When Mandera County recorded an increase in cases of diabetes due to a high consumption of red meat, it was bad news for most residents.
But for a group of 11 enterprising locals, there was a silver lining. Many residents switched to white meat. And the group saw a business idea.
Anis Hassan Yusuf and 10 others, all residents of Mandera town, formed the Issar Association Group in 2000.
Four years later, the group rented a plot and started poultry rearing with 200 birds.
"We came together to solve a health problem we faced. People suffering from diabetes needed white meat and we felt keeping chicken for sale was a good idea," said Mr Yusuf, the group coordinator.
Each of the members -- six men and five women -- contributed Sh3,050 for start-up capital.
Today, the group has a total of 1,200 three-week-old broilers, which will be ready for slaughter in the coming two weeks.
Mr Yusuf said their broilers are always ready for slaughter at the age of three weeks and each fetches them Sh600 at the local market.
On the farm, they have 2,500 improved local chicken breeds, referred to as improved kienyeji and sourced from Naivasha and Midland Chicken Ltd in Karatina, Nyeri.
The Naivasha-sourced chicks were about two weeks old when Nation.Africa visited the farm on April 29 while those from Karatina were only four days old.
The group buys the broilers from Kenchic at Sh70 per chick while the improved kienyeji chicks are bought for Sh100 each.
Mr Yusuf said restrictions in Nairobi meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 have hurt their business.
"It has become difficult to get the chicks from Nairobi and Naivasha due to the lockdown and that is why we changed to the Karatina market," he said.
The high cost of transporting the chicks from Nairobi has also affected the group, but they chose to stay put.
"Normally, it costs us Sh12,000 to have a thousand chicks flown from Nairobi to Mandera, but now with flights grounded, we are using a special vehicle to get supplies," he said.
With road transport, he said, the group has to ensure the birds are in Mandera within 72 hours.
The group says getting feeds, vaccines and other drugs for the birds are the main challenges because they have to make orders from Nairobi.
"We don't have agro vets locally stocking what we need for our poultry farm and that forces us to get everything in bulk from Nairobi," he said.
Sh1.2 million loss
In 2016, the group recorded a loss of Sh1.2 million after Newcastle disease claimed about 2,000 broilers in a vaccination mishap.
The group runs Manchick Hyper, a shop in the town where locals buy ready chicken for a sumptuous meal in their homes.
"We have hired at least four people to take care of the poultry at the farm and we still engage others for slaughter and preparation," Mr Yusuf said.
The group pays Sh30 per chicken to be slaughtered and packaged.
The outlet has four refrigerators, each storing 1,200 chickens that sell for Sh600 each.
"We are supplying local hotels and also selling to individuals within the town. The market has been good and most of the group members have paid fees for studies from this venture," he said.
He said his fees were paid when he was studying animal production at university and now profits from the venture are paying school fees for other group members studying fore diplomas in different fields.
In 2019, the group bought land measuring 50 by 100 metres for Sh600,000 and set up their poultry farm.
"We are no longer operating from a rented facility. We have our own land that we bought from the profits and we plan to expand our business," he said.
In the next four months, the group plans to introduce egg production on the farm.
Most dealers in eggs must transport them from as far away as Nairobi, with a crate or tray of eggs in Mandera going for Sh400.
Mr Yusuf thinks his planned egg-production venture will cut costs for these dealers.
The Issar Association Group also plans to start breeding improved kienyeji chicken on their farm and make chicken feeds in Mandera.
The group has appealed for financial support from other agribusiness groups so they can achieve their dream.