BY LIZWE SEBATHA
What started as a pastime during the 2020 hard lockdown has become a source of livelihood for Admire Mangwende of Pumula high density suburb in Bulawayo.
Mangwende turned one of the rooms of the family house into a make-shift fowl run in April 2020, and says he has never looked back.
“It has never been easy from day one as I had no technical training or experience in poultry farming,” he said.
Mangwende, however, bemoaned the tight competition in the business as several backyard poultry projects have mushroomed in his suburb, resulting in a drop in earnings.
“At the end of the day I am forced to sell the birds on credit to my loyal customers. Life is tough but at least I am managing to put food on the table,” Mangwende added oblivious to the fact that his poultry project was against the law.
The increase in the number of smallholder farmers, who are converting part of their residential areas into fowl runs has been increasing in recent months.
There are no known statistics on the number of backyard chicken breeders in Bulawayo as most of them are not registered with an association.
However, a “Chicken and Eggs for Sale” sign on gates at homes in several high density suburbs is now common place, showing the extent of the spread in the city.
In terms of the Bulawayo public health by-laws, individuals can keep up to 20 chickens or ruminants without seeking council permission provided these are kept in properly constructed fowl runs.
The by-laws also stipulate that the fowl runs should be sited not less than five metres from any dwelling and any common boundary.
Permission to operate a poultry project has to be sought from the town planning section on 7th Floor, Tower Block.
Bulawayo deputy mayor Mlandu Ncube admitted that enforcing the by-laws was difficult in the face of high unemployment and poverty.
“We are caught between a rock and hard surface as we all know that people are living from hand to mouth and trying to do anything, even illegally like those backyard poultry projects, for a living,” Ncube said.
Under normal circumstances, council would force closure of such backyard poultry projects after issuing a notice.
“These poultry projects give people a source of income, and food,” Ncube said.
“Normally, what we have done as council we do awareness campaigns and encourage residents to apply for licences because raiding or closing such operations is a painful exercise because this is what some families will be dependent on.”
The Affirmative Action Group (AAG) argues that such laws must be scrapped as they are “archaic”.
“We are an economy that is dominated by the informal sector, sole entrepreneurs and hence the laws must reflect that and must be changed to that effect,” AAG said.
A survey shows that one needs anything in the upwards of US$350 to keep 100 day old chicks with a breakdown as follows: seven bags of feed cost US$203 (US$29 per 50kg), US$100 for 100 chicks (US$1 each), lighting (US$10), vaccination (US$15), electricity (US$15), labour (US$15).
A chicken is then sold for between US$6-7 depending on the live weight.
However, poultry farming has always been beset by various challenges; top among them the shortage of day-old chicks.
In a bid to avert the shortage of day-old chicks in the country, the government last year promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) 245 of 2020, which suspended duty on fertilised poultry eggs for hatching by approved breeders.
“The recurrent shortages affect business, and planning…My wish is to construct a bigger fowl run in my rural homestead of Mberengwa in the long run to boost my poultry farming project,” Mangwende said.
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.