The Bangladesh Model and Other Experiences in Family Poultry Development
A research process and methodology focusing on indigenous Kenyan chickens
Ndegwa, J. M ., Norrish, P. Mead, R., Kimani, C. W., Wachira, A. M.
Paper presented at the International Network for Family Poultry Development (INFPD) Symposium during the XXI World’s Poultry Congress in Montreal, Canada, August 20 - 24, 2000
Indigenous chickens are among the local assets of poor people living mainly in rural areas and who make up between 65 - 80% of total population in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 90 % of rural households keep and rear chicken in small flocks of about 20 birds. Not until quite recently, there hardly had been any meaningful investment in harnessing this valuable resource as means to alleviate pervasive indigence.
Productivity of these birds has therefore been discouragingly very low. Bearing in mind that indigenous chickens comprise of close to 80% of total poultry population, ample investment in research and development in this sector then, is indeed a matter of great importance and for urgent consideration. The paper explores a research process and methodology carried out over a period of time as an attempt to mainstream indigenous chicken sector in the research and development agenda. There is also the stressing on its potential in contributing to development of sustainable livelihoods and poverty eradication among the poor, often marginalised section of the population, majority of who are rural women.
In Kenya and elsewhere in the sub-Saharan Africa, between 65 80% of the population
live in rural areas eking out a living from subsistence farming, often under very
difficulty climatic and economic conditions (Gueye, 2000; Ndegwa, et. al., 1998). The main
objective is to meet household food requirements. In most cases this is only a pipe dream
and many of the rural folks are dependent on food handouts from their governments or
non-governmental relief organisations. There is, therefore, a vicious cycle of dependency
among millions of impoverished people in rural areas. They lack access to external inputs
of production to improve output and their local resources are poorly managed and
overexploited leading to environmental degradation and further impoverishment.
Improvement in the agricultural output in rural areas could be greatly enhanced by the
proper harnessing and utilisation of local resources. Indigenous chickens are among the
many local resources available in rural areas that, if well managed, could ease the burden
of the people. Over 90% of rural households keep and rear indigenous chicken usually in
small flocks of about 20` birds (Ndegwa et. al., 1999; Mbugua, 1990; MoLD, 1990; Stotz,
1983) and, according to Gueye (2000), more than 80% of the total poultry population in
Africa is kept in rural areas. Chickens are usually regarded as a woman's domain and hence
have a low status (Ndegwa and Kimani, 1996; Ndegwa et. al., 1998).
Several factors contribute to low productivity often associated with indigenous chicken
(Ndegwa and Kimani, 1996; Musharaf et. al., 1990) and manifested in terms of very high
mortality, low growth rates and small mature weights and low egg production. But despite
the low productivity, the birds play a very significant role in rural livelihoods in
Kenya, and indeed in all other sub-Saharan African countries, (Gueye, 2000; Ndegwa et al.,
1998 MoLD, 1990; Ibe, 1990). In Kenya, indigenous chicken products (eggs and meat) are
preferred and often fetch higher prices than those of exotic, mainly commercial-orientated
poultry products. The contention then, is that, there is a potential for a local resource
like indigenous chickens to, if properly harnessed, turn around the misery that is the
lives in rural areas. This calls for a concerted effort by all stakeholders coupled with a
change of attitude and policy focus. Infra-structural and institutional support, are hence
required in research and development activities aimed at improving productivity at farm
Many people in sub-Saharan Africa have very precarious and vulnerable livelihoods. Any
adverse change in situations surrounding them be they, environmental, socio-economic or
political either at local or global level will almost certainly impact negatively on their
lives. Their livelihoods are in no way sustainable. A comprehensive participatory approach
is therefore necessary to develop a means of sustenance that guarantee the people a
sustainable livelihood and freedom from being adversely effected by those conditions that
have hitherto contributed to their perpetual indigence.
According to DFID (1999) andScoones (1998), a livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in
the future, while not undermining the natural resource base. Farrington et al., (1999)
have given a perspective on early experience in implementing sustainable livelihoods as a
new approach in poverty alleviation. This approach draws on improved understanding of
poverty not just in terms of income and consumption, but also in terms of absence of basic
capabilities to meet physical needs (health, education, clean water and other services)
The understanding is also highlighted by Chambers (1987).
