Livestock Research for Rural Development 29 (4) 2017 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

The role of the rural farmer in guinea fowl Numida meleagris value chain, a case study of the Tolon district

I I Abdul-Rahman and Y E Adu

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University for Development Studies, Nyankpala campus,
P. O. Box TL 1882, Tamale, Ghana.
ai.iddriss@yahoo.co

Abstract

A survey was conducted in Tolon district to assess the role of producers in the guinea fowl value chain. In all 200 guinea fowl farmers were purposively selected for this research work using a structured questionnaire.

The results revealed that guinea fowl production enterprise in the study area is male dominated (97%). The study found that all the farmers reared the birds semi-intensively, and birds are provided with housing to roost at night. Supplementary feed and water are provided for the birds on daily basis. Most (56%) of the farmers have flock sizes ranging between 5-25 birds. Birds are allowed to lay on the field and the eggs are collected on daily basis. Majority (55%) stored their eggs in containers whiles the remaining stored in calabash. Brooder hens are used for incubation of eggs and the incubation period ranged between 26-30days. Mortalities are largely recorded in keets, and this mostly occurs during the second quarter of the year. Majority (98%) of the farmers do not vaccinate their birds against any disease. Most (91%) engaged in ethno-veterinary practices. The major problem confronting producers in production and marketing of their products are high keet mortality and low price of products, respectively. Birds are usually sold to aggregators when the farmer is in need of cash. The study has demonstrated that the farmers rear guinea fowl mainly for cash beside the need to meet the social and cultural obligations. The guinea fowl industry has a huge potential for growth, yet the constraints still remain as previously reported over two decades ago. Interventions are required to reach the potential of this sector.

Keywords: constraints, prospects, production system


Introduction

Guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) is a bird native to the African continent (Smith 1990; Payne 1990; Annor et al 2012). The bird derives its name from the coast of Guinea, where it is believed to have originated (Teye and Gyawu 2002). Northern Ghana represents the major zone of production of this birds in the country, and almost all households, males and females, as well as children rear the birds (Naaze et al 2002). There are three strains, including pearl, white and the lavender guinea fowl (Dei and Karbo 2004). The common strain found in this region is the pearl guinea fowl. It has purplish grey plumage, dotted or pearled with white (Kashindye 2000). In Northern Ghana, free range is the most common system of rearing the guinea fowls among small scale farmers. There is no systematic feeding regime followed by the farmers, and birds depend on free range, where they gather grass seeds, vegetables, and other available green leaves, insects, worms, bones and eggshells (Dahouda et al 2007). Guinea fowls are usually reared as scavengers together with domestic village poultry (Kashindye 2000). They are relatively disease free and require little water or attention (NRC 1991), and hence capital investment for engaging in their rearing is low. This makes it possible literally for anyone to raise them. There was no large scale production in Ghana as occurs for chicken (Awotwi 1987), until quite recently. In Ghana, indigenous guinea fowls are mostly reared in small scale backyard and units in small numbers.

Guinea fowls are integral part of the lives of the people in Northern Ghana and are reared for varied functions, including courtship and dowry, gifts and sacrifice (Naazie et al 2002). They also serve as a means of individual and social wealth generation, since ruminants are bought from initial investment in guinea fowl production (Karbo et al 2002). The bird is also used by the Gonjas in the northern region for the celebration of Guinea fowl festival (Annor et al 2012). The contribution of guinea fowl to the livelihood of the rural farmers is enormous. The meat of the bird is a delicacy, with demand being higher than supply (Koney 2004), hence is a source of ready cash for investment. The flesh of young guinea is tender and has a fine flavor resembling that of a wild game (Awotwi 1987). According to Koney (1993), the guinea fowl yields higher, firmer, and tastier meat than chicken. There are hardly any cultural barriers against the consumption of guinea fowls. Their eggs keep longer than domestic fowl egg because of their unusually thick shells (Ayorinde 2004).

The wide acceptability of guinea fowl and guinea fowl products indicates that there is a potential market. Compared to village chickens, the guinea fowl’s advantages are: low production cost, premium quality meat, greater capacity to scavenge for insects and grains, better ability to protect itself against predators and better resistance to common poultry parasites and diseases than chickens; for example, Newcastle Disease and Fowl Pox (Microlivestock 1991). This indicates that there is potential for smallholder farmers to improve guinea fowl production in order to increase household protein supply and increase income.

