Sustainable energy proves pivotal for poultry farming


New study reveals lack of sustainable energy as the major challenge to smallholder poultry farming which accounts to almost all of the chicken production in Ethiopia.
The report conducted by Precise Consults Ethiopia Market Accelerator Programme (EMA), Selco Foundation, and Selco Foundations initiative Global SDG 7 Hubs, under the theme, ‘empowering smallholder poultry production through renewable energy: challenges and the way forward’ identified and presented three critical energy-related challenges that obstruct the overall poultry welfare and productivity of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.
The first to be noted was the ineffective incubation process, caused by an inconsistent supply of electricity, which causes the DOC supply to decrease, making some smallholder farmers idle for up to 7 months. The second was poor lighting and heating in poultry sheds during brooding, also caused by lack of electricity. This has caused low productivity in smallholders’ poultry products as it directly affects feed intake, growth, and meat yield. The lack of cold chain storage is another crucial energy-related challenge that affects vaccine effectiveness, leading to the high mortality of chickens. This has also affected smallholder farmers’ ability to regulate their chicken meat supply as they cannot store slaughtered meat.
The assessment which focused on small-scale intensive farmers or backyard poultry farmers stated that renewable and off-grid source of energy as alternative solutions which will go a long way to reducing the sector challenge.
“Implementing renewable energy solutions in the poultry value chain enables smallholder farmers to address their challenges in accessing high-quality day old chicks and vaccines and helps them acquire better yields of meat and eggs,” the report explained.
“Solar appliances can help poultry farmers overcome these critical challenges and increase efficiency and productivity. Solar incubators increase egg productivity and ensure a better hatchability rate by minimizing the side effects of unreliable power supply,” the report said.
It added that providing adequate solar lighting can improve feed intake at night and maximize egg production in layer chickens, “moreover, providing sufficient heat in poultry sheds decreases chick mortality.”
According to the report, it improves feed conversion rate by encouraging growing chickens to use consumed feed to gain weight instead of maintaining a constant body temperature.
The report also identified that solar refrigerators can be used to ensure vaccine effectiveness and unlock the potential of engaging in value-adding processing activities for smallholder farmers.
It revealed that based on the assessment, solar energy interventions that can have a high impact on smallholder poultry farmers include solar egg incubators, solar lighting and heating systems for brooding, and solar cold storage systems to ensure the quality of inputs and poultry products.
Regarding access to the solution and the technology the assessment stated that there are challenges.
The report explained solar companies in Ethiopia have been partnering with microfinance institutions to provide loans to end-users to make solar home systems affordable to the farmers. However, the high collateral requirements to acquire the loans and the short repayment periods are challenges these farmers face. Poultry farmers also face challenges accessing loans to purchase the inputs needed to sustain their farms.
Small scale poultry farmers comprise about 97 percent of the poultry producers in Ethiopia, where rearing poultry provides a source of income and ensures food and job security for these farmers. Also, the regional states of Oromia, Amhara, SNNP, and Tigray account for 96 percent of the chicken population in Ethiopia.