Chicken pens and pigsties are not usually sights associated with a city. But the past decade has witnessed a dramatic increase of these projects in Harare.
Much of the expansion is unplanned and unstructured, a sign of the logic of survival. Encouraged by thinning kitchen budgets many Harare residents have turned their backyards into money spinning projects.
Kaplan Kembo of Avonlea embodies the typical urban farmer. “I never dreamed I would worry about building chicken pens like people in the village and farms do but my salary was nothing compared to what I need to spend in a month,” he says.
Today Kembo gets all the vegetables he needs from the garden around the house he lives in. The small chicken shed in the backyard processes 800 birds every two months. Kembo says the two projects have been able to bail him out.
As much as 20% of all poultry products eaten in Harare and adjacent towns are raised in urban environments. According to the Zimbabwe Poultry Association (ZPA) there is a huge emerging small-scale producer contribution of approximately 44,000 metric tonnes. “These producers have been able to produce broiler meat production in 2011 at an average of 6,500 chickens a month,” said ZPA.
The Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) says the rise in small-scale chicken projects has been driven by the demand for meat products. The centre has estimated that 25,500 metric tonnes of chicken entered the local market in 2011 from neighbouring countries. “The sheer volume alone represented 20% of the total national demand,” said CALR.
That said, owners of these chicken-rearing ventures don’t always adhere to Harare City By-Laws. According to the (Public Health) By-Laws 1962, section 25, residents are allowed to keep only 25 chickens at a time on their property unless they apply for a licence from the City Health Department. This is far fewer than most urban chicken keepers house.
Ward 9 Councillor Stewart Mutizwa, former head of Harare City Health Department explains, “It is acceptable to kill one or two chickens a day for home consumption. But slaughter for commercial purposes must be done at a registered chicken abattoir. Offal and feathers are not to be discarded into the sewage system, but must be buried within the owners’ yards.”
Other by-laws that need to be adhered to include the fact that poultry houses should be kept at least three metres away from the stand boundary and be no closer than six meters from a residential house. The poultry should be kept clean and free from decaying food, vermin and filth of any kind. Poultry must be kept in a poultry house with a floor that is constructed of impervious material with a runway with wire netting or other similar material.
In addition, noise from the poultry, i.e. continued crowing, quacking, clucking, gobbling, must not disturb the comfort of the neighbourhood. Keeping poultry can make one a considerable income. However it is important that health considerations, both for humans and for the birds, be taken into account when deciding to invest in such a venture.
Photo by Dana Lister, Wild Productions