April 11, 2014


Moringa tree (Moringa oleifera) has many names throughout the world, likely due to its profligate uses. It is called the ‘drumstick tree’ due to the shape of its seed pods, the ‘horseradish tree’ because of the faint scent and flavor of horseradish that the tree’s roots give off, and the ‘ben oil tree’ drawn from the oil that is pressed from the seeds. The most explicit of all its names, though, is the ‘miracle tree’ which is inspired by this unassuming tree’s seemingly endless benefits. Ayurvedic medicine (the millenia-old tradition of herbal and dietary medicinal practices from India) has long made use of the Moringa, but now, having been inspected through the lens of modern science it has increasingly come of interest to people all over the world as a solution to several disparate problems. Having value as a food item, a medicinal stock, a source of food oil and biofuel, and a water purifier, there is little wonder why it came to be known as the ‘miracle tree’.

Nearly every part of the tree is in some way edible. The roots, with their horseradish flavor, are stripped of their bark because of its high alkaloid content, mixed with vinegar and used as a condiment (Parrotta, 2009). According to Ted Radovich, young green seed pods which are high in ascorbic acid are boiled, steamed or pickled like string beans or asparagus and are a common addition to soups and stews in the tree’s native areas (2009). The seeds contain 30-35% oil  that is high in palmetic, stearic, behmic, and oleic acids and has similar flavor and properties to olive oil making it a highly nutritive alternative to other vegetable oils (Garcia-Fayos et al, 2010). The flowers are also sometimes eaten, though this practice will prevent seed pod growth. The real nutritional value of the Moringa tree, however, is in the leaves. Small, tripinnate and tender, they are similar in appearance to the leaves of North America’s native Black Locust tree. They are typically eaten or cooked fresh, though powders, extracts and teas do manage to retain much of the nutritional value of the leaves. The Moringa leaves’ nutritional contents are eye-popping to say the least.


The unprecedented population surge in Kenya has left the country with near 43 million people and continues to steadily increase. This has led to competition and depletion of land and natural resources. In many parts of the country, available land is shrinking, either due to urbanization or cultural land dividing traditions. For many families struggling to make ends meet, the sale of their land is viewed as the only option. Most households in urban areas nowadays must depend on ¼ acre plots to meet their daily needs in times when unpredictable climactic conditions are making it even harder to farm. The depletion of farm land has caused harsh economic times that result in a rise in food prices, farm inputs, and animal feeds. These factors have made the production of enough food unattainable, aggravating hungry and poverty-stricken households. However, small-scale farmers in urban areas can better utilize their land through sustainable agricultural methods.  These methods are often low cost, practical, and can contribute to their daily food needs. One of the best opportunities for small-scale farmers can be through indigenous poultry production.

 The four main benefits of raising indigenous chickens are:
  • They are easy to establish for low-income families.
  • They are more prolific and unproblematic to rear on small plots of land.
  • They are more genetically diverse, well adapted, and more resistant to local pests and diseases.
  • They are vital for future food security, leading towards self-employment and self-reliance.
The chicken (Gallus domesticus) is a fowl that is said to be one of the most widely domesticated animals in recorded history. Charles Darwin considered chickens descendants of a single wild species, the red jungle fowl, which is found in the wild from India through Southeast Asia to the Philippines. Genetic analyses have shown that every breed of domestic chicken can be traced to the red jungle fowl. Scientists estimate that they were domesticated roughly 8,000 years ago in what is now Thailand and Vietnam (Encarta DVD, 2008).

