinary office and the local KWS station to file returns as well as receive communication of any pending lectures.
The KWS officer in charge of utilisation, senior warden Paul Opiyo told this writer that KWS has mooted several wild animal keeping ventures which will help farmers appreciate wildlife conservation as a source of revenue.
“KWS is now keen on forming partnerships which will enable Kenyans benefit directly from wildlife. Only out-dated traditional practices stand between them and money as snake and tortoise keeping is earning many farmers handsome returns but no farmer would dare start such a venture,” he said.