In spite of the importance and advantages of guinea fowl over other species in Northern Ghana, there is little scientific research on the management problems of local guinea fowl production in contrast to indigenous chickens (Awotwi 1987; Maganga and Haule 1994). These include poor hatchability, high keet mortality, difficult in sexing keets, slow growth rate and a dearth of knowledge on genetic improvement (Oke et al 2004). The seasonality of breeding has also been recognized as one of the major drawbacks to large scale guinea fowl production (Oguntona 1983; Ayorinde 2004; Naazie 2007; Abdul-Rahman et al 2016a; 2016b). Under the traditional system, breeding stocks are obtained from the farmers own stock, thus, fertile eggs are not available for year round production. Indigenous Guinea fowl breeds generally have slow growth rate and utilize feed less efficiently than chickens (Olomu 1983; Annor et al 2012). The slow growth rate of Guinea fowls is associated with the use of unimproved breeds, extensive production system, poor feeding, poor health care and management and selection (Nwagu and Alawa 1995; Sale and Du Prezz 1997; Annor et al 2012).

There is growing evidence to demonstrate the role of rural guinea fowl in enhancing food and nutritional security of the poorest, reducing their livelihood vulnerability and insecurity and promoting gender equity (Otte 2006; Ahuja and Sen 2007). Rural poultry alone provides 70% of poultry products and 20% of animal protein intake in most African countries (Awuni 2002). The guinea fowl sub-sector in the poultry industry in the Northern Region has not performed creditably well, hence has not played the expected vital and vibrant role in the economic growth and development of the region. This situation has been of great concern to government, citizenry, actors and all stakeholders alike. Even though the work by Teye and Adams (2000) covered some constraints to guinea fowl production, this was not exhaustive enough, and requires further research attention. The objective of the present study, therefore, was to specifically identify the role that the farmer plays in production and marketing of guinea fowl, and what constraints they encounter in the process.


Materials and methods

Study area

The survey was carried out in Tolon District of the Northern region of Ghana. The District lies between latitudes 9 15ʹ` and 100 02` North and Longitudes 0 53ʹand 1 25ʹ West. It shares boundaries with kumbugu to the North, North Gonja to the West, Central Gonja to the South, and Sagnarigu Districts to the East. The district is characterized by a single rainy season, which starts in late April, rising to its peak in July-August, declining sharply and coming to a complete halt in October-November. The dry season starts from November to March, with day temperatures ranging from 33 C to 39 C, while mean night temperature range from 20 C to 26 C. The Mean annual rainfall ranges between 950 mm - 1,200 mm. The main vegetation is grassland, interspersed with guinea savannah woodland, characterized by drought-resistant trees such as acacia (Acacia longifolia), mango (Magnifera indica), baobab (Adansonia digitata), shea nut (Vitellaria paradoxa), dawadawa (parkia biglobosa), and neem (Azadirachta indica). Major tree species include the sheanut, dawadawa, and mango, which are economic trees and form an integral part of livelihood of its people. Majority of the district inhabitants are peasant and subsistent farmers.

Sampling procedure

The population for this study was Guinea fowl farmers in Tolon district of Northern Region. Purposive sampling was used in sampling 200 guinea fowl farmers from the district, since there was no sampling frame. Open and closed ended questionnaire were used to obtain responses from farmers on their role in production and marketing of guinea fowls, and the constraints they encounter in the process.

Data analysis

Data obtained was analysed in Microsoft excel. The level of agreement of farmers in ranking of various production and marketing parameters were assessed using Kendell’s tau test (W), and statistical significance of agreement among farmers ascertained using the chi-square procedure. All assessments were done at 5% level of significance.


Results

Most (97%) of the farmers interviewed were males. Majority (80%) of them had no formal education, whiles 13%, 5% and 2%, respectively, had basic, secondary and tertiary education. farmers aged between 26-35 years were the predominant (40%) group of producers interviewed, whiles those aged above 55 years were the least (Table 1).

Most (93%) of the farmers kept a combination of guinea fowl and chicken in a single flock, whiles the remaining kept turkey in addition to the two species of birds. None of the farmers kept only one species of bird. All of them kept the birds on the semi-intensive system. While 83% of the farmers provided poorly ventilated mud houses for the birds to roost at night, the remaining provided wooden hencoops.

