Urbanus Kamuti - Building sustainable livelihoods

Chicken coop

Six years ago, 34 year old Urbanus Kamuti Mutune lived in Nairobi city trying to make ends meet from the meagre earnings he got from the casual jobs he did from time to time. Frustrated and tired, Urbanus decided to leave the hustle and the bustle of Nairobi city and he relocated back to his rural home in Mwala village, Machakos county doubtful and uncertain about the future of his growing young family.

After his relocation to the village, he met many other young people who were also striving to make ends meet despite the erratic rainfall in the region and together they formed a group; Sweat is Sweet Youth Group. In 2013 through the Drylands Development (DryDev) project, the group was taken through training and the members were encouraged to focus on growing pulses, rearing indigenous chicken and goats so that they could have sustainable livelihoods in spite of the climatic conditions in the region.

Urbanus started with 30 indigenous chickens which through good brooding practices continued to increase.  “By 2014, the number had risen to 500. I sold most of them and added some money from my savings to buy this piece of land so that I could move from my father’s farm and build my own home.” Urbanus narrates proudly looking at his two dedicated chicken pens surrounded by a chain link fence and his permanent house.

His flock has 123 indigenous chickens. He explains that he sold over 200 chickens over the previous month. The indigenous chicken value chain has numerous benefits. “I do not sell eggs for consumption; I sell them to other farmers for brooding at a cost of 30 shillings per egg. The manure from the chicken is also very good for farming.”  Urbanus says. His five year old daughter Mary follows him closely as we walk towards the chicken barns.

Urbanus explaining about the homemade chicken feed mixer

Urbanus explaining about the homemade chicken feed mixer

“We have also been trained on financial management through the seminars organised by SNV. I am able to manage the proceeds from the chicken enterprise. I pay school fees for our children and invest in other farming activities.” He looks at his daughter Mary tenderly as he finishes off this statement. He then points to a weighing scale hanging on a tree and explains that the mature chicken sale price is determined by the number of kilograms.

”The selling is mostly done by my wife Anastasia Mumo because she is home most of the time. She also helps me around the farm” He explains. The chicken is sold at 470 shillings per kilogram based on the live weight. The average weight at the time of sale is between 2-4 kilograms.

“Mwala is a dry area, and the seasons vary.  Sometimes a prolonged drought can follow a rainy season. We learnt various methods of conducting farming activities through the DryDev project like using Zai pits to plant crops and digging a farm pond.” He points proudly to a green patch of green maize behind the house. He repeats that he used the chicken manure to plant the crops. He also points to the farm pond which he explains is very helpful in his chicken enterprise as well as his other farming activities.

Urbanus shares the knowledge he has received through the DryDev project with other farmers in the region through training. He has trained over 10 farmer groups in managing the indigenous chicken enterprise and developing production plans. Urbanus also mentors other young farmers in the Sweat is Sweet Youth group “The indigenous chicken enterprise offers ready employment for the youth.” He says.I am looking forward to the Christmas holiday season. The price of chicken will definitely go up because of the festivities” Urbanus says with a sly smile.

Anastasia Mumo weighing the chicken before a sale to determine pricing

Anastasia Mumo weighing the chicken before a sale to determine pricing

Urbanus and his family

Urbanus and his family

Urbanus explains that the enterprise has its own challenges. He cites diseases to be a major challenge. “Newcastle Disease is the most common. It is important to vaccinate and check the chicken regularly for early detection of diseases and treatment. We have also been trained on indigenous poultry management practices through the DryDev project to prevent diseases”

Urbanus is a role model to the youth in Mwala and beyond. He was elected as the coordinator in the Sweat is Sweet Group during their last elections.

He attributes his success to the support he receives from his wife, Anastasia. “Once in a while, we slaughter chicken and eat. The eggs also provide good nutrition for my family. That’s why we all look healthy!” Anastasia remarks with a soft chuckle.  She goes on to explain that the chicken enterprise is easy to manage as she looks after the children.

”Even when there are no rains, we have money for food, books and other necessities for our five children.” Anastasia adds.

Urbanus aspires to increase the number of chicken to 1,000 in the next two years.

“Restaurants, schools and hotels are willing to pay a premium price for big numbers and consistent supply.” Urbanus explains.

Urbanus has no regrets for leaving his casual job in Nairobi back in 2012. “We no longer struggle to make ends meet. The chicken enterprise has changed our lives and supports other farming activities.” Urbanus concludes smiling.