The Scope and Effect of Family Poultry Research and Development
Family poultry management systems in Africa
A. J. Kitalyi
Chickens (Gallus domesticus) dominate the smallholder poultry production systems of Africa. However, the other poultry species including ducks, geese, pigeons and guinea fowls, do play varying roles in the welfare and economies of African households. The prevailing management systems are a function of social and economic changes in the region. Intensive, semi-intensive, backyard and extensive scavenging systems are found in family poultry or smallholder poultry of Africa. Improvements in areas of breeding, feeding, housing, health and disease control as well as in marketing and processing of poultry products have been introduced invariably in different countries. However, currently more than 70% of the family poultry population are the indigenous chicken types kept on low-input low-output production system.
In this paper the management systems of family poultry in Africa are presented with emphasis on bird types and flock sizes, housing, feeding, health and disease control, marketing and use of poultry products as well as socio-economic aspects.
Key words: family poultry, management systems, Africa.
There are three poultry management systems; intensive, semi-intensive and extensive/scavenging, which are differentiated on the basis of flock sizes and input-output relationships (Sonaiya, 1990; Kitalyi, 1998). The extensive poultry production systems in Africa, where the poultry is kept on free range or scavenging is different from the more recent extensive free range poultry coming up in developed countries (Thear, 1997). The later system stemmed from concerns on need for humane conditions and respect for animals, which has been given more emphasis in developed countries than in developing countries.
The term poultry applies to a wide variety of birds of several species including chicken, guinea fowls, pigeons, ducks, geese, turkeys, swans, peafowl, ostriches, pheasants, quails and other game birds (Koeslag, 1992). The domestic fowls belong to the order Galli, which includes chickens, guinea fowls, ducks and turkeys. These different types are found in the smallholder poultry systems of Africa, defined as family poultry in this conference. These birds in their natural habitat scavenge for their food and seek shelter in the natural surroundings in trees and bushes. However, over the years there have been human interventions on the natural habitat through domestication and research, which have resulted into different management systems. Although some of the new technologies such as high yielding breeds, improved housing, concentrate feeding and disease control have been introduced in family poultry, the adoption rate has been low.
In the following sections, the three main poultry management systems in Africa, i.e. intensive, semi-intensive and extensive or scavenging system, are presented. The discussion is based on six factors, which influence the management systems. These factors are:
- bird type and flock sizes,
- feed resource,
- health and disease control,
- marketing and product utilization, and
- socio-economic aspects.
The intensive system, which is based on specialized breeds, constitute less than 30 % of the total poultry population in Africa. The system is found mainly in urban areas, where there are markets for eggs and chicken meat. In those countries, which followed a socialist policy such as Ethiopia and Tanzania, the intensive poultry production system was confined to government institutions (Katule, 1989; Tadelle, 1996). Producers in this production system, aim at using the recommended standard practices, such as breed of choice depending on production objectives, appropriate housing, feeding and health and disease control program. However, those farmers in family poultry, found in rural areas mainly cannot follow most of the standard husbandry practices due to various constraints. Production at low-input, low-output levels, termed semi-intensive is the commonest in family poultry.
The semi-intensive production system is sometimes referred to as backyard production system (Sonaiya, 1990; Ngongi, 1996). The intensive and semi-intensive production systems are based on one species and mostly the domestic chicken (Gallus domesticus). Flock sizes in intensive production system are normally in thousands, whereas the semi-intensive or backyard production system flocks range from 50 to 200 birds (Sonaiya, 1990; Kitalyi, 1998). Keeping of big flock sizes is as a result of research developments in artificial incubation, nutritional requirements and disease control.
Intensive production system developments aimed at reducing labour and housing costs per hen, which led to the introduction of cages. These developments in housing are found in some family poultry production systems. However, the high densities of multiple hen cages may not have infiltrated much into the African continent, because land and labour resources are not as limiting as in developed countries. The deeper litter system may be the most common housing system in the intensive and semi- intensive systems of family poultry in Africa. Flock densities are not strictly adhered to and high densities of less than 0.1m2 per bird are common (Huchzermeyer, 1976).
Feed resource is a major input in poultry production systems, accounting for over 60% of total production costs in commercial poultry sector (Renkema, 1992). The rising poultry feed costs and particularly those of premixes has led to use of home made rations or home mixing where concentration of commercial feed is fortified with other ingredients. Ingredients commonly used in home mixing are; oyster shells, fishmeal, bone meal, blood meal and oil seed cakes. Other ingredients are cereal grains, cereal by-products and kitchen waste (Fanuel, 1997; Kitalyi 1998).
Most producers who adopt this management system use the conventional health and disease control measures. However, the effectiveness of the system is hampered by poor infrastructure and inadequate diagnostic equipment (Yongolo, 1996). The mushrooming private veterinary services, resulting from the on-going structural adjustment programs has decreased the problem in urban areas. Marketing of products in this sector use the cold chain system, although there are cases of live birds sales to hawkers for hotels in urban and shopping centers. Where the cold system cannot be used there is a problem of marketing, particularly where there is high competition with the big commercial producers.
