Dwelling on the prevailing discussion "increase access to eggs for the world’s poorer populations, what should be the right balance between small-scale production, large-scale commercial production. what is the way forward to achieve increase in egg production for better nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)'
Constraints to increased Egg production for Better Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)
Eggs are a highly nutritious food, rich in Eessential Fatty Acids, vitamins A and B12, and bioavailable iron, zinc, and iodine. The protein in the albumen is abundant, digestible, and complete, and the whole food is naturally “packaged” in a protective “container.” With a few notable exceptions, it is a acceptable that almost all human populations enjoy eating them. They are uniquely positioned to advance the second of the world's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture (United Nations, 2015).
Consumption of eggs, however, falls far below optimal levels among mothers and children living in poorer countries especially in the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The level of production in this region is not adequate to provide needed nutrition for everybody especially the children and the mothers. Eggs are cheap, relatively available, and frequently consumed by young children in high-and middle-income countries. However, they are expensive, scarce, and rarely consumed by children in much of Africa and South Asia.
Major barrier to increased egg production for better nutrition in SSA include the following
(i) Low production
(iii) Nutrition, Housing and Incidence of Predation
(iv)Veterinary and intensive systems
Low Production: When considered the conventional measures of productivity commonly used in the commercial poultry sector in both aspect of egg and meat production, such as feed conversion ratios or daily weight gain, local chicken breeds are low and slow producers of eggs and meat. This contributes to their low productivity when compared with the production in the commercialized poultry production setting.
Disease: The most common cause of the high mortality rates observed in Small -Scale Poultry (SSP) flocks, particularly in tropical countries, is Newcastle disease (ND) and Avian Influenza (AI). The emergence of and response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), the H5N1 strain of avian influenza caused millions of birds to be culled after emerging in Africa in 2006-2008, and many countries in Africa have lost a large proportion of their egg production industry. This placed a heavy burden on SSP producers, directly, by the virtue of increased loss of birds, and indirectly, as initial control measures resulted in massive depopulation, often with inadequate or no compensation especially in the developing nations.
Nutrition, Housing and Incidence of Predation: Inability to provide adequate nutrition and presence of environmental stress coupled with the incidence of loss of chicks to predation are other notable factors that can contribute to reduction in the production of poultry products (especially eggs) in the SSA
Veterinary and Extension Services: Smallholder poultry farmers do not or have limited access to information on the “state of health” of their birds and how to cope with clinical signs and symptoms of diseases on their farm. This includes issues of adequate biosecurity practices, which is a major concern for small-scale intensive poultry producers. Inadequate essential resources and infrastructural facilities can result in limited veterinary and extension services.
Possible way forward
Establishment of “Egg Hubs” (Beesabathuni et al., 2018; Ymeri et al., 2017)
This is an innovation in which smallholder poultry (egg) farmers are organized into groups to facilitate input supply and better reap economies of scale. In this model, groups of five smallholder farmers constitute one group and are trained to operate a small‐scale farm with 5,000 birds, thereby simplifying supply chain coordination of inputs to the farm while also ensuring minimal losses in the transport of eggs to a market closest to the community.
Each farmer group has access to credit, building materials, cages, start‐up flock and relevant materials, biosecurity measures, protective clothing, and training in best practices. Several of these farms can be managed together as a hub. The hub acts as the aggregator of inputs and provides training, insurance, and credit to the farmer groups. For countries with large rural land areas, which, as we have seen, would require more than 200 hubs to ensure an egg for everyone, creating incentives for private companies to set up the hubs is the likely accelerated pathway to scale.
Eggs are one of our best tools to help end hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition. In order to reap the benefits of this opportunity, it is crucial that aggressive action be taken to increase and improve their availability and affordability in SSA. This can only be done by investing heavily in production systems that can bring down prices significantly across the entire economy, rather than focusing effort on limited benefits for individual farmers.
Ymeri, P., Sahiti, F., Musliu, A., Shaqiri, F., & Pllana, M. (2017). The effect of farm size on profitability of laying poultry farms in Kosovo. Bulgarian Journal of Agricultural Science, 23, 376–380.
Beesabathuni, K., Lingala, S., & Kraemer, K. (2018). Increasing egg availability through smallholder business models in East Africa and India. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 14(Suppl 3), e12667. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12667
United Nations (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development (General Assembly Resolution A/70/L.1). Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations.