Way before commercial chicken farming become fashionable in Kenya, a young lad just out of high school thought of keeping chicken as a way to raise capital for a agribusiness venture that he had visualized. He started off Kienyeji chicken. With no poultry farming business plan, minimal capital and nothing but zeal to improve the livelihoods of his community, he embarked on a mission. A decade later, today, he advises farmers in Busia, Machakos, Kericho, Kisii, Bungoma and as far as Kwale on the ropes of starting a poultry farm.
Today, he is widely recognized as one of Kenya’s foremost experts on:
- Crafting a profitable poultry project business plan;
- Implementing poultry projects as a supplier of parent stock, fertilized chicken eggs, incubators, poultry farming equipment;
- Sustainable commercial chicken farming project through farmer training, impeccable after sales service, technology and financing.
Recently, the writer had a chance meeting with Engokho Kuku Farmer.
My candid chat with the Man behind Kenya’s fastest growing poultry, pig & fish farming agribusiness firm
The long Edi-ul-Fitr weekend was here. This long weekend was a welcome break. Kenyans love their beer and Choma and such impromptu isigukuu allows us to indulge.
I clocked off duty that Friday to water my throat and treat my taste buds to some fine whiskey. On Saturday, I had my cousins over for some kuku choma as we caught up and recovered from Friday night. Well, Sunday as always is family time. On Monday, being a holiday I chose to redeem myself by taking my daughter to an amusement park as my wife excused herself to attend a Chama meeting in the neighborhood.
The chance meeting with Engokho Kuku Farmer
At the amusement park I spot this young man seated alone. He looks so familiar but I can’t quite place him. I don’t know if he was my school mate in high school or college. A client, relative, childhood buddy or former colleague. My memory fails me. Our eyes meet and when he smiles he looks even more familiar. My memory fails me some more. I awkwardly walk up to him and exchange greetings.
He has a warm firm handshake. I still can’t place him. Then he looked me in the eyes and called me by name. Now I am confused. Embarrassed even. But I try me best to be at ease.
He is dressed in Khaki slacks, a polo T-shirt and open strapped shoes. He pulls a chair and tries to make me comfortable. I seek to find out if he has company which he declines. Perfect.
He was toying about with a cold drink. You could see that just as I, he must have been trying to kill time. “Think” as we men like to phrase it. By his glances over to the mini amusement park, he’s probably also watching over the kids.
True enough, as my daughter took off to the bouncing castles a few meters from us, A young-ling, his son I learn later, runs cups his sandy hands around his ears and whispers something.
Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
He bends over to listen. After which he asks the young lad to say hi which he does in hurried typical five year old I’ve-got-things-to-do fashion.
“So what have you been up to?”
I ask trying to buy myself time as my hangover-ed neurons overheat trying to place his face somewhere. To which he answers my question with another.
“How is your incubator?”
Shoot! Now I know you.I said to myself, almost too loudly.
“Is this Engokho Kuku Farmer?”
Embarrassed but relieved, I asked. “I never forget my customers. Especially the one’s who gave me a hard time”He answers. We let out a thank-god-this-is-out-of-the-way laughter as we bro hug.
Starting a poultry farm: The dream
It must have been April of 2015, when I acquired an chicken egg incubator from Engokho Kuku Farmer. My wife’s Chama had come through and she approached me for my thoughts on what at the time was a crazy idea. She wanted us to keep chicken. Good lord! I secretly thought.
One of her crazy ideas I silently thought. though my spirit jumped at the thought of farm chicken fresh eggs on Sunday mornings and Engokho whenever I fancied one. What else would a Luhya man ask for! He who finds a wife finds a good thing they say. Nonetheless, I had to play my part as the husband aka the poser of tough questions:
- Where were we going to rear the chicken? I mean there was hardly space for my jalopy in our 50 by 100
- What about Scooby and Scabby, the dogs, wouldn’t they devour them chickens?
- How feasible was it? Where would we get the parent stock? How long would it take for the flock to grow?
