Guinea Fowl dialogue: Is there anything more we should know?

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Study

An academic research carried out by G.A. Teye and M. Adam of the Department of Animal Science, University for Development Studies, Tamale, from 1999 to 2000 noted that besides it being a source of income and protein, the guinea fowl also plays other important roles in the social life of many tribes in northern Ghana.

“They are exclusively used for the annual guinea fowl festival by the Dagombas and the Gonjas. The pure white fowl is used for religious sacrifices and to perform certain funeral rites.

Customarily, the Frafras, Dagabas and Builsas use guinea fowl to welcome mothers–in-law,” the study revealed.

The objective of the research, conducted among 35 farmers chosen randomly from Damongo, was to identify the constraints faced by farmers so that a scientific study could be carried out for possible solutions.

The major constraints observed after the study included high keet (young fowl) mortality, difficulty in sex determination and the lack of a source of quality day-old keets. Other constraints were the lack of quality eggs for hatching, loss of keets to predators, poor housing, leg paralysis and worm infestations.

The Asongtaba Intervention

My checks in the Upper East Region indicated that despite the fact that  the guinea fowl industry could be a way to alleviate poverty among  rural households, the guinea fowl production had run on a subsistence level.

Identifying the gap in guinea fowl production in the Upper East Region, Asongtaba Cottage Industry and Exchange Programme introduced an Out-grower’s scheme to help train young men and women interested in the venture. It  was inaugurated by President John Mahama, then Vice President, in July, 2012.

A model farm was constructed at Sumbrungu near Bolgatanga on  six plots of land and under a semi-intensive poultry management system. Young men and women who were interested in the  guinea fowl business were trained in the production and marketing of the birds.

The Chief Executive Officer of Asongtaba Cottage Industry and Exchange Programme, Mr Henry Kangah,  told this reporter that the establishment of a guinea fowl out grower programme was  aimed at boosting efforts geared towards increasing the nutritional status of the region and  to increase the incomes of farmers, especially the youth.

“We need to ensure that we can create an environment for them to produce the guinea fowl in such a way that it will attract good market and offer sustainable incomes,” he said.

Mr Kangah said the project had targeted to train 2,000 youth within the project catchment area to be trained in collaboration with the National Youth Employment Programme, now Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA).

During the launch of the project, it was said that 20 training centres were to be established in the Upper East Region and following that, the project will be replicated in the Northern and Upper West regions.

Trainees were to take a two-week orientation programme during which beneficiaries will be given the opportunity to select an area of specialisation along the value chain. The areas included hatching, brooding, feeding, processing of the birds, marketing of the products and processing of the feathers into other value added products.

The feathers could be crashed  to produce pillows and other products. He said after a six-month training programme, each beneficiary would be supported with start-ups to go into production.

President John Mahama, then as Vice President, speaking at the inauguration of the facility, reiterated the fact that guinea fowl meat is not only a delicacy in Ghana, but also in some parts of Europe where the meat is  preferred to chicken.

He urged the youth to embrace the concept and go into it, adding that if successfully carried out and replicated in the savannah ecological zone, it had the potential to empower the youth and create wealth by exporting it to the international market.

Almost a year on, I paid a visit to the guinea fowl model farm project site, which now enjoys some partnership  from the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), and it appears that the project is on course, albeit at a slow pace.

The Farms Operations Manager, Mr Johnsom Agolmah, said that  currently, the facility boasts about 1,100 birds. “We were having about 3,000 birds but we have had to process some for sale,” he said.

He maintained that the farm was a model  and plans were far advanced to replicate it in each of the SADA operational areas, namely the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions, as well as the northern parts of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions. Similarly, he said each district in the beneficiary regions would get  similar farms. He said the project had identified some local farmers to train.

At the hatchery, Mr Agolmah showed me two locally manufactured incubators, with the capacity for 1,000 birds  but virtually empty at the time of my visit. He said that the birds would start laying eggs in April and that explained why the incubators were not functioning.

He was optimistic that the project, when fully in flight, would provide a good avenue for poverty alleviation in the beneficiary districts.

The Upper East Region is, no doubt, one of the regions in this country with extreme poverty and with the involvement of SADA in a project such as this, all efforts must be adopted and implemented to achieve the goals set out under this programme.

The Controversy

The model guinea fowl project made the headlines for either the right or wrong reasons a few days ago, as some MPs demanded full disclosure on why SADA decided to invest GH¢15 million in such a venture.

The call and commentaries were  made on media platforms, with some describing the project as non-existent and others simply calling it a profligate expenditure.

Yes, the amount is colossal and that is why I think the SADA authorities in particular must embrace the call and make available every information needed that will justify why such a massive investment is needed or not for a venture with a potential of contributing to  the alleviation of poverty among the rural households in the savannah ecological zone of Ghana.

Article by Benjamin Xornam Glover