On the other hand, the povertynet (2000), a World Bank website on poverty gives a simple
but comprehensive description of what poverty entails. Poverty is hunger, lack of shelter,
being sick and not being able to go to see a doctor. Poverty is not being able to go to
school, not knowing how to read, not being able to speak properly, not having a job, is
fear for the future and living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness
brought about by unclean water.
Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation andfreedom. Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action for the poor and the wealthy alike a call to change the world so that many more may
have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from
violence, and a voice in what happens to their communities. Proper harnessing of local resources of the poor people will help in the development of sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their generations and, contribute significantly in the fight on poverty eradication.
In the context of the above exposition, research on indigenous chicken has been underway
in the recent past in Kenya under the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's Poultry
Research Programme. This has been an attempt to mainstream this sector at various domains
and to realise its potential to contribute to poverty alleviation and development of
sustainable livelihoods for the poor.
This study details a research process on indigenouschicken from on-station to on-farm that has been carried out in Kenya at the National Animal Husbandry Research centre of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. The aim was to evaluate growth and production characteristics of indigenous chicken and subsequentlyto improve their production performance at farm level. It is a process that encompasses
the various participatory modes described by Biggs (1989) namely, contractual,
consultative, collaborative and collegial.
The on-station research was basically of the contractual mode without any participation of farmers although they were the main clients. From on-station the research process moved into another phase of field survey in the consultative mode of participation. The third phase of the research process was the
on-farm studies with a strong farmer and extension participation. This phase had a
collaborative and collegial mode of participation.
This paper, therefore, is a description of an attempt to focus critically on, and to bring
to the fore, a local resource readily and 'abundantly' available and, affordable in rural
areas. It is a resource that the often marginalised and most vulnerable groups in the
rural communities, who are mainly women, have complete access to, and control of. It is a
resource with untapped potential that could be exploited to turn around the misery that is
the life in rural areas. It may be of little significance to many people as exemplified by
lack of any meaningful research and development investment in this sector over the years,
but it holds the key to eradication of poverty among many rural communities and groups
especially in marginal areas.
The paper also highlights the involvement of farmers in the on-farm research process where they (farmers), are left to choose interventions/technologies from a basket of options and either adopt and adapt them at their own pace and according to each individual's ability and capacity. It is therefore a
description of two completely different research approaches. One being the conventional
'laboratory-type' controlled process and the other being a non-conventional on-farm
research process in the hands of the farmers and wholly dependent on their participation.
In-between, are different steps or processes undertaken to bring to the fore a better
understanding of the role of indigenous chicken.
The research process involves a set of inter-related activities that followed one another.
These steps are described in more details under methodology. However an outline of the
importance of each step would be proper presently. The on-station research helped create
the necessary impetus towards on-farm research by raising the interest of many
stakeholders (Research and extension managers, policy makers, farmers, various categories
of students and others) who had all along been sceptical about focusing on indigenous
Some useful insights into the potential performance of indigenous chicken were
generated. Researchers started to have more confidence and to focus more on the need for
an in-depth study on characteristic performance of indigenous chicken. As a result of the
preliminary studies, the raising of awareness about the importance of indigenous chickens
started in earnest. The on-station studies also helped bring about a change in orientation
within the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's management and more resources were
hence sought and directed towards the sector. An approach for a more extensive study of
indigenous chicken involving the stakeholders was then developed and is described in
detail in the following sections. But generally, it was comprised of stakeholders'
workshops and field visits to key informants.
These activities were meant to mainstream the indigenous poultry sector within the whole dimension of the livestock industry in general and the poultry industry in particular. They also offered fora for learning from other people with divergent views, experiences and knowledge and importantly, forging of
strong linkages for collaboration. These were followed by farm-level field baseline
surveys to establish farmer practices. Subsequently, on-farm studies were set up.