April 10, 2014


  • Organic poultry may be grown starting from conventional day-old chicks, poults (young turkeys), ducklings etc. The parent stock does need not need to be organic, conventional hatcheries may be utilized to purchase your stock.
  • Birds must be treated organically from the second day of life. This includes following all aspects of the National Organic Standards (I don't know if we have them in Kenya), including 100% organic feed and using only allowed health treatments.
  • Organic poultry must have access to the outdoors, as seasonally appropriate. Outdoor areas don’t have to be vegetated; however, grass-fed poultry can be an important selling factor in some markets and is claimed by some to produce healthier birds and better tasting poultry products.  The land used for outdoor access must be certified organic.
  • 100% certified organic feed is required and must be either purchased or produced on your own certified organic farm. All agricultural feed products and the feed supplements must be organic. This includes secondary ingredients such as soy oil or wheat middlings. Non-agricultural, natural ingredients, such as kelp, grit, calcium, or fishmeal must be approved before use in organic operations.
  • No synthetic preservatives, colors, flowing agents or dust suppressants are allowed. Feed may not include mammalian or poultry slaughter byproducts. Adding organic flax meal to your ration  can increase the presence of Omega 3 fatty acids. FDA approved vitamins and trace minerals are allowed as feed additives. DL-Methionine has been approved as poultry feed additive for use through October of 2012. Methionine is necessary for proper feather and egg production.
  • Hormones and antibiotics are not allowed in organic meat production. Medicated feed may not be fed. Health issues should be treated through prevention, as most poultry diseases are very difficult to treat. Cleanliness is the best form of defense in disease management. If necessary, only allowed health treatments should be administered. Healthcare alternatives include homeopathy, probiotics, herbs, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar in water, organic raw milk or turmeric added to food for coccidiosis.
  • Farm biosecurity is very important to prevent transfer of diseases; from farm to farm, from wild birds to domestic, and from one batch of poultry to another. When working with multiple flocks on your farm, move from young to old and not visa-versa. Allow some down-time between flocks so you can clean and sanitize the equipment and facilities.
  • ·         Vaccines are allowed, although mostly used in larger operations. Typical vaccines that may be considered include: Newcastle disease, coccidiosis, MG M. gallisepticum and MS M. synoviae. Vaccines may be administered via water, through the air or orally.
  • Cannibalism may be caused by overcrowding or a ration imbalance. Correct these conditions to reduce the problem. Poultry will peck at bloody spots and will gang up on weak birds. If a bird is injured, it should be isolated from others and allowed to recover.
  • Predators can be a significant loss factor for small-scale poultry production. Predators can include raccoons, dogs, fox, coyotes, mink, weasels, opossums, rats, and aerial predators including owls and hawks. Poisons are not allowed. Common control methods include live-trapping, tightly constructed facilities to prevent access, electric net fencing, guard animals and flashing lights.
  • Housing must allow for exercise, freedom of movement and reduction of stress. Cages are not allowed except for short periods of time when an animal is being moved from one location to another. Stationary houses are acceptable, and moveable pens/moveable houses may be used. Bedding must be certified organic if it is something that the  poultry will typically consume (i.e. hay or straw). Typical bedding may be wood shavings (not from treated wood), organic corncobs, organic hay or straw or organic corn fodder.
  • Processing of meat birds must take place in a certified organic processing facility. Those processing on-farm may butcher and sell organic poultry if their processing operation is included in their farm plan, inspection and organic certification.
  • Documentation. Records must be kept on: source of poultry, feed and supplement use and sources, use and source of any health products, vaccinations, mortalities, outside access, house sanitation practices between flocks, and sale of finished product. An audit trail is necessary to show conformation with the National Organic Standards.
  • Certification. Any operation selling $5,000 or more in organic product per year must be certified. You must contact an independent third party certification agency, fill out a farm plan, and have an annual inspection. For more information see the MOSES. “Guidebook for Organic Certification” or fact sheet series on certification.
  • Marketing. Those that receive certification from an accredited certifying agency may label their poultry as “certified organic.” Labeling and packaging must meet organic and state labeling regulations and list the certifying agency. The USDA organic seal may be used.

More information on small-scale poultry production can be found from ATTRA, www.attra.ncat.org, and from the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, www.apppa.org
Acknowledgements: Dr. Muyale Nicholas (Poultry Veterinarian); Dr. Wameyo Kenneth (vetkenya@googlegroups.com )