Saturday, 16 October 2010

Bird Market at Zebilla

13 October 2010
As part of my work on development of local value chain of Guinea fowl, I have been able to see not only various facets of rearing of this indigenous bird but also the rural life in the northern part of Ghana. There are lots of similarities in rural life of India and this part of Africa. This region has been primarily an agriculturist cum pastoralist type of society as it is evident from the dominance of large variety of seasonal agricultural crops and small ruminants in the livelihoods of these people.
Guinea fowl, an indigenous semi domesticated bird from this area fits well in their lifestyle here. Though with the changing time there are challenges in this rearing of this bird as it is nowadays more seen as a source of income. With the good co-operation of Bongo District Guinea Fowl Farmers' Association and district office of Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), I have been able to track down most of the links of the local value chain and coming up with the strategies to promote this sector in the district. Now the challenge lies in convincing the government officials about results of study and developing projects around it, which may be a very tough task.
When I was explaining Mr. Henry, the livestock officer at MoFA, my completed study, he suggested me that we should visit bird market at Zebilla which is a small town approximately 50 km away from Bongo as the area has got a different breed of Guinea fowls that grows very large in size within shorter period and there we could also see if we would be able to source guinea keets for distribution to the farmers. (young chicks of Guinea fowl.)
We reached there by 9:30 am to find that we were late. There was large crowd of people holding various types of birds in their hands, guinea fowls, chicken, ducks, turkeys, pigeons and trying to find the customers. Some people were traders who were buying the birds in large numbers. Birds were being brought in various numbers and in various ways. If the number of birds was very less in 4-5, the people were carrying them with their hands or on bicycles. Some were being carried in Kusogs of various sizes. Kusogs are cages made from local straw. Kusogs were being loaded on bicycles, motorcycles, on the top of the buses and trotros or were carried on the heads. Majority of the sellers were small holders who had brought only a few number of birds (ranging from 1-10 numbers).
There was no weighing of birds with the scale, poor birds with their tied legs were moved from the hands of seller to the buyer and then given jerk to get a feel of their weight and then there were negotiations over the price of the birds. Most of the people who were buying the birds saw the symptoms for the diseases, age and weight. The size of the birds were really larger than those in Bongo. One interesting thing was that people were giving higher price to the birds having higher age and lesser weight because the birds lose their fat as their age increases and people in this area prefer tougher and less fattier meat. There was one buyer who was buying 4 months old birds in order to keep them for 2.5 months and fatten them for the Christmas when the price of the birds would be very high.
By the time we reached there major sale was over and most of the low quality type of birds had remained. There was strong smell of Pito (local alcoholic brew) in the air which was coming from a thatched hut in the middle of the market ground. It was full with people, men as well as women. Most of them were sellers who after getting some money were going in for a small booze, the most common way of celebration of income.
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Zebilla Bird Market scene- disabled not excluded
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Negotiations over a Guinea Fowl
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Kusogs full of birds on top of the tro