The experience from baseline surveys, like that of the on-station research, informed the
subsequent on-farm research activities. They gave the researchers an insight as to the
real situation at the farms and an understanding of how to interact and deal with farmers
and extension personnel. The walls were beginning to fall. This is evident from the way
the on-farm research proposal was formulated which was a big variation from the approach
prior envisaged in the priority-setting workshops and in which farmers, the primary
stakeholders, were grossly under-represented.
In our approach, we strongly felt it would be more prudent to involve farmers in the whole research process from selection through implementation to monitoring. Farmers' own resources were to be the main inputs. Placing the fate of the research process in the hands of the farmers was a radical change of
attitude in the part of the research team. This change of 'heart' and 'style' in
conducting research came about due to, more than any other thing, information gathered
from the field visits and from the survey experience.
According to Yin (1994), research can be generally categorised according to three purposes; explanatory, exploratory and descriptive. In social science, the research purposes are achieved through one or more research methods or strategies; experiments, surveys, histories, analysis of archival information and case study. Each strategy can be used for all three purposes - exploratory, descriptive and explanatory. There may be exploratory case study, descriptive case study or explanative case study (Yin 1981a, 1981b).
According to Sieber (1973), there are huge areas of overlap among various research methods or strategies. Mead and colleagues (1993), on the other hand, state that the purpose of experiments is to make inferences, as unambiguously as possible, about the effects of treatments applied to experimental unit. Sample surveys allow inferences to be made from a sample about the whole, but always finite, population from which it has been drawn. In this case, “there is no imposition of treatments”. Sample surveys should describe certain properties of the population as they naturally exist. According to the same authors, in sample survey, stratification is related to blocking in experiments, both being ways of controlling unwanted sources of variation.
Sutherland (1998) has given a description of transformation in research processes from conventional research in the 1960s based in research stations that was mainly supply driven and often unrepresentative of farmers' conditions to Farming Systems Research (FSR) approach developed in the late 1970s. It placed importance on demand identification via the diagnosis of farming systems, rationalisation of research resources through priority setting, testing new technology under farmers' conditions and developing strong linkages with extension.
From mid 1980s, the FSR approach was criticised as being too linear and prescriptive and the generic approach of farmer participatory research (FPR) was developed. The FPR (Okali et al., 1994) placed particular emphasis on farmer participation and incorporated ideas from related approaches such as participatory technology development (PTD), participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and low external input agriculture (LEIA). Farrington (1997) however, suggests that an FSR-type approach may work well for resource-endowed farmers in higher potential areas. FPR in contrast, would be more appropriate for resource poorer farmers in more marginal areas.
Research is useful only if it is taken up and applied by users of information and technology derived from it. This, according to Garforth (1998), is enhanced by dissemination to ’end users’ (farmers, individuals, households, communities, companies, associations) engaged in productive activities, and ’intermediate users’ (researchers in international agricultural research centres and national agricultural research systems, others concerned with research and development in non governmental organisations, private sector, extension, and donors)
Figure 1. The various stages of methodology used in the indigenous chickens study and their interactions
Figure 2. On-farm participatory research process methodology
In the next sections, the research process on indigenous chicken will be explained. A diagrammatic summary of the process is shown in figure 1 while figure 2 focuses more specifically on the on-farm research.Table 1 shows various activities of the research process and a description of each. In table 2, a summary highlighting output generated from the activities is given.
Table 1: Description of activities undertaken in the research process
1. On-station research Main objectives to gain experience and an understanding about characteristics and nature of indigenous chickens and to generate information on potential performance under improved management
2. Stakeholder workshops (SHWs) Held in 1994. Objective was the need to incorporate divergent views and experiences from a range of stakeholders. This is similar to suggestions by Grimble (1998) and ODA (1995).
First workshop (Mbugua et al., 1994), aimed at gathering available knowledge on: major production systems, production constraints, farmer solutions and researchable constraints.
