May an unrepentant virologist join your discussions? It is now nearly 20 years since the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) accepted and argument put forward by Professor Latif Ibrahim and me, that rural Malaysia would not benefit fully from flocks of village chickens until Newcastle disease could be controlled. We had worked together with an Australian avirulent Newcastle disease vaccine; strain V4, in commercial chickens. We suggested this vaccine for use in flocks in villages remote form a cold chain. At about the same time the Bangladesh process was commencing, with an “intensive vaccination drive against Ranikhet disease” (Dr Ziauddin 21.May 2002, 20:48) Perhaps a little earlier the GTZ project on village livestock was underway in North East Thailand and the chicken flocks were vaccinated against Newcastle disease before other studies were undertaken.
I recall seeing extension material produced by FAO for use in Bangladesh. It included a coloured, illustrated booklet and projection slides that feature vaccination against Newcastle disease, but with conventional vaccines. Are these materials still in use, or still available? I could not locate them on my latest visit to FAO Rome.
Some of the Pacific Islands should have valuable contributions to make. Just what can be done with village chickens where there is no Newcastle disease? Are there other conditions that will eliminate entire flocks?
It will be difficult to transfer the current Bangladesh model to new locations. It will surely be a matter of sowing the seeds and allowing local evolution. From the little I have seen of Bangladesh, it will be difficult for other countries to replicate the source of day-old chicks or the infrastructure for their transport. The process of sustainable intensification will not be easy.
Many of the concepts displayed in this conference have been with us for the past 20 years, and probably much longer. Women and children will be the main beneficiaries, and sustainability of activities is very difficult. The role of “improved” stock remains a point of contention. It would be tragic to lose the genetic diversity present in village flocks. I heard Dr Hammond speak recently of the difficulties of overcoming genetic pollution when unwise decisions have been made. Perhaps uncontrolled Newcastle disease has benefits in some situations.
Concern about zoonotic infections derived from village poultry is a novel view. In some countries it is traditional of chickens to share the dwelling or the housing compound with their owners and I am not aware of problems except with bird lice. Some of the people; we try to help have such desperate hunger that they eat animals that have died of disease. We must understand their hunger before expecting them to understand our concerns about transmission of disease.
Another recent innovation has been the recruitment of sociologists to our cause. This can only increase our ability to interact successfully with villagers. I hope some will devote attention to another question. Why do some administrations have the understanding and the will to produce appropriate poultry vaccines while others do not? What can we do to improve this situation?