In the extensive or scavenging management system, different poultry species are kept. These are; chickens, guinea fowls, ducks, geese and turkeys. Chickens (Gallus domesticus) dominate in number and economic contribution (Sonaiya, 1990; Fanuel, 1997). Guinea fowls may be more popular in the flocks of West Africa, coming second to chickens (Veluw, 1987; Bourzat and Saunders, 1990; Ouandaogo, 1990; FAO, 1995). Flock sizes in this production system are highly variable. Sonaiya et al. (1999) give a range of 3 to 97. Kitalyi (1998) reported a wider range of 6 – 130. As noted above, bigger flock sizes are associated with more intensification in housing, feeding, disease control and marketing.
Poultry housing in this sector are quite similar across the continent. Huchzermeyer (1976) studied the traditional poultry houses in the rural poultry sector of Zimbabwe and reported three types namely saddle roofed houses, round thatched huts, boxes and basket types. A survey on poultry management systems in Nigeria reported that 40 % of surveyed farmers transferred the poultry from homesteads to farms using baskets (Mathewman, 1975). Kaiser (1990) reported the use of chick cages hanged on tree branches. The housing structures in the extensive production systems are either on the ground or raised. Structures on the ground are sometimes provided with perches. In Zimbabwe a run is attached to the poultry houses and the term fowl-run in local poultry is commonly used. There are cases where the birds do not have separate houses (Hutchzermeyer, 1973; Mathewman, 1975, Kaiser, 1990; Kitalyi, 1998) and instead the birds roost in the family house, kitchen or in tree branches.
The traditional poultry housing structures are small in size. It would be difficult for a person to go into most of them. Such houses would definitely not provide a healthy environment. The poor hygienic condition of the housing result in high infestation with external parasites. In Ethiopia, the problem of external parasites ranked second to Newcastle disease (Tadelle, 1996). Kaiser (1990) reported significant decrease in external parasites (Argas persicus) and mortality from spirochetosis by improved construction of perches in Niger. In the Gambia livestock improvement program, which included improved poultry housing resulted in lower chick mortality (19%) relative to that observed in Ethiopia (66%) and Tanzania (33%), where no housing improvements were made (Kitalyi, 1998). The advantages of improved housing are noteworthy. However, such improvements should take into consideration, farmer's rationale for the small structures. Secure houses are necessary for protection from theft as well as predators.
In the smallholder poultry production system, scavenging is the main feeding system. Unfortunately, there are so far no reliable methods of estimating the scavenging feed resource quantitatively or qualitatively to enable estimation of input - output relationships in this feeding system. Roberts and Gunaratne (1992) and Tadelle (1996) have attributed much of the low performance of the birds to the poor feed resource base. Promoting use of unconventional feed resources such as termites, maggots and worms has been suggested as one of the alternatives for increasing the scavenging feed resource base. A technique for producing termites in Togo and maggots in Burkina Faso have been described by Farina et al. (1991) and Soukossi (1992), respectively. Other suggestions for increasing the scavenging feed resource through integrating poultry and cropping has been suggested (Baksh, 1994).
Poor understanding of disease epidemiology, poor infrastructure and inadequate diagnostic facilities compound the problem of diseases in extensive production system. The interactions of different entities, within and among the flocks such as; flock contacts while scavenging, uncontrolled introduction of new stock, exchange of live birds and transmission from wild birds (Kitalyi, 1998) limit development of sound poultry health program. Farmers are handicapped in disease control particularly with the infectious diseases such as Newcastle disease, which is most devastating (Chabeuf, 1990; Bourzat and Saunders, 1990, Bell et al., 1990; Chrysostome et al., 1995; Yongolo, 1996). Various local concoctions are used by farmers but not much research has been done to test the efficacy of those local treatments. Use of Aloe sp. plant leaf extract is one of the local therapy reported in The Gambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania (Kitalyi, 1998).
With support from government and non-governmental organizations, farmers are now forming association and groups to enhance input supply and distribution in the rural areas. Success in this area depends on farmer's access to information on the disease situation and control measures.
Marketing and use of poultry products in this production system is poorly developed. Most farmers depend on hawkers or middlemen who buy the birds for urban markets. Furthermore demand within the production area, i.e. in the rural areas, is low. Rushton (1996) reported household consumption rates of one chicken and eight eggs per month in Ethiopia and one chicken and negligible eggs in two months in The Gambia. The higher consumption rates in Ethiopia were attributed to increased product utilization in traditional meals. Not much has been done in promoting value added poultry products. Like most other agricultural commodities, improving marketing system and introduction of value added products could trigger increased poultry production and its contribution to household economies.
Management of poultry has been associated with women for various historical and social factors (Bradley, 1992). This situation has changed in developed countries because of science and technological developments. In Africa the situation has not changed much. Survey in four African countries, i.e. Ethiopia, The Gambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, showed that women dominate most activities except for shelter construction and marketing (Kitalyi, 1998). Family poultry is easily managed within homesteads, and in rural areas this is the main resource which women farmers have more access to benefits accrued. However, various gender-based constraints such as poor access to information by women and heavy workloads on women should be addressed to meet the needs and opportunities of this gender category in this sector.
Family poultry management in Africa does not follow standard husbandry practices. The high variations in individual farmer circumstances call for a step-wise improvement approaches. Intensification through introducing specialized high yielding breeds should be preceded by improvements in housing, feeding and disease control. Institutional support in the dissemination of technology and information, financial services and improvement in infrastructure will facilitate improvements in poultry management in Family Poultry.
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