Second workshop aimed at: formulation of concrete research goals and project proposals to meet prioritised and achievable goals. SWOT methodology used (based on identification of Strong and Weak points and Opportunities and Threats of research) However, there was inadequate representation of primary stakeholders (the rural poor, subsistence farmer especially women)
3. Field visits - Networking Undertaken in 1995 (Ndegwa et al., 1998). Objectives were to establish state of the art in poultry industry, share experiences and forge close linkages with several individuals, organisations and institutions (extension, research programmes, universities, development projects, agri-business). Starky (1996) refer to this as ’Networking’.
4. Research and Extension mini-workshop and meetings Objective was to have more focussed and detailed discussions about actual field work and to strengthen linkages with frontline extension personnel
5. Baseline field surveys Done in 1996 in five agro-ecological regions (Naivasha, Njoro, Bahati, Ol Kalou and Ng’arua), (Ndegwa et al., 1999). Sixty farmers covered per region divided into four farmer-clusters. A checklist used in semi-structured interviewing of farmers as in PRA. Information about household and poultry production recorded.
6. On-farm farmer participatory research Study carried out between 1996 and 1999. Objective was to evaluate the effects of improved management practices on performance of indigenous chicken at farm level with a focus on farmer participation (J. M. Ndegwa - personal communication)
Involved selection of location (5 regions and 4 farmer-clusters per region) and farmer on willingness basis (10 per cluster), training meetings (selected farmers plus many others and frontline extension personnel), intervention options and implementation by farmer, monitoring (farmer, extension, research), evaluation.
7. Dissemination of information A continuos process and different modes- existing booklets and manuals, preparation of new materials from information gathered (pamphlets, manual, journal papers), conferences, seminars and workshops. Msc and PhD thesis.
Table 2: Highlights of results from various research activities.
1. On-station research - Experience gained helped build confidence to offer advice on management of indigenous chicken
- creation of awareness, interest and enthusiasm among a variety of people
- encouragement from valuable comments
2. Stakeholder workshops (SHWs) Three poultry production systems identified:
- subsistence mainly indigenous chickens
- semi-commercial - small number, mainly exotic commercial chicken breeds and crosses with indigenous mixed with, geese, ducks, turkeys and pigeons
- intensive, large scale exotic commercial breeds
Constraints across systems:
- socio-cultural factors (eggs and chicken meant for guests, low rating, associated with women mainly)
- market organisation
- institutional support
Specific production problems - high mortality, low production, feed shortage and low quality, inadequate technical knowledge,
3. Field visits - Networking Strong linkages formed - a major boon for on-farm participatory research (extension and farmers involved, hence less research time and personnel)Networking expanded scope of work outside research workplans - two Msc (Tuitoek et al., 1999 and Okong’o et al, 1998) and one PhD (on-going) research projects, co-operation with some development projects (GTZ, NPDP, and ASALs)
Poultry found to be of much importance in rural livelihoods
Recommendation for a survey at farm level to establish status in poultry production.
4. Research and Extension mini-workshop and meetings Mutual trust and a sense of ownership developed due to strengthening of linkages with frontline extension personnel
5. Baseline field surveys Production characteristics of indigenous chicken under farm conditions established (Ndegwa et al., 1999, Siamba et al., 1998).
Farmer management practices and knowledge established.
Potential to develop rural poultry production demonstrated.
6. On-farm farmer participatory research Close to 500 farmers attended training sessions. Farmers allowed to choose from a variety of interventions to adapt and or adopt.
Mutual trust created among all players.
Cluster formation an important farmer organisation- allowed for acquisition of some external inputs (pooling)
Farmers confidence and interests in their birds created.
Project rated third best overall at sixth KARI scientific conference (KARI, 1999)
Data and information collected currently being analysed in a PhD project thesis.
7. Dissemination of information conferences, seminars and workshops. Msc and PhD thesis, new materials from information gathered (pamphlets, manual, journal papers), photographs for gallery exhibition.
This comprehensive research process and methodology, is a clear testimony to the extent as to how far attitudes and interests have changed in favour of indigenous chicken as a very important resource available to majority of households with heavy loads of poverty on their shoulders. Proper harnessing of this resource through concerted efforts will enable millions of indigent households in Kenya and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa to improve their living standards and establish sustainable livelihoods.
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