Table 1. Age distribution of farmers

Age (years)

No (%) of farmers

18-35

36 (18%)

26-35

80 (40%)

36-45

44 (22%)

46-55

34 (17%)

Above 55

6 (3%)

On most (91%) of the farms, flock sizes ranged between 5-25 birds, whiles a few (2%) farms had flock sizes exceeding 36 birds (Table 2). All the farmers interviewed during the study offer supplementary feed to their birds in the form of cereal grains such as maize, millet and sorghum. A handful of grains are offered to both growers and mature birds in the morning and late in the evening. Keets are usually fed with ground maize mixed with small amount of fish. Majority (91%) of the farmers prepared this feed themselves, whiles 1% and 8%, respectively, provided commercial poultry feed and mixed grains. All the farmers interviewed provide water for their birds on daily basis, and sources of water for birds differed among farmers (Figure.1).

Table 2. Number of birds kept by the farmers

No. (%) of farmers

No. of birds kept

112 (56%)

5-15

70 (35%)

16-25

14 (7%)

26-35

4 (2%)

36-45

Most (83%) of the farmers obtain hatchable eggs from their own flocks, whiles the remaining purchase from other farmers. All the farmers interviewed stated that the birds lay on the field, and the eggs are collected on daily basis. Some of these eggs are lost to predators during the laying period. Majority (55%) of the farmers store their eggs in containers (plastic and metal containers, woven basket, clay pots) and egg crates, whiles the remaining keep theirs in calabash. The containers are usually lined with cotton lint or any soft material. All the farmers indicated they usually store their eggs for less than one week, and then set for incubation (Fig. 2). Most (69%) collect between 20-50 eggs / bird / breeding season, whiles the remaining collect between 51 and 70 eggs / bird during the same period (Fig. 3).

Most (99%) of the farmers use the brooder hen in hatching of eggs, whiles only (1%) use the incubator (Fig. 2). Majority (98%) set between 16-20 eggs per brooder hen, whiles the remaining set above 20 eggs per brooder hen. The incubation period for the eggs is between 25-30 days for the brooder hen and 20-25 days for the incubator.

Figure 1. Sources of water for birds


Fig. 2. Storage of guinea fowl eggs in woven basket lined with soft material (A)
and incubation and hatching of guinea fowl eggs by domestic hen (B).

Only 10% of the farmers select superior males and females from their flock for breeding purposes. Birds are usually selected when they attain 3-6 months of age. Most (83%) of the farmers sex their keets by general appearance, whiles the remaining do so using the combs of the birds. Mortality are mostly (91%) recorded during the second quarter of the year, few farmers (4% and 5%, respectively), however, reported higher mortality during the first and third quarters. All farmers singled out keets as the group of birds mostly affected by mortality. Most (51%) of them indicated that the causes of death are unknown, whiles the remaining attributed these deaths to poor weather conditions during certain periods of the year and predation. Majority (98%) of the farmers do not vaccinate their birds against any disease, whiles the remaining vaccinate against common poultry diseases such as fowl pox and gumboro. Diseased birds are usually culled from the flock by all the farmers. Most (81%) of the farmers engage in ethno-veterinary practices using the bark of neem tree, dawadawa and mahogany for treatment of all diseases. No guinea fowl farmer tried procuring credit to expand production. Most of them never had contact with extension (85%) and veterinary (94%) services (Figure 4).

There was significantly high level of agreement among farmers (W=0.63, X 2 (5) = 882, df =14) on their constraints to production. The results of the present study revealed that the predominant problem confronted by the producers is keet mortality, whilst the least was aggressiveness in birds (Table 3).

Figure 3. Number of eggs collected / bird / breeding season.


Figure 4. Contact between farmers and extension / veterinary agents


Table 3. Major constraints affecting guinea fowl production

Constraints

Number of
respondents

Average
rank

Rank

Keet mortality

200

1.04

1st

Egg loss to predators

200

2.47

2nd

Lack of veterinary services

200

2.58

3rd

Lack of extension

200

4.22

4th

Lack of hatchery

200

4.79

5th

Lack of credit

200

6.10

6th

High cost of inputs

200

6.95

7th

Lack of hatchable eggs

200

8.10

8th

Lack of nutrient requirement guide

200

8.78

9th

Poor housing

200

10.19

10th

Lack of quality day old chicks

200

10.91

11th

Fluctuation in feed prices

200

12.03

12th

Sexing of keets

200

12.98

13th

Absence of feed mills

200

13.83

14th

Aggressiveness in birds

200

13.98

15th

W = 0.63, X2 = 882, df =14

Sale of birds by all the farmers interviewed was need-lead. There was significantly high level of agreement among farmers (W=0.81, X2 (5) = 405, df = 5) on their reasons for selling birds. The study revealed that the predominant reason why farmers sell their birds is the need for cash in the pocket, whiles the least was for purchase of birds to improve flock size (Table 4).