I even went as far as to tease her to get over her delusions. That the 4K club agriculture that she was going out on a limb on was now several decades old. I posed, “Apart from Newcastle disease, which other chicken diseases do you know of?” Ignoring my teasing, she then dropped the crazy part. That to get our Kienyeji chicken, she would hatch chicken eggs in an incubator in the way of commercial chicken farming! Say what?
Enter Engokho Kuku Farmer
Those were the questions I sternly posed to the enthusiastic gentleman a Saturday morning a few weeks later. He impressed me with his depth of knowledge as I tried hard to be the second eye that my wife needed as she embarked on her poultry farming project.
Basics of commercial poultry farming
Engokho Kuku Farmer offered to train both of us on creating a profitable poultry farming business. Business? I asked myself. I had never thought of keeping chicken as a business. He said he had all the tools to make our commercial chicken farming project work:
- A vaccination schedule that he had developed with experts that he utilized in his farm in Nangili Market, Khachonge, Bungoma County;
- Chicken cages that would enable us make profitable use of space;
- Poultry feeding equipment to help us minimize on feed wastage
- Drinking water nipples to reduce labor costs by automating drinking water provision;
- State of the art incubators that he had himself done quality checks on employing his knowledge as an electrical engineer;
- and a easy to implement chicken poultry farming business plan informed by years of commercial chicken farming
Engokho Kuku Farmer perfect example of humble beginnings in commercial chicken farming
Then I knew him simply as Engoho Kuku Farmer. By the end of our candid talk, I knew his real names are Gervase Wakoli. An electrical engineer alumni of the University of Nairobi. Third born in a family of nine. A father of two boys: five and one. Husband, social entrepreneur and passionate farmer.
Engokho has been a farmer since the time he was at the University. His first farming venture was just after high school when he leased land for commercial tree planting.
Armed with only an idea and no capital to initiate the venture, Gervase credits the lessons learned as most critical in his understanding today of an entrepreneur as someone who visualizes and actualizes.
Engokho Kuku Farmer: From quail to western Kenya’s most innovative commercial poultry farm
After graduating from college Engokho Kuku Farmer looked for a job in vain. “That was around the same time when we had the quail madness in Kenya.” he recalls. Then for the umpteenth time, looking over to his son, he adds “Being a young father, I hustled for jobs repairing incubators for my mom’s friends.”
“The unreliable nature of the jobs got me thinking what I could do with the quail craze to profit.” Yet again revealing his ingrained entrepreneurial spirit. “Remember, that I had started keeping chicken to finance my commercial tree planting project.”
Finding your niche as an entrepreneur: Lessons from Engokho Kuku Farmer
Emphasizing the importance of a long-term outlook in entrepreneurship Engokho Kuku Farmer reveals ” By now I had saved some money and through hustling had got a chance to travel to China import and export fair 2012 (Canton fair) 2012. “While in China, I met more than 1000 manufacturers and dealers of more more than 1000 different goods.”
” Since I didn’t have much in terms of finance, I didn’t know what to deal in: cosmetics, vehicle spare parts, clothes, electronics, mobile phones ?” His voice raises as he expresses his wonder.
Then without much thought he lists considerations that any entrepreneur needs to have when segmenting a market and identifying their choice product “I settled on incubators and quail egg trays because there was ready market, advertisement had already been done by early movers, the products are not perishable and I could comfortably offer after sales service if need be.”
Again, revealing what by then I had come to appreciate as a deeply analytical entrepreneurial mind, he lists how he captured the market leading position that he enjoys today: ” Focused aggression, impeccable value through responsive after sales service, employing lessons learned from my customers and introducing innovative products like solar powered incubators, I gained a fair share of business knowledge from the quail madness.”
From that deep knowledge of the market, he launched Engokho Kuku Farmer in June of 2012. “I have never looked back ever since.” he confidently concludes.
What does Engokho Kuku farmer do? The workings of a budding commercial chicken farming empire
Engoho Kuku Farm is found in Nangili village, Kabuchai sub county of Bungoma County. They offer free training to farmers every first Saturday of every month.
