Broiler Production in an Urban and Peri-urban Area of Zimbabwe
Eddington Gororo1, Rutendo Nhombo1 and Mabel T. Kashangura2
of Animal Production & Technology, Chinhoyi University of Technology, P. Bag 7724 Chinhoyi
of Animal Science, University of Zimbabwe. P. O. Box MP167 Mt Pleasant Harare
Broiler production is assuming an important role in the livelihoods of urban and peri-urban
households in Zimbabwe. A survey was carried out to characterise urban broiler production
in Marondera. Findings showed that broiler producers have quite diverse livelihoods,
combining various income sources and resources. Broiler production units are small-scale
(mean: 398 birds per cycle, range 25-3,500), informal and fragmented backyard businesses
founded on a gender-based division of labour. Flock sizes, stocking densities, reported
mortality rates and marketing aspects (size, age, and channel) are varied in the study area.
Commercial broiler strains are intensively managed (stocking density 9.5birds/m 2) on deep
litter in various housing scenarios. Compounded feed is given in a two-phase feeding system
to finish the birds for sale at 5-8 weeks. Reported mortality rates averaged 7.4% (range 1.637.0%). Respondents have ad hoc marketing arrangements, marketing mostly live birds to
local household customers. The subsector is characterised by a lack of institutional support
services and producers face a multitude of constraints of a technical, social, legal, financial,
business and economic nature.
Broiler chickens are assuming an important role in the livelihoods of rural and urban
households in Zimbabwe, through augmentation of household cash income, employment
and food supply. Chicken meat and eggs contribute over 40% of animal based protein
supplies. Seventy percent of all commercial poultry produced in Zimbabwe are meat type
chickens. Emerging, independent and relatively small-scale informal producers account for
the bulk of production, buying 65% of all day-old chicks produced in the country. The
majority (73%) of these producers reside in urban and peri-urban areas (LMAC, 2012).
Despite its significant present and potential contribution to the poultry sector, smallholder
urban broiler production is limited by insufficient capital (Babubi et al., 2004) and
characterised by moderate to no institutional support services, low levels of agricultural
education and little documentation (Faranisi, 2010). There is very little information on what
happens in this sector. This project therefore had as its aim the documentation of technical,
demographic and socio-economic parameters characterising the commercial production of
broilers in urban Marondera. The information generated is useful in guiding decision
making for targeting intervention in poultry development in the country.
Materials and methods
Selection of respondents was done in a stepwise manner. Firstly the choice of Marondera
town as the study site was based on convenience. Suburbs within the town were first
clustered according to residential stand sizes as defined by the municipality and sampling
suburbs selected at random. Fifty five households were then identified using the nonprobability snowball sampling technique. A semi structured, pretested questionnaire was
administered to these households to extract information on their demographics and socioeconomic situation, flock sizes, management practices, technical performance parameters,
access to support services and priority needs in poultry sector development assistance.
Demographic and socio-economic factors:
Producers have quite diverse livelihoods, often combining various income sources and
resources including income from the broiler business. However, broilers were ranked the
highest income source. Urban broiler production is not restricted to a survival strategy for
the poor with no livelihood alternatives, but mostly involves the more privileged. It was
noted that property ownership, or direct entitlement to use of space, is a pre-requisite for a
broiler production business. Broiler production units in the study area were small-scale,
informal and fragmented backyard businesses founded on a gender-based division of
labour; wherein women pre-dominate ownership, production and marketing activities while
men pre-dominate start-up financing and inputs procurement.
Management and technical performance parameters:
Flock sizes, stocking densities, mortality rates and marketing aspects (weight, age and
routes) were so varied in the study area. Commercial broiler strains were intensively
managed on deep litter in rooms in human dwellings, disused garages, semi-permanent
fowl runs or moveable steel wire cages. Compounded feed was given in a two-phase
feeding system. Flock sizes averaged 398 (range 25-3,500) birds per cycle. However, 79% of
the producers kept at most 200 birds per cycle. There was a direct relationship between
flock size and property size. The mean stocking density was 9.5 (range 6-14) birds/m2 and
reported mortality rates averaged 7.4% (range 1.6-37.0%).
Birds are finished for sale at 5-8 weeks when they reach a live mass of about 1.8-2.5kg. Most
of the respondents reported ad hoc marketing arrangements, mostly practicing direct
marketing of live birds to local household customers.
Producers face constraints with regard to lack of institutional support services, shortage of
capital, access to reliable markets, prohibitive council by-laws, power cuts, poor chick
supply, substandard chicks, and shortage of production space, access to reliable markets and
high mortalities due to disease.
Urban broiler production in the study area is a small to medium size enterprise dominated
by women. Production is not restricted to the poorest but involves the more privileged who
can finance business start-up. Production is constrained by lack of institutional (technical
and business) support services, shortage of capital, prohibitive urban council by-laws and
lack of access to markets.
Table 1. Mean ranks for broiler production characteristics across household location in
Marondera (Kruskal-Wallis test)
N (total = 51)
Flock size (year)
*Chi-square test was significant for the parameter across household location (p<0.05)
Further research needed
1. Contribution of urban produced broilers to urban protein supply, youth and women
empowerment, employment creation and local economic development.
2. Potential impact of broilers to urban environmental and human health and how
farmers (can) capture and control these externalities (e.g., pollution abatement)
3. Risk factors and causes of high mortality and disease incidence in urban chicken
4. Economics of producing broilers in urban settings (locations, economic flock sizes,
housing structures, feeding, genetics, marketing and market development, etc.)
Special thanks go to the broiler producers who participated in this research work and my
partners Mabel T. Kashangura (Department of Animal Science, University of Zimbabwe)
and Rutendo Nhombo (Marketing Department, Chinhoyi University of Technology) who
helped out with data collection and analyses.