Table 4. Reasons for selling birds by farmers

Reasons for
selling birds

Number of
farmers

Average
Rank

Rank

Just need cash

200

1.04

1st

Pay school fees

200

2.40

2nd

Buy input for cropping

200

3.06

3rd

Buy grains for the house

200

3.90

4th

Disease outbreak

200

5.07

5th

Increase flock size

200

5.54

6th

W=0.81, X2 (5) = 405, df = 5

Majority (65%) of the farmers determine the price of their birds by visual appraisal and weighing down by hand, whiles the remaining do so using age of the bird. Most (94%) of these farmers believe that introduction of scale in the marketing of guinea fowl will be helpful. Most (94%) of them sale only mature birds, while the remaining sale both mature birds and keets. Mature birds are priced differently by different farmers. Sixty-eight percent, 30%, and 2% of the farmers, respectively, sell their birds at prices ranging between GHS 16.00 – 20.00 (USD 4.05-5.06), GHS 21.00 - 30.00 (USD 5.31-7.59), and GHS 10.00 – 15.00 (USD 2.53-3.79). These farmers sell to aggregators.

For majority (82%) of the farmers interviewed, the prices paid for their birds are not worth their effort in raising the birds. Two and 6%, respectively, however, indicate that prices were good and moderately good. Nearly 96% of the farmers had access to market information, and most (82%) of them obtain this information from other farmers, whiles the rest obtain such information from market visits. Six percent of the farmers raise birds solely for home consumption and meeting social and cultural obligations, while the remaining 94% produce them mostly for sale, and rarely home consumption and meeting social and cultural needs. All the farmers, however, sell out their eggs. Most of them sell between 5-30 birds (88%) and 50-200 eggs (87%) per year (Table 5).

Few (1%) farmers record mortality during transportation of birds to the market. All farmers return unsold birds and eggs to the house. Most (92%) of these farmers transport their eggs to the markets in containers (plastic/ metal containers, woven basket and clay pots), whiles 3%, and 5%, respectively, transport them in grains and egg trays. Some farmers put cotton lint in the containers before putting in the eggs (Fig. 5).

Majority (98%) transport their birds to the market using local cages, whiles the remaining do so by embracing them by hand (Fig. 5).

There was a high level of agreement among farmers (W=0.85) on what problems they face in marketing their products and this was significant (X 2 (5) = 680, df = 8). Farmers ranked low guinea fowl prices as their predominant marketing problem and lack of buyers for their products as least (Table 6).

Table 5. Number of eggs and birds sold per farmer per year

No. (%)
of farmers

No. of
birds

No. (%)
of farmers

No. of
eggs

12 (6%)

None

84 (42%)

50-100

60 (30%)

5-10

56 (28%)

101-150

76 (38%)

11-20

34 (17%)

151-200

40 (20%)

21-30

26 (13%)

201-250

12 (6%)

31-40

-

-



Figure 5. Farmers transporting guinea fowl eggs (A) and live guinea fowls (B)
in metal container and local cage, respectively


Discussion

Table 6. Constraints affecting marketing of guinea fowl products

Constraints

Number of
respondents

Average
Rank

Rank

Low prices

200

1.26

1st

Disease outbreak

200

1.76

2nd

Low marketable output

200

4.08

3rd

Theft

200

4.32

4th

Lack of capital

200

4.70

5th

Nearness to market

200

6.01

6th

Limited market outlet

200

6.29

7th

Lack of market information

200

8.25

8th

Lack of buyers

200

8.27

9th

W=0.85, X2 (5) = 680, df = 8

All the farmers keep guinea fowl in addition to chicken in order to increase surrogate hens for incubation, as they are more adaptable than guinea hens. Guinea hens are too wild to be set anywhere except in nest where they have become broody (Apiiga 2007). All the farmers provided a form of housing for guinea fowl to roost during the night. However, the houses were not meeting hygienic standards (dry and clean bedding, sizes of houses and ease of cleaning walls and floors) required to prevent the build up of parasites and control of parasitic infestation in keets. The absence of a reliable source of quality day-old keets is also a major problem confronting farmers and militating against large scale commercial production of guinea fowl. It was not surprising that flock sizes in the present study do not exceed 45 birds. Farmers indicated that their inability to achieve desired flock sizes is attributable to poor hatchability of eggs and high keet mortality. Keet mortality for instance was ranked the number one problem by nearly all farmers.

