Now she has 360 snow goose, which produce more than 3,000 eggs in a month. She sells one bird at Sh4,000. She sells one egg at Sh150 making an average of Sh120,000 in a month just from selling eggs.
The year 2013 was the year of quails. The tiny birds took everybody by storm as many farmers invested in them expecting miracles. Some made a kill, others suffered massive losses. Thank goodness many have moved on to other lucrative ventures. One farmer has discovered another priceless bird – the snow goose – that has given her a new lease of life.
Florence Muthoni Maragwa, has been keeping snow geese for the last two years and she has every reason to smile.
“In 2013, we had gone for a holiday in Mombasa then I went to some farm and saw a farmer keeping some beautiful birds (snow geese) birds and I developed an interest. The farmer told me he is the only supplier of thebirds in the country. He imported his from Egypt. The bird’s meat and eggs is highly nutritious and they fetch good money. He assured me the birds are all weather meaning they can survive anywhere. I also inquired about what they feed on, the problems I was bound to encounter. He also told me I could buy the eggs and hutch them in an incubator or use chicken.”
Mrs Maragwa spoke with her husband and they bought 20 eggs at Sh200 each.
“When we arrived home, my husband organised for a structure in our quarter acre farm where we put the eggs near our kienyeji chicken,” she recalls.
The one thing that the Coast farmer stressed to Maragwa, was that the birds have to be reared near a pool of water where they can swim every so often.
They love water
“Water is crucial to the birds for swimming and cooling off their systems. Without it, they cannot thrive or lay eggs. The good thing is that I have a small water mass near my house.”
Within a week, the eggs hatched.
Lucky for them the birds thrived with no episodes of attacks from diseases and within four months they had matured and hatched more eggs and the brood started to grow.
“When the flock grew larger, our next challenge was where to sell them. Some neighbours had tasted the eggs and they loved it. Slowly, word went round and more people developed interest.” To boost their sales, Mrs Maragwa marketed the product to hotels and supermarkets. She also used online marketing.
“People were very interested. That’s how I started getting orders from as far as Tanzania and Uganda. Local hotels, supermarkets and individual farmers are also her clients. Asians and Chinese particularly love the snow bird products because they know the benefits.”
Now she has 360 snow goose, which produce more than 3,000 eggs in a month.
She sells one bird at Sh4,000.
She sells one egg at Sh150 making an average of Sh120,000 in a month just from selling eggs.
So what are the benefits of rearing these birds?
First, the farmers says they are cheap to maintain as the ducks require little attention and feed on green household waste.
“Snow ducks feed on vegetables waste like banana leaves and leftover ugali. They do not need any special feed. They feed twice a day. These birds are intelligent. Like free range chicken, they walk around the boma and return to their structure in the evening.”
Another plus is that unlike other birds, they are not prone to diseases.
They take four months to mature and weigh 6 kilos upon maturity. They lay eggs daily as long as they have sufficient water.
Patience is key
She says the market uptake has been encouraging due to the nutrition value of the tasty eggs.
Mrs Maragwa says she has learnt how to make use of waste water from her household which makes keeping her birds less costly.
“I have learnt that farming is not about having plenty of water but utilising the little available. I make maximum use of my kitchen waste water by using it to water my bananas. I feed the birds on these banana leaves cutting on the cost of having to buy from the market.”
According to her, the biggest challenge with the snow geese eggs is that low-income earners cannot afford them.
“I wish the eggs were cheaper so that all people can buy them. But unfortunately they are pricy so only a certain class can enjoy the benefits,” she says.
Mrs Maragwa advice to young farmers who want to venture into this business is that though it is rewarding, it requires patience.
Mrs Maragwa credits her success to her husband, Peter Maragwa.
“My husband has been very supportive. Even when it seemed impossible to sell this new idea, he stood by me. Introducing snow goose farming in an arid area like Kajiado where locals don’t even believe in chicken was not an easy task, but my husband stood by me,” she explains.
“I want to acquire a bigger plot and concentrate on modern farming methods. I also want to tap into the larger export market.”