Brooding pots venture turns around Nakuru women's lives

The 14-member group which started with table banking is now supplying their products to seven African countries

In Summary
  • The brooder pot whose retail price ranges from Sh1,000 to Sh1,500 is made from refined clay.
  • Clay soil is a poor conductor of heat. That means the radiation of the heat in the brooding house is slow.


Virtuous Women Group Coordinator Shila Khai displays a brooder pot. KNA
Virtuous Women Group Coordinator Shila Khai displays a brooder pot. KNA

Sheila Khai's greatest dream was to get empowered financially and empower other women around her. 

For many years she harboured well crafted ideas and business plans that remained just that, ideas, due to lack of money to set them in motion.

Fast forward to today and Khai's dream is coming to reality. Her well-stocked brooding pots shop along Geoffrey Kamau Road in Nakuru is flocking with poultry farmers.

The pots help chicken farmers warm their chicks using charcoal, in a sustainable way without incurring huge costs and losses.

Khai says she has no regrets over the struggles and hardships she has undergone since she ventured into the world of self-employment.

“Nothing comes for free but through sheer hard work. There is no shortcut to success. You have to sweat for a certain period in order to attain your desired goals in life,” she says.

She says being a woman, she had no property in her name that she could use as collateral to secure a loan. Her only hope were household items that could not guarantee anything substantial.

Khai says when she brought together a group of women in Nakuru to pool resources and invest in manufacturing charcoal powered brooder pots made from clay, they had no idea the deal would turn into a giant enterprise that would transform their socio-economic livelihoods.

At the beginning, Virtuous Women Group membership stood at  three, but as women got learn about the group, they expanded to the current 14 members.

“Being a woman and with a passion to see women change and grow, I joined other like-minded women to start table banking, where we could pool resources and loan amongst ourselves at a fee,” she says, adding that, that is when their name ‘Virtuous Woman’ came to being.

“The idea was to create a platform to mobilise women and provide opportunities for them to have their own business and access the market for the product at competitive rates,” she adds.

The soft-spoken Khai says starting the business was a challenge as they had no capital. But as a team, the group members approached the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) where they secured Sh100,000 funding which they used as seed capital.

“When we started the business, we had Sh10,000 only. We could not buy pottery wheels and raw materials. We did not have capacity to hire workers,” said Khai who coordinates the group’s activities.

But with the WEF money their fortunes turned around and says the group has been invited to different exhibitions across and outside the country to showcase its range of products.

The demand for the Virtuous Women Group’s brooding pots in neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania has  seen the members work even harder to exploit the opportunity to turn around their economic fortunes.

Khai adds, “There was an exhibition that we were invited to showcase our goods in Nairobi and we made very good sales. After the East Africa Expo, we gained a foothold in seven African countries. We also have many local clients.”

She says the pots are not only designed to help poultry farmers who do not have electricity raise chicks but also to cut on electricity costs for those connected to the national grid.

The brooder, moulded from clay soil, resembles a traditional cooking pot with small protruding stumps to raise it from the ground. Holes are strategically placed around it to allow for ventilation for slow burning of the charcoal while emitting heat.

Bits of charcoal are placed in the pot and lit, to allow for gradual release of convectional heat to the surrounding keeping the chicks warm.

“Chicks require heat for the first five weeks when feathers are developing. After this period, they can maintain their body temperature,” she explains.

According to the coordinator, the glowing coals are then covered with wood chippings and ash before the pot’s brim is closed .With a two-kilo tin full of charcoal, the brooding pot operates for up to 30 hours warming about 300 chicks.

The brooder pot whose retail price ranges from Sh1,000 to Sh1,500 is made from refined clay. Clay soil is a poor conductor of heat. That means the radiation of the heat in the brooding house is slow.

The risk of injury to the chicks is diminished as the holes are few and around the neck of the pot.

The holes at the top of the pot also help in regulating the amount of oxygen circulating in the charcoal chamber. Low amount of oxygen facilitates prolonged hours of burning, the coordinator says.

“Apart from helping farmers who are not connected to electricity, the brooder pot comes in handy during power outages. Just like the bulb brooders, the chicks move far away from the pot when the heat is more than they need. A safety guard must, however, be placed around the pot to prevent the young fowls from burning."

To find the market for their products, the group has tapped on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. It runs a page known as Virtuous brooder pots where they advertise their products.

The group attended a training offered by the Women Enterprise Fund where they learnt entrepreneurship, book keeping, online marketing, record keeping and making investment plans.

“When we come for meetings, we first finish our table banking activities then embark on pottery,” Khai said.

Among the lessons she says the group members have learnt include the need to set high standards and targets which she admits have been their guiding factors everyday they open the shop.

She advises would-be entrepreneurs to be patient saying that despite the challenges, there is joy in self-employment and only those who have a strong will reap the fruits of their labour.

Women Enterprise Fund Regional Credit Officer Janet Ratemo says coming together has occasioned a shift in perspective that has led to a better standard of living for the women.

She notes that the fund is offering opportunities to women especially in rural areas, to transform their socio-economic status through development projects.

“The fund has disbursed Sh14.5 billion to 7,800 women groups in this region. I'm delighted to say that the repayment rate is 98 per cent as I encourage women to visit us and get financing to start projects that will give them income to feed their families and pay school fees for their children.” 

Women Enterprise Fund Regional Credit Assistant Phyllis Muthoni said they are unlocking access to finance for women enterprises to create sustainable green and decent jobs, ensuring women in Kenya are not left behind.

She adds that women should embrace the fund to solve the social, environmental and governance challenges in their communities as the only way to alleviate poverty.





-Edited by SKanyara

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