Dullaart Ssebandeke exudes confidence in everything he says. He may come off as brash but one thing that stands out is that he walks his talk.
At just 29 years, he has a whole community that looks up to him for survival.
It is in the rural village of Mawangala in Bukerere sub-county, Mukono District that Ssebandeke set up his poultry farm just a year ago.
“I have had many heartbreaks in business mostly due to lack of supervision. So, I just woke up one day and said let me invest my last capital in a venture that I can monitor myself. I chose poultry,” he says.
He says that when he was starting out, he tried a number of breeders locally but got disappointed with the chicken’s slow rate of growth.
“I took time to study the whole chicken value chain and discovered a gap in the quality of chicks. Many breeders in the industry are selling poor quality day-old chicks to unsuspecting farmers; so, I set out to invest in becoming a breeder because I knew if farmers find my stock good, they will come back and also inform others,” says Ssebandeke.
The journey to become a breeder ended up in India, where Ssebandeke ordered his first batch of 1,000 chicken parent stocks.
Ssebandeke says the process was complex at first due to the various certifications needed. “I had to first write to the district veterinary officer, who then forwarded me to the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. From here, I got the import permit that allowed me to make an online purchase for the chicken,” he says.
“This process is crucial to ensure safety because as things stand, one cannot get chicks from Netherlands, France and Hungary because of last year’s outbreak of bird flu,” he adds.
What is more, he says it was an expensive undertaking because it cost him $8,000, which is about Shs30m.
“I knew the risk involved but was determined to make the best of it,” he says.
Fast forward to today, Ssebandeke is a proud owner of more than 2,500 parent stocks and 3,000 of their offspring, which he sells farmers and individuals as commercial stock.
“The key thing about my farm is quality of chicks. Some people come here and complain that I sell day-old chicks expensively but when they risk and buy, they return shortly afterwards to buy more because my stock is of international quality,” he says.
Ssebandeke says he is already facing the challenge of supply because most of the day-old chicks are booked in advance. “I have a database of more than 100 poultry farmers and sometimes I leave some of them disappointed when they find me without stock,” he says. “That has to do with the fact that I do not yet have a hatchery.”
Here, he is a local hero of sorts going by the people’s admiration for him. “When I came here, I was looking for a virgin place where poultry can flourish without the noise and air pollution and other disturbances. However, I was touched by the plight of the locals and decided to give them first priority in every service delivery,” he says.
At the moment, Ssebandeke employs 18 workers on the two-acre farm and 14 of them are youth from the community.
What is more, Ssebandeke provides the community with free tap water that is pumped from underground.
“It was the most basic thing I could provide them [community], especially during the dry season when water is scarce,” he says.
Back to the farm, Ssebandeke says he has learnt a lot in a short time in poultry.
“I mismanaged my first parent stock through over-feeding it and though it is still surviving, it did not perform to the expectations. Overfeeding lowered their fertility and production. For instance, some eggs were too small to hatch into good chicks while others laid eggs with two embryos. Such eggs don’t hatch,” he says.This was a learning experience for Ssebandeke, who did not give up. Thereafter, Ssebandeke enlisted the services of consultants and experts, who advised him on the best poultry methods.
In perspective, Ssebandeke says it has not been easy but persistence is seeing him through. “These chicken keep me busy throughout the day right from feeding, treatment heating up the cages and so on. Every other hour you get a call that one chicken is sick and needs attention. Sometimes, another dies. Interestingly, as you are still mourning, you are consoled by the fact that the chicken produced 50 trays of eggs in a day,” he says.
Why quality matters
Ssebandeke reasons that the first line of success in poultry rests with the quality of the chicks one buys. He says that however much a farmer invests in poultry, he/she cannot get the best out of the investment if the breed is of low quality.
“I know it is very difficult to tell the quality of chicks at an early stage, especially when you don’t have the benefit of visiting the breeder’s farm to see the stock,” he says. “I advise any budding poultry farmer not to just buy from anyone selling day-old chicks. The best thing is to learn from fellow poultry farmers who have quality chicken who will recommend you to the breeder,” he says.
Ssebandeke explains that the main difference is felt in costs involved to feed the chicken to maturity.
“Ordinarily if a farmer gets good quality broilers, the target is to have them weigh about two kilogrammes within five weeks but if they get a poor breed of broilers, they cannot achieve that target,” he says. “So, by the time the broilers reach two kilogrammes, it may be after seven weeks, meaning that the farmer spends a lot of money on the feeding them,” says Ssebandeke.
Tips to the youth
Ssebandeke says he failed miserably when he ventured into trading in cosmetics but wholeheartedly took the risk with poultry.
“In my first ventures, I was doing a supervisory role and I failed miserably but with poultry, I am hands-on all the time,” he says. “This has helped me taste some success even though I am yet to fully settle down to make serious profits. My advice to youth is that one does not need to follow someone because he is succeeding. Take time to understand what you are entering into and pick a gap to specialize in because at the end of the day, a customer should be able to identify your products and services from others,” he says.
Ssebandeke has already extended his poultry venture to make his own feeds on top of setting up a commercial centre in Misindye, Mukono District, where he sells chicken.
“My ultimate target is to have a full circle where I have my own hatchery,” he says. “I also want to start a fast-food chain to specialize in fried chicken.”
For now, the sky is the limit to what Ssebandeke can do and given what he has achieved already, it is hard to bet against him.
Prepare, clean and disinfect houses and equipment well in advance of chick arrival. Ensure that the house reaches the correct temperature and relative humidity 24 hours before chicks arrive. Ensure that chicks have immediate access to fresh water and feed. Monitor crop fill to ensure chicks are feeding.
The parent stock refers to the type of chicken required for the production of commercial lines of poultry.
Who is Sebandeke?
Ssebandeke is a researcher and graduate of Information Technology from Uganda Christian University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Fontys Hogeschool Eindhoven.