Village chicken production systems in rural Africa
Household food security and gender issues


Aichi J. Kitalyi
André Mayer Research Fellow (1994–1995)

Editing, design, graphics and desktop publishing
Publishing Management Group,
FAO Information Division

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-104160-1

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Applications for such permission, with a statement of the purpose and extent of the reproduction, should be addressed to the Director, Information Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, 1998


The poultry production systems of Africa are mainly based on the scavenging indigenous chickens found in virtually all villages and households in rural Africa. These systems are characterized by low output per bird. Nevertheless, over 70 percent of the poultry products and 20 percent of animal protein intake in most African countries come from this sector. Therefore, increased rural poultry production would result in a positive impact on household food security both in increased dietary intake and in income generation.

Increasing meat and egg production from rural poultry has been a major concern of FAO for many years. The Organization has supported various improvement programmes ranging from the introduction of productive exotic breeds under intensive management systems to improved backyard production, vaccine production and disease control. In the early 1990s, the FAO Animal Production and Health Division reviewed the achievements made in the control of poultry diseases, particularly of Newcastle disease. The assessment noted the progress that had been made in Southeast Asia with initiatives spearheaded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research through the promotion of an oral vaccine based on a naturally attenuated Newcastle disease strain with the characteristics of heat resistance and an ability to spread horizontally within a flock. Similarly, improvements in Asia, such as the Bangladesh semi-scavenging model, have shown that increased rural poultry production can result in increased food production and a more equitable distribution of food and income - especially between men and women. There have been few similar activities for Africa, where problems of land tenure, food security and rural poverty have been more acute. It was agreed therefore that the André Mayer Research Fellowship award for the 1994–1995 biennium should examine the village chicken production systems of Africa, describe the biological and socio-economic factors that affect them, identify improved technologies and suggest appropriate development strategies.

The main findings of this study support the hypothesis that village chicken production forms the basis for transforming the rural poultry sector from subsistence to a more economically productive base. The potentials, major constraints and possible solutions for improved production have been identified. However, realization of sustainable improvements has often been limited by the inadequacy of the single-discipline approach to addressing the highly interrelated production constraints. Given the integrated nature of most farming systems, a holistic interdisciplinary approach to rural poultry production, including institutional and organizational capacity building, is imperative. This study also highlights the importance of information systems, which include data management and analysis, as a tool in planning, developing and assessing the impact of interventions to improve rural poultry production.

This study coincided with the World Food Summit, held at FAO, Rome, from 13 to 17 November 1996, where delegations committed their governments and civil society to a global attack on food insecurity and poverty. Poultry, like other short-cycle animal stock, is viewed by the FAO Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) as a crucial element in the struggle for sustained food production and poverty alleviation. The guidelines provided in this study are particularly pertinent to those countries participating in the SPFS where village chicken production will have a substantial impact on increased household food security and gender equity.

T. Fujita
FAO Animal Production and Health Division

Hyperlinks to non-FAO Internet sites do not imply any official endorsement of or responsibility for the opinions, ideas, data or products presented at these locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided. The sole purpose of links to non-FAO sites is to indicate further information available on related topics.


Chapter 1
Conceptual framework
Chapter 2
Village chicken production and health
Village chickens in household and national economies
Chapter 3
Logistical data for case study countries
Data collection techniques
Data analysis
Main findings
Gender issues
Chapter 4
Flock characteristics and production
Production constraints
Health and disease control
Integration of gender concerns in village chicken improvement programmes
Institutional and organizational support
Chapter 5
A spreadsheet model for village chicken production systems
Chapter 6


Annex 1
International poultry periodicals
Annex 2
Working missions
Annex 3
Sample questionnaire for data collection on intrahousehold dynamics
Annex 4
Sample questionnaire for collection of hen production data on the basis of hen history
Annex 5
Sample questionnaire for market survey on village chickens
Annex 6
Sample questionnaire for longitudinal data collection for village chicken production systems
Annex 7
Sample questionnaire for collection of cross-sectional data on village chicken production systems - Single visit data
Annex 8
Guidelines for collecting data on village chicken production systems using participatory rapid appraisal techniques
Annex 9
Project documents for TCP/RAF/2376 -“Assistance to rural women in protecting their chicken flocks from Newcastle disease”


Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Agriculture On-line Access

International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Agriculture Technical Extension Department, Zimbabwe

African Network for Rural Poultry Development

Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux

Domestic Animal Diversity Information System

Danish International Development Agency

Economist Intelligence Unit

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Farm-Level Applied Research Methods for Southern and Eastern Africa

Food Science Technology Abstracts

Gross domestic product

Geographic Information System

Low-income food-deficit country

Newcastle disease

Non-governmental organization

Norwegian Agency for international Development

International Office of Epizootics

Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre

Regional Animal Disease Surveillance and Control Network

Special Programme for Food Security

Abstracts on Tropical Agriculture and Abstracts on Rural Development in the Tropics

United Nations

United Nations Development Programme

Women in development


This document is the end product of a two-year research project, which enabled me to confer with scientists in different areas of rural development on three continents. It is impossible to include the names of all those who assisted me in the course of this research. I am grateful to all members of staff in various divisions of FAO, especially Animal Production and Health (AGA), Field Operations (TCO), Agriculture Support Systems(AGS), Rural Development(SDA), Women and Population (SDW) and Library and Documentation Systems (GIL) for their advice in the planning of the research and the preparation of the manuscript. Many thanks to the FAO representatives in Ethiopia, the Gambia, India, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe for their operational support during my field studies.

I am grateful to Dr Jean-Marc Meyour, Senior Fellowships Officer (1995–1996), Fellowships and Reporting Unit, Ms Philippa Brooker-Rao and all the staff in the unit for administering my programme and overseeing my well-being during the fellowship period.

I am greatly indebted to Dr Mark Rweyemamu, Senior Officer, AGA and Dr Kris Wojciechowski, Animal Health Officer, AGA, for their guidance, patience and understanding throughout the study. The assistance rendered by Dr Rene Branckaert, Animal Production Officer, AGA, Dr H. Mongi, Country Project Officer, RAFR, Dr Simon Mack, Animal Production Officer, AGA, Dr Salah Galal, Animal Production Officer, AGA, Ms Zoraida Garcia, Technical Officer, SDW, and Ms Patricia Merrikin, Librarian, GIL is highly acknowledged.

I was privileged to interact with world-renowned poultry scientists such as Dr Werner Bessei (University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany) and Dr Funso Sonaiya (Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria) who have a wealth of knowledge in rural poultry research, training, extension and development.

The technical advice, particularly on modelling, rendered by Dr Andrew James and Dr Jonathan Rushton, both of the Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics Research Unit (VEERU), University of Reading, United Kingdom is highly acknowledged. Many thanks to all staff members of VEERU for their support during my stay in the United Kingdom.

Many thanks to all farmers, civil servants and international development workers in Ethiopia, India, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Gambia and Zimbabwe with whom I had discussions during my field missions. Special thanks to Dr Bassirou Bonfoh and Alstair Short of Yoro Beri Kunda Veterinary Centre, the Gambia, for their assistance in data collection.

I am grateful to Dr Bo Gohl and his team at the Farm-Level Applied Research Methods for Southern and Eastern Africa (FARMESA) Regional Office in Harare, Zimbabwe, for giving me office accommodation between June 1996 and February 1997.

I am grateful to my employer, the Ministry of Agriculture, the United Republic of Tanzania, for giving me a leave of absence to undertake this study.

I owe special thanks to my husband Joseph, my daughters Aisia and Anale and my son Mringifor their patience and endurance during my absence from home.

I will remember my sister Dr Judith Ngowi Nnko, who has been a tower of strength to me through her love and inspiration, and particularly supportive during the difficult times of poor health in the United Kingdom.

Finally, I give glory to God Almighty for seeing me through this task successfully.