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Poultry queen of the East

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Rural women have always been the driving force of subsistence economic production as de facto head of families while men work in the south, and never really owned the means of productions they worked for.

Times are changing with women increasingly breaking down stereotypes of what a rural woman is supposed to be in a patriarchal dominated society and antiquated subcultural believes. Maria Katiku Haingura is a phenomenal woman of agricultural substance, one of the main broiler breeders in the northeast of Namibia who never looked back since she ventured into commercial farming six years ago.

Farming on the outskirts of Rundu about 30 km on a village called Utokota in Shambyu area, she ascribes her success to continuous learning and adherence to the principles of her agricultural trades. “I first started to farm with cattle, goats and sheep in October 2003, before I successfully accessed an Agribank loan to acquire livestock in 2010. Over time, as my business was growing, I used some of the profit to expand horticulture and diversify into poultry”.

She started her poultry business by buying up to 1500 chicks every second month and then changed to every month, then every second week, then every week over a few years to stock up. “From the onset, I wanted to know what the customer wanted. So, I explored and inquired about various breeds, broiler chickens for meat production and dual-purpose chickens bred as layers for table eggs and meat. “When I found out that the customers are no longer keen to buy my broilers, I added dual-chicken breeds. As soon as the chickens started laying eggs, I acquired an incubator and since then I supply chicks as well. Customers can get one day old or two-week-old chicks, or whether they want mature layers or a cock for those that want to change breeds.”

To maximize her market share, Maria Katiku Haingura uses some social media platforms for digital marketing and exchanging information on poultry-related matters. “Sometimes a message will come in from a person looking for chicks, or for a specific breed or a particular cock, a cockerel or a rooster, then we connect and supply.

I have numerous customers and my supply chain range from Katima Mulilo, to Windhoek, Ondangwa and Oshakati.”

She farms with different chicken breeds which include Brahma, Cochin, Coucou, Cornish Cross, Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds, and plans to add more varieties. “For now, I breed pure breeds, I don’t cross them so that we can still maintain the pure breed quality. But I’m looking at another breed called Kuroiler that I can hopefully cross. Kuroilers are economic, disease-resistant and low-maintenance dual-purpose breed for meat and eggs, farmed mainly in Zambia and West Africa.”

She explains that she’s driven to plan for unforeseen circumstances carefully following the market demand and supply trends. “Breeding chickens is not rocket science, it’s not an exclusive field for agricultural geneticists or other poultry specialists, as people will try to tell you. You can learn easily to do it yourself, yeah DIY.”

The major challenge she’s enduring, she said, is how to reduce the high input costs for chicken feed, a situation that has been worsened by the current unprecedented drought. “I farm on dry land with a combination of rain-fed crops and drip irrigation, cultivating mainly maize and sunflowers to produce supplements for the poultry production because it is expensive to buy chicken feed from agricultural retailers. Sometimes I source feed from the Green Scheme Project which is a blessing to have around here.”

So far in her poultry business, Maria Katiku Haingura said she had not had any disease outbreak, attributing the status to strict biosecurity measures in place. “Our biosecurity entails the inside and outside fences around all the different chicken houses since we farm in a village with other homesteads. The outside fence inhibits customers and visitors coming, from any contact with the chickens because we don’t know where they are coming from or whether they have been in contact with sick chicken or other birds. It also keeps chickens from the neighbours at bay.”

She advocates to continue learning, and the initial experience she gained from training sessions, mentorships and public lectures arranged by Agribank after she took out a loan to start commercial farming in 2014. Maria Katiku Haingura employs seven workers who assist her to manage cattle, goats, sheep, horticulture and poultry farm operations and maintenance.

She plans to venture into the Mushroom production whereby she has already started with few women in Kavango East Region.