Old US caged laying systems may find a new home in Rwanda

Old US caged laying systems may find a new home in Rwanda

By Roy Graber December 2, 2020

Cage egg production systems on their way out in U.S., but still could help give Rwanda a more dependable supply of eggs, former Tyson CEO Donnie Smith says

Credit Andrea Gantz

Donnie Smith, former CEO of Tyson Foods and founder of the African Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), would love to see Rwandan agriculture become more self-sufficient and the country to be more food secure.

One way to make both of those things possible is to increase the African country’s domestic egg production. Smith, while speaking during the recent Alltech ONE Virtual Experience session, “Empower and Equip: The African Sustainable Agriculture Project,” noted that as caged egg production systems are being removed in the United States and being replaced by cage-free laying systems.

However, Smith said those caged systems are still useful, and they might be just what is needed in Rwanda, where egg production is lagging. ASAP already maintains a 10,000 hen operation to provide eggs to One Egg: Rwanda, a nonprofit organization which has the mission to give an egg a day to preschool students, but egg production there could still expand.

“We need to increase our egg production (in Rwanda). I found a friend here in the U.S. He’s going cage-free in the U.S., so he has a caged system that he’s used for several years that he can sell that is easy to put up in a different geography, and he’s moving a lot of his old systems into Africa,” Smith explained.

“We’re investigating whether or not taking a caged system, which does a much better job on bird health, a much better job on bird nutrition, a much better job on production of the eggs – you don’t have as many floor eggs, so the eggs are cleaner.”

If the idea of bringing in a used caged system is viable, like Smith said, it would be purchased, not donated. Smith said that while ASAP is a nonprofit corporation, it was formed to empower farmers and communities in African countries through the creation of sustainable agriculture endeavors.

Smith said that sustainable production agriculture can only be achieved through teaching entrepreneurship and facilitating education in agricultural practices. It is the same principle as it is better to teach a person to fish, rather than to give that person a fish, he added.

Other ASAP endeavors

In addition to running the present egg operation, ASAP has also led to other successful agricultural operations. In 2014, ASAP established the first commercial feed mill in Rwanda — Zamura Feeds. Today, Zamura Feeds is the only certified feed mill in Rwanda, enabling Rwandan farmers the opportunity to obtain quality, affordable poultry, swine and dairy feeds that help producers better maintain the health of their animals and improve yields.

ASAP, in partnership with UTIA: Smith International Center and USAID: Rwanda, has also established a small holder farmer broiler project, which has led farmers to double their household incomes.

ASAP has also shared models with other businesses and organizations investing in Africa at the Trade With Africa Business Summit 2018.