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Opinions of Sunday, 21 January 2018

Columnist: A.R. Gomda

Blazing the trail of quail farming; impetus for ‘One district, one factory’

Tucked away behind a grove of vegetation on the highway to Dodowa from Accra to the right is an assortment of structures housing both humans and five thousand quails, a kind of bird unknown to most Ghanaians. The serenity of the place does not suggest the very serious business venture taking place there.

I reached the place in the morning to see how these birds look like and what makes a quail farm from an expert who knows it all about this new venture in our country.

Emmanuel Noah, a man with decades of experience of managing the country’s Wildlife Department is owner of the quail farm. His passion for the replication of quail farming across the country is amazing and close to religiosity. No wonder he was excited when I sent him a request to visit, so I can spread the good news across Ghana.

Recently, he hosted a host of persons, including representation from state agencies, with a view to whipping up interest in the rearing and production of the bird whose eggs are highly nutritional and a source of treatment for varied health conditions, among them high blood pressure, diabetes and others.

At the end of the programme, attendees had no doubt in the ability of quail farming to provide employment to the teeming youth still seeking sources of livelihood.

My visit to the farm offered me the opportunity to see quails for the first time. I was fascinated by the space economy associated with quail farming, a reality which makes the use of rather small space from the venture.

A small enclosure housing some five thousand birds is a good worth relishing which I did anyway, especially when viewed against the size of shelter needed for ordinary poultry such as layers and broilers.

A disinfectant serves as the doormat to the enclosure housing the many cages of quails. It was mandatory that I stepped on it so I do not carry into the place anything which could become a source of infection for the birds.

That is the house for the mature birds; their miniature eggs collected and packaged for sale in selected supermarkets in Accra.

Quail eggs are small with black spots on them. For those seeing them for the first time, they would assume erroneously though that they are spoilt or dirty. Far from that, that is the colour of the highly nutritious eggs.

With nutritional value of quail eggs three to four times more than chicken ones, they are in high demand in countries where many know them. I have learnt that at Circle in Accra the eggs are being sold and those who know them patronise them.

Now that I too know about where to buy them, I would make my way to the place when the two crates my host gave me are exhausted. It is best to drink the yolk rich eggs first thing in the morning.

It was a difficult task for me to do. For the past four days or so, I have been glued to drinking the raw eggs every morning and like Emmanuel Noah told me, I would love the experience. Of course, I have.

In countries such as Kenya, quail farming is a serious business although one needs permit to go into it because of the state protection of wildlife in the East African country.

Although Emmanuel Noah, Chief Executive Officer of Quail Masters, the registered name of the company, is into other interesting wildlife ventures on his multifaceted farm, he would rather the quail farming is highlighted so that the attention of Ghanaians especially government can be focused on this novelty which according to him will be highly beneficial to the ‘one district one factory’ initiative of the Akufo-Addo-led government.

His fingers are crossed as he awaits the relevant state agency to engage him on the way forward. Quail farming can be carried out across the country when government shows sufficient interest in the venture.

Employing many young men on the farm who have mastered the delicate management of quails he is already imparting knowledge to his compatriots the value of which is unquantifiable.

When I visited, I saw young men engaged in various activities related to the rearing of the quails.

Others would have been secretive about the venture. Not so with Emmanuel who fielded any question I posed in the course of my tour of the farm.

“Quail farming has the potential of addressing the youth unemployment challenge given the fact that these wild birds take between six to eight weeks to mature for egg and meat production. Those who take the quail eggs have narrated its healing qualities and this covers the lowering of high blood pressure, managing diabetes and other ailments,” he said.

The droppings of the birds, he adds, are rich for the soil and therefore good for vegetable farming.

Today, quail eggs are beginning to become a common feature of our egg market even though they are yet to surface in the neighbourhoods of our densely populated suburbs.

Perhaps we are gradually drifting towards having quail eggs compete with the normal poultry eggs we are used to. That is the dream of Emmanuel Noah.

With the 5,000 birds on his farm, Emmanuel showed a happy countenance as he spoke about the benefits of quail farming.

When the history of quail farming comes to be composed one day in the country, especially when it is captured in the menu of the ‘one district one factory’ or industry initiative, this would be incomplete without the mention of Emmanuel Noah.

Quails have done very well in domestication, hence their prevalence on farms in some parts of the world, Kenya being a typical example.

On Emmanuel Noah’s farm, fertilized eggs are kept in incubators which he has and upon hatching, the chicks are sent to a nursery to mature for eventual introduction into the main cage to grow.

At the nursery, the temperature provided by a lighting system is very high because anything below that can be lethal to the chicks.

The time taken for them to start laying eggs is shorter than hens and this makes their rearing more economical for farmers. The lower quantity of feed adds to the economy associated with quail farming.

In the wild, quails live in small groups and in small areas. They hop for movement in the wild in search of feeds but in domestication they are fed on poultry feed. In the wild, however, they feed on insects, seeds, leaves and berries.

The general incubation period for quails is three weeks similar to domestic fowls.

An average size incubator cost about GH¢2,000, Mr Noah said – a gadget he can arrange for those interested in the business to acquire.

It is thought that the average lifespan of a quail is a year in the wild. Perhaps in captivation with adequate feeding and medication, it could be over that period.

With their better survivability than layers and broilers in the poultry category, they make for better production on commercial basis as witnessed on Emmanuel Noah’s farm.

Emmanuel Noah intends setting up a private zoo and a recreational centre where both Ghanaians and foreigners can come and relax as they see his collection of wildlife.

His collection of wildlife is captivating and includes deer which he brought from Holland, monkeys and a rare kind of peacock; the only species whose male displays the beautiful plumage as do the peahens.

Oh my gosh! His use of the relevant wildlife terminologies underscores his wealth of experience in the field of wildlife management and husbandry.

He is currently the president of the Ghana Wildlife Exporters Association and its West African regional counterpart.

For now, however, his obsession is to propagate the magic of the quail.