Guinea fowl farming is an age-old occupation, mostly for smallholder farmers in northern Ghana. Till date, smallholder farmers account for the majority of guinea fowl farmers.
Traditionally, the birds are kept for socio-cultural purposes such as contracting marriage, gift-giving, sacrifices, celebrating guinea fowl festival, and funerals. Farmers also rear them for emergency financial needs.
With the traditional method of rearing guinea fowls, where very few birds are raised, the fowls take at least two years to mature, perhaps due to poor and inadequate skill and infrastructure needed by small-scale farmers.
With modern methods of production, it takes about four months for the birds to mature.
There has been a sharp increase in demand for guinea fowls in Ghana, prompting the need for large-scale production of the bird.
Several interventions in the past by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to scale up the production of guinea fowls in the country have not yet yielded the desired results.
The then Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) developed a module known as the SADA Guinea Fowl Project.
However, the GH₵15 million project collapsed even before it showed signs of its intended impact.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), an NGO that works in the area of food security in northern Ghana has supported farmers in three districts in the Northern Region in a pilot guinea fowl project.
The pilot project, which ended in December last year, engaged 300 farmers in 12 communities in the Tolon, Savelugu and Nanton districts.
Joseph Abugre Ayamdoo, who was the project manager for the pilot project, said the project successfully trained the farmers and provided them with 50 keets (young guinea fowls) each to start their own guinea fowl businesses.
German NGO, GIZ, the West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) and a host of other NGOs have intervened to train and support guinea fowl farmers in northern Ghana.
As a result of these interventions, coupled with the increase in demand for the bird, many a youth have developed renewed interest in guinea fowl farming.
The daunting challenges in the business have, however, been a disincentive.
The few who have ventured into the business say they have not been able to make any meaningful progress as a result of the challenges.
Many believe the industry holds the potential to alleviate poverty in the northern part of Ghana through the creation of thousands of jobs for the youth.
Francis Prempeh, a guinea fowl farmer at Garizegu in the Tamale Metropolis, has been in the business since 1999. According to him, guinea fowl farming is a profitable venture.
Through the business, he has been able to put up a two-bedroom apartment with adjoining structures for the guinea fowl business.
“Imagine I buy 1,000 guinea fowl eggs at GH₵0.5, that will be GH₵500. Assuming only 200 of the fowls survive and mature, and even if I sell each of them GH₵20, I will make GH₵4,000. You will need less than GH₵2,000 to feed and take care of them. So you can imagine the profit you will make within four months. There is money in guinea fowl [business],” he explained.
On the challenges, Mr. Prempeh explains that his farm, which has only two employees at the moment, would have been bigger than it is currently.
He was fortunate to secure GH₵18,000 from SADA to supply 3,000 birds under the SADA Guinea Fowl Project, but after the project collapsed, he has since been struggling with the business.
He mentioned inadequate capital, lack of infrastructure, high mortality rate among keets, and lack of equipment such as quality incubators as some of the challenges they face.
Mr Prempeh explains that banks are not willing to grant them loans, citing high keets mortality rate and the risk of farmers defaulting.
“We are not able to access money from the bank because the banks have branded guinea production a no-go area. The banks always say the fowls can die. Moreover, even if the banks are willing to grant you loan, you can’t even meet the collateral terms. That is why we are creeping in this business and not able to expand,” he lamented.
Commenting on the challenges in the industry, Mr Ayamdoo said difficulty in harmonising the efforts of all stakeholders in the guinea fowl industry for the greater good was one of the biggest challenges facing the sector. He mentioned high cost of inputs such as vaccines, medicines and feed as part of the challenges militating against the progress of the industry.
“As we speak, a lot of the vaccines that these poultry birds take come in quantities that can be used for 1,000 and over birds, and you know now for the local farmer who has just 100 birds, it will be difficult to come by. If you have only 50 birds and you go and buy the vaccine and you open it, you are more or less wasting it because the thing can be used for 1,000 birds and you can’t open it, use and keep again. A lot of the medications too are at a high cost for the farmers,” he stated.
Issahaku Nashiru, another guinea farmer in Tamale, buttresses the potential of guinea fowl farming as a viable business.
“Guinea fowl is a hot market. It doesn’t matter whether they are a day old, one week old or two weeks old. People always come for them. As we sit, people have requested for more than 1,000 birds, but I’ve not supplied even one. There is a ready market for guinea fowls,” he stated.
As a result of the cost involved in procuring imported incubators, some guinea fowl farmers have resorted to manufacturing local incubators to reduce the cost of hatching the eggs.
The incubators bring them additional income as they hatch eggs for other farmers at a fee.
Guinea fowl factory in Tamale increases demand
The establishment of the first-ever guinea fowl factory in Ghana, Gee’s Fresh Point, astronomically increased the demand for guinea fowls and has created a ready market for the birds.
Established in 2007, the factory has been processing guinea fowls for the Ghanaian market. The factory started expansion works in 2015 and has since opened branches in Accra and Kumasi, which currently serve as distribution points.
Management is, however, worried that the commercial farming of guinea fowls is still at its lowest.
Stephen Monten, factory manager at Gee’s Fresh Point, says the traditional method of rearing guinea fowls on a small scale is still deeply rooted in the minds of smallholder farmers.
“Research will tell you that every household in northern Ghana has guinea fowls, but the question is how do they see it, as business or as a tradition? Though there are people raising guinea fowls, it’s just few of them who see it as a business.
Others see it as a tradition — that they met their fathers and their grandfathers doing it so it becomes part of them, and that’s why most of them keep the birds more than the age they are supposed to keep them and they don’t see the business aspect of it,” he said.
Mr. Monten says due to the low commercial production, it is sometimes challenging getting guinea fowls to feed the factory, though management finds innovative means of getting fowls in times of scarcity.
“Because some of them don’t see it as a business, but as tradition, they only sell when they are in need of cash. Apart from the commercial farmers who do their calculations and make sure they sell them at the time they are supposed to sell, I will say that guinea fowl is seasonal. Sometimes it becomes challenging getting it.
Not that the birds are not there, but those who are keeping them are not willing to release them because it’s not raining [yet] and he wants to sell them to plough his land so why will he sell them when the rains are not yet in?” he lamented.
To help boost the commercial production of guinea fowls, the farmers called for the government’s urgent attention.
They appealed to the government to reduce taxes on imported poultry inputs to help reduce the prices of the inputs.
“If you complain of high prices to the input dealers, they say they pay high taxes. The cost they incur on transportation is not easy. Everything gets to the point of high fuel prices, which trickles down to the farmer, who has to pay for it. So the government can assist by looking into these areas, bringing down the taxes on these inputs so that they can come at reduced prices for the farmers to be able to afford,” Mr. Ayamdoo pleaded.
He also implored the government to allocate seed money to the guinea fowl industry for farmers to access loans to expand their farms.
Many believe if the government gives the industry the needed attention by empowering local farmers to surmount the challenges in the sector, it will not only alleviate poverty in the northern part of Ghana but will also significantly reduce the importation of poultry into the country.