Technology Planning and Analysis

Egg incubation for Kenyan smallholders

“It was when I was in Nyeri High School that the incubator idea surfaced,” says Geoffrey Kago founder of Kaki Village Enterprise Company. Kago bought his first chicken from his mother in 1985. And using that chicken he was able to breed about 200 more. This earned the funds to see him through high school.

Through this experience an idea was born because before Kago invented his Kaki range of incubators for the small scale farmers in East Africa there were no small units available for smallholder farmers. They often live in regions with no electrical power and so Kago’s incubators are both cost effective and use a range of energy sources that include kerosene, electricity, biodiesel and solar power.

Currently using a model that he calls “Agency Farming” Kago is using the services of about 50 local farmers to distribute these innovative products and conduct training for users.

The Kaki Incubator range of products even includes egg candler technology that is used to monitor the embryo’s growth and development inside the egg. And today, Kago says the entire initiative is worth more than $100,000 and receives an average of 100 calls per day from interested farmers, government agencies, international organizations and NGOs.

Among the most notable organizations that have got involved are the Africa Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and a host of NGOs in poverty alleviation sectors.

Yet the journey to reach this point has been a long one. After high school Kago deviated from his egg farming ambitions and went to work as a casual laborer and a stone mason in Nairobi. From there, he took a job in a funeral home where he learnt joinery skills. Then with those skills, he went on to design and make pool tables. Although this did not go well and eventually he graduated as a cigarette hawker in the streets of the Kenyan capital before putting his meager proceeds back to his original incubator idea.

“All this technical knowledge that I have today is out of my own initiative to prosper; to go and understand, to do research and develop what my business needs to thrive,” Kago says.

After making his first wooden electric incubator in 2002, Kago was able to breed his own chicks. When people realized the potential of this innovation, they started asking him to make more incubators. “This is when I saw business,” he explains. 

Now in addition to making and selling these innovative products, his company also rears and keeps ostriches, geese, quails, chicken, guinea fowls and ducks. Currently, the company has spread its wings to other East African countries including Rwanda and Burundi and also includes high capacity incubators.

On top of the usual African financial and capital hurdles that cut across the entire startup spectrum, Kaki Village Enterprise has had other challenges. When the innovator was still working with his first hen, he experienced the usual village impediments - his chicken were poisoned by a neighbor. When learning and testing ostrich egg incubation in 2004, a power cut made more than 100 of his eggs go to waste.

More fundamentally Kago believes Kenyans are yet to appreciate and adopt local technology. This situation is made worse by banks and other financial institutions that make it difficult and sometimes impossible for small scale farmers and businesses to acquire credit. To this end, plans are underway to create a unique poultry cooperative entity to cater for credit facilities for local small scale farmers.

In the meantime, he advises others to “look for your own resources to fund your own initiative, others will see what you are doing and come to help”.

Kago firmly believes you make your own luck. As he concludes, he saw himself through high school and therefore has the mentality: “If your parents [or other persons] are unable to do it, why not do it yourself?”


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Daniel Muraga

Daniel Muraga is an experienced online writer and communications professional based in Kenya.

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