April 12, 2021

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Reclaiming guinea fowl

3 min read

Securing access to enough nutritious food is a major concern for most families. Beef used to be an important source of animal protein but the increasing cost of meat means that people have to seek alternatives. One way to achieve this is through guinea fowl production and consumption, DANIEL ESSIET reports.

 

The guinea Fowl industry is ripe for expansion. This is because of its potential to create thousands of jobs, earn revenue and help  alleviate poverty.

One of them is an International agricultural expert, Prof Funsho Sonaiya, who has been involved in training local farmers to   support the growth of the poultry industry in their communities.

In an interview, Sonaiya said the guinea fowl industry had a great potential to create  jobs and help alleviate poverty. He explained that the industry was lucrative.

A  Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) consultant since 1983, and the Coordinator for the African Network on Rural Poultry Development (ANRDP), Sonaiya noted: “Some of  the advantages  of guinea fowl are low production cost. It costs far less to raise  guinea fowl than to raise chicken. Another advantage is the premium quality meat guinea fowl produces. It is like bush meat which we love in Nigeria. It has the capacity to use green feeds and other vegetables that grow on the range.”

He added that: “The bird has great ability to scavenge insects and greens. It can protect itself against predators. Infact, it is not only raised for eggs and meat but also for pest control. The guinea fowl is resistant to common poultry parasites and diseases such as Newcastle and Fowl “Pox. They produce a high number of eggs. They don’t scratch the soil. So they are not destructive to gardens.”

According to him, guinea fowl production remains a largely unexploited investment opportunity in Nigeria.

His words: “They start laying eggs at 31 weeks of age and it occurs mostly in the rainy season. Guinea fowl can serve the smallholder farmer when raised under an extensive system. It is a bird poor people can raise easily. It is recommended as a poverty alleviation bird.”

He noted that there were several breeds but these two were most common: Red and Blue Wattle Guinea fowls.

Despite the gains, Sonaiya, dean of Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Oyo State, said there were downsides.

He explained: “They are supreme in backyard production but cost more to raise than chicken if reared intensively. That is when you put them in a house. You get a feed conversion ratio of 3.6. They reach market weight at 12 to 14 weeks. That is a limitation because broiler chicken reaches market weight at eight weeks. They are nervous and difficult to catch. They suffocate easily when they are panicked. They are exposed to a greater risk of suffocation and death if put in a house.”

A former Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin, Prof Abiodun Adeloye, said it was  one of the poultry family that can improve nutrition and livelihoods of farmers by providing food and income.

Compared to other poultry species, he explained that guinea fowl farming was lower in cost and required minimum labour and management.

Adeloye said since most guinea fowl growers keep their birds in free-range rather than in fenced pens, they save much money from the prohibitive feed prices and other inputs as the birds struggle on their own to find food. He said more farmers should be encouraged to venture into it.

Currently, most guinea fowl producers are involved in other farming activities. According to African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, guinea fowl are easier to manage by resource-poor farmers with hardly any access to formal veterinary services because they are resistant to most poultry diseases.

However, analysts said guinea fowl production, particularly in West Africa, was saddled with some constraints that included poor hatchability and high mortality of keets at farmer level; a lack of prophylactic treatments such as vaccination and deworming; and poor early sexing techniques that would help maintain adequate breeding stocks.

Other challenges for African guinea fowl farmers, according to them, include a weak scientific and technological information base on local breeds and feed formulations, inadequate funds to expand enterprises and weak development up the value chain.