Although all farmers provide supplementary feed for the guinea fowls, the birds are allowed to go and scavenge for food in the neighboring area and return home in the evening to roost. Keets diet is supplemented with ground sorghum or maize and termites/fish. Adult birds are fed with a few handful of maize or millet thrown on the ground for the birds to pick. It was difficult to estimate the dietary pattern of the birds because of the inconsistent feeding practices. This agrees with the report of Dahouda et al (2007) on Benin traditional poultry production studies. The inconsistent feeding system could be a major contributor to under-nutrition and malnutrition, leading to unhealthy keets, and consequently, their early deaths. All the farmers provide water to the birds; they were reported to drink a lot of water because of the high temperature. Moreover, farmers rely on the current stock for breeding, and therefore, retain some birds for that purpose. Eggs are mainly collected from the farmers own flock. This may be responsible for poor quality of the local guinea fowl, as only 10% of the farmers are conscious about male and female quality when it comes to selection for breeding.

There were problems in egg collection as hens tended to lay eggs in the bushes instead of designated cages, thereby exposing some eggs to predation. A reason why the productivity of the birds was much lower (20-70) than that reported by other workers (Nwagu and Alawa 1995). These authors reported between 50 -170 eggs per hen per breeding season. For guinea fowls extensively or semi-intensively raised, predation becomes a major factor determining the productivity of the birds, as some eggs may never be spotted. The birds studied by Nwagu and Alawa (1995) were intensively raised, and were fed adequately, whiles those used in the present study were raised using the semi-intensive system, and acted as scavengers with woefully inadequate supplementation. This huge difference in performance of these birds is, therefore, expected. The high keet mortality noted by some farmers is attributable to the finding that all the birds were managed under the semi-intensive system, characterized by poor management, disease and pest and adverse weather conditions, such as low and very high temperatures during certain periods of the year. In the present study, most mortalities occurred in the second quarter of the year, this correspond to the raining season in Northern Ghana, when temperatures are cold. It was, therefore, not surprising that most mortalities were linked to this periods. Teye and Gyawu (2001) also reported a mortality rate of up to 100% in Ghana, while Nwagu and Alawa (1995) and Bessin et al (1998) reported a level of over 50% in Nigeria. Contrary to the use of veterinary drugs in commercial flocks (Galor 1983), guinea fowl farmers mostly engaged in ethno-veterinary practices, a reason why treatment or prophylactic measures may not be conclusive enough, since most of this practices are unproven.

The inability of the farmers to separate the sexes makes it difficult to raise a breeder stock or layers. It was indicated that a whole stock intended for breeding sometimes turns up to be all males with only one or two females, making it difficult to select for breeding. A reason why only 10% of the farmers select birds for breeding purposes. A recent study by Abdul-Rahman et al(2015) presents comprehensive report on methods of sexing guinea fowls. This serves as a useful guide to farmers. They may, however, require training to be able to apply this.

Adult birds were lost due to poisoning, predators (snakes, dogs, wild cats), fighting and theft, while in keets, mite infestations, malnutrition, extreme temperatures, predators (snakes, dogs, wild cats and predatory birds), and physical injuries were the main causes of death. The lower number (5-40) of birds sold by farmers per year might be partly attributed to small flock sizes, the high price paid for guinea fowl in comparison to village chickens, as well as the lack of an organised ready market.

Access to extension service is a major driver in adoption of new agricultural technology. However, access to agricultural extension services is very poor as revealed by the present study. All the farmers interviewed described the lack of veterinary and extension agents as a major constraint to guinea fowl production. Unlike crop production, the participation of private extension services, notably NGOs, is lacking in the case of guinea fowl production.

Beside the need to keep guinea fowl to meet social and cultural obligations, guinea fowls are kept mainly for cash in the district. All farmers mentioned income as the main reason for keeping birds. Guinea fowl are mainly sold to aggregators and in local markets, usually on market days.


Conclusion


Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank all the farmers involved for taking time out of their busy schedules to provide this valuable information.


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the article.


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Received 19 September 2016; Accepted 3 February 2017; Published 1 April 2017

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