Alice Muhirwa Hirwa, the chief executive officer of Eden Business Centre, which promotes backyard farming. Hirwa is also involved in poultry farming and is one of the farmers rearing quails in Rwanda. She shared with The New Times’ Mohammed Mugabo Mupenda about quail farming and modern agriculture generally:
Rearing quails sounds like an exotic venture. What does one require to start up such a project?
There is no magic about it, but one has to have the interest and will to learn modern poultry farming skills.
It is essential that one acquires basic knowledge and skills about quail farming and modern poultry practices in general to avoid any eventualties.
There is also need to carry out a feasibility study for the project and put in place all the requirements to kick-start it.
One should have knowledge on project monitoring, sanitation and feeding, among others. This puts the farmer in position to care for the birds without having to rely on vets.
How big is the quail rearing business in Rwanda?
Quail farming is not yet widespread in Rwanda. In fact, Eden Business Centre pioneered quail farming in the country. However, some of the people we train at the centre have started rearing the birds, and hopefully, more poultry farmers will invest in quails.
Is that the reason why quail eggs are so expensive compared to those of chicken or ducks?
Quail eggs cost Rwf500 each because they have high demand, but low supply locally and in the region. Their demand is driven by the fact that they are more nutritious, and some people use them for medicinal purposes.
Nutritionists have also confirmed that quail eggs have high nutritional value and boost body immunity.
How many eggs do you collect per laying cycle?
It varies, but we collect about 200 to 250 eggs per day on average. We sell about 10 per cent of the eggs locally and hatch the rest to sell chicks to farmers.
Our facility can produce up to 3,000 chicks per round. All the farmers who buy chicks get technical support from us.
Also, whenever a farmer loses chicks within four days of buying them, we give them others at no fee.
What advice can you give farmers?
One needs to learn better farming methods to realise better returns from the business. This also reduces the risks, helping to increase farmers’ profitability in the long-run.
Before one sets up a quail farming enterprise, they need to conduct research about the birds and how to rear them. This is important because it helps them get some of the required facilities that would ensure project sustainability.
The good news is that quail farming is a new area, and the demand for quails and their eggs is still high. There is demand for quail eggs locally and in the region. Presently, we sell all of them on the local market.
So if more Rwandan farmers embrace quail rearing, it would give them a strong foundation for a sustainable source of income to improve their living standards, as well as reduce unemployment and poverty levels.
Quail feeds are expensive, and farmers also find it hard to secure loans, especially for startups. Banks always ask for financial statements and security, which some people don’t have.
What it takes to start a quail farming business
One needs determination and a clear project plan. Thereafter, they should set structures (cages) to house the birds.
They also need to train in quail farming to ensure they have the right skills for the job.
It is also important for startups to form or work under farmers’ co-operatives, where they can get help and information about developments in the sector. For small farmers, one can start with initial capital of about Rwf200,000.