Engoho Kuku farmer also has sales office at the Development house 1st Flr. They supply all poultry equipment -incubators, drinkers, feeders trays-installation and after sales service. Through their commercial chicken farming division, they also sell day old, week old, and 1 month old chicks countrywide.
Engokho has also been offering experiential services to farmers and anyone interested in commercial poultry farming at ASK shows countrywide. Here, entrepreneurs interested in agribusiness get to be educated on details of keeping chicken commercially via their demo chicken farm.
Moreover, visitors to their stand also have an opportunity to get quality poultry equipment, commercial chicken farming materials and even purchase chicks at subsidized rates for their projects.
Engokho Kuku Farmer also runs talk shows on selected radio and TV stations to educate and train farmers. With a reputable online presence (when one googles “Poultry farming Kenya” Engoho Kuku Farmer is on the first page google seach results page) the reach of this young mans social entrepreneurship is well beyond Kenya.
Indeed, Engokho Kuku Farmer is an established brand. A Mulembe brand! Searching Gervase Wakoli doesn’t disappoint either. As if to cap this moment of immense pride in Mwana a’mberi, I can hear the song Bindu Bichenjanga playing in the background as we continue sipping our drinks revealing in the moment.
The Amos Barasa song reminds me of NASA’s manifesto plan of commercializing chicken farming in Western Kenya. Cautioning of the ways of politicians, and always a trove of information that he’s characteristically generous with, Gervase offers that for the project to be successful the following industrial scale challenges must be addressed:
- Bridging the skills and knowledge gap among the would be farmers, agri-processors and marketers from the basics of keeping chicken to HACCP.
- Address the stifling manufacturing environment to enable the flourishing of sister industries like semi-conductor manufactures, poultry food processors and even address the challenges of maize farmers to avail supply of inputs like maize germ seed at industry scale.
- The need to avail big ticket financing to deepen to widen market access and allow manufacture of poultry cages, equipment, incubators .
- Access to micro finance to entrepreneurs.
- Technology, which without revealing details, offers that it is the next frontier for Engokho Kuku farmer.
Challenges faced in commercial poultry farming
“I have had to learn to be a good businessman first to even have a chance at entrepreneurship.” He answers with his penchant for memorable quotes. ” I have had to get my hands dirty at times suffering insurmountable losses in the process. like this day I had to transport week old chicks from Bungoma to Kwale.” He says with nostalgia.
“What’s important is to get going and involve professionals along the way to benefit from their expertise, tears and sweat over the years.” He explains. Ever the salesman, Engokho Kuku Farmer will skin me if I didn’t drop his contacts here as I promised to:
Contacts: +254 727 474045 +254 716 566544
“My journey has been bout surmounting these challenges.” he explains as he lists: Access to working capital to expand both my commercial chicken farming business and poultry equipment business; diseases sweeping out a whole litter leading to huge losses and bad debts as he sometimes offers credit to farmers who also suffer losses; inaccessible enabling technology.
“Your journey might be different.” Gervase cautions. ” For instance, I haven’t struggled much with access to poultry feeds, equipment breakdown or access to markets as other commercial chicken farmers.”
Finally I ask, “What’s the secret to success in commercial chicken farming?”
“I see chicken as workmates and colleagues.” He answers. We both burst out in laughter. This was an afternoon well spent in good company.I am amazed and awed by this young man. I am left wondering how such a young man can achieve so much. And what’s next for this dreamy young man?
Update: Engokho Kuku Farmer Sweeps awards at the Oracle Africa Innovation Awards 2018
Slightly over an year after our inteview with Engokho kuku farmer where the man behind the brand hinted at harnessing technology in commercial poultry farming, the cocks came home to roost as the sustainable agribusiness farm stole the show at the Oracle Africa Innovation awards 2018.
First, the Agriculture Category winner
— ICT Authority (@ICTAuthorityKE) October 24, 2018
Then the Overall Winners Awards
— ICT Authority (@ICTAuthorityKE) October 24, 2018