SELEBI-PHIKWE: An agriculture teacher at Mmadinare Senior Secondary School has discovered a unique business concept in which she rears quail birds for medicinal value, mainly for treatment of diabetes, arthritis and hypertension.
Catherine Keoagile keeps the birds and sells their eggs to mainly patients with high blood pressure, sugar diabetes and arthritis.
The eggs are taken raw by either breaking one directly into the mouth or into water if one cannot stand the smell of a raw egg.
The quail bird is popularly a wild bird known as letsiakarana in the vernacular, but not many have discovered its health benefits particularly in Botswana.
Keoagile started researching about the bird in September last year on the internet and learnt that it is a common bird in South Africa, Zambia, China, Botswana and other countries.
“I also learnt that its eggs prevent arthritis, diabetes, ulcers, cleanse the body and control high blood pressure.
I discovered that the Chinese people started rearing it after discovering the health benefits derived from its eggs and meat, which they used as traditional medicine. In Japan they valued it after they fed it to a TB patient and he got healed,” she said.
The use of its eggs and meat then spread to other countries.
Keoagile started searching for the bird locally and was referred to someone in Francistown who keeps a wide range of birds and he approached him to buy the quail fertile eggs.
She bought 30 fertile eggs, incubated them and only 16 hatched while others were destroyed. Within a week, she lost five hatchlings and remained with three females and eight males. “I kept them in a cage and the female ones laid eggs after seven weeks. I collected the eggs for incubation.
“The three females produced 25 eggs out of which 20 chicks survived. Most of the chicks die within a week of hatching hence they need experience to keep,” she said.
Because letsiakarana is a wild bird, Keoagile then approached the Department of Wildlife to enquire if she needed a permit to keep them and was told that it was not amongst the listed species that need a permit.
She was further advised to enquire from the Ministry of Agriculture who visited her house to see the eggs and even travelled to Sefhophe to see the structure that she designed for the birds.
“The ministry appreciated the unique business and said they have been encouraging the youth to venture into unique businesses such as this one,” she said.
Keoagile has designed a cage specifically for the birds and ensured that she used materials that would not let eggs fall off or allow parasites to enter. She started selling the eggs in December last year and like in any new and upcoming business the response from the customers was not impressive.
“It was just a new thing that they have never
Her first customer was an elderly Ipelegeng employee in Sefhophe who had arthritis and within a week individuals started approaching Keoagile to buy just a few after they heard the testimony from her first customer.
Because the market was initially a challenge, it meant that some of the eggs ended up being stale but she did not give up as she continued marketing them aggressively.
“Apart from approaching individuals I went to Bosele Hotel, Phokoje Lodge and Syringa in Selebi-Phikwe but the response was also not so promising because they did not have any knowledge about the quail.
However, Phokoje Lodge knew about the bird but were interested in the meat,” she said.
She embarked on a journey to Majestic Five Hotel in Palapye marketing her eggs and in January this year she supplied her debut order of five dozens coupled with individual orders that had now started streaming in.
As she continued marketing the eggs, she now started receiving calls from as far as Francistown and Gaborone and then transport by bus. She even went to hotels in Francistown with the aim of increasing her market base because she has now secured Majestic Five.
“At some point, I would realise that I have a shortage of eggs because the demand was high. As I speak I have 296 birds in the cage and 150 eggs in the incubator,” she said.
When she is not at work she sells the eggs by Barclays Bank in Selebi-Phikwe. She even went to the extent of participating in the recent SPEDU show, not as an exhibitor, but to display and teach people about the eggs’ health benefits and people were so impressed that at the end of the show she received numerous calls from new customers.
“This motivated me a lot. Many have already come to me for benchmarking and I assist them as I continue to secure a wider market.
Currently, I am able to meet the market demand because the birds have now multiplied,” she said. Keoagile sells her eggs for only P2 looking at her target group being the elderly and the fact that the Selebi-Phikwe area is economically challenged.
“So far I am not selling birds for meat. I have even researched to see if drinking raw eggs would not result in salmonella disease and I discovered that the quail eggs have elements that make salmonella virus unable to survive.
In Japan children are fed two quail eggs every morning to keep them healthy,” she said.