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Scaling up, Networking and Replication

Paradigm and Visions: Network for Poultry Production and Health in Developing Countries

Hans Askov Jensen

Strindbergsvej 104
2500 Valby, Denmark
E-mail: [email protected]


In spite of the fact that the majority of rural poor keep a small flock of chickens; poultry has long been neglected in the development community. Networks, based on rural poultry, have recently been established and the interest for using poultry as a means in poverty alleviation and food security programmes is increasing. However, the accessibility to literature, documents, guidelines, manuals, etc. is a main constraint. Consequently, previous experiences are often lost and new projects or programmes often start from scratch. Even though the interest is increasing and more development professionals than ever before are involved in rural poultry keeping, ways of communication and sharing experiences are still in its conception phase.

A successful model has developed in Bangladesh in which the main elements are: community group formation, establishment of an enabling environment, and capacity building for establishing and maintaining a smallholder poultry sector. Till now, more than 1 million families have been established with poultry activities and within a period of five years the concept will probably be in operation in more than 50,000 villages. This development has been the inspiration both to formulate a paradigm and to emphasise more on visions and capacity building in the project formulation phase. A paradigm in which experiences are accumulated and disseminated, a paradigm which learns from its own mistakes and successes and a paradigm which constitutes the framework for dissemination of experiences and information. With more than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, it is stressed, that development programmes have to be designed with a build-in mechanism for replication, which mainly means local capacity buildings.

Key words: Village, rural, backyard, poultry, paradigm, capacity building, institutional development, networks.

Network for poultry production and health in developing countries

The success of a model developed in Bangladesh, in which poultry is used as a tool in poverty alleviation, fostered the idea to establish an institution with the objectives to develop methods, based on the same principle, to be used in poverty alleviation programmes in other developing countries.

A broad outline of the background and the intention of the Network were presented at this workshop in 1998 (Jensen 1998).

Poultry has in the past been, and still is, a neglected animal by the development community compared with other livestock. However, in the late 1970s the Bangladesh NGO BRAC identified poultry rearing as a source of income for the landless, particularly destitute women (Saleque and Mustafa 1996). Others have since confirmed that poultry keeping is a common denominator for the majority of the poor in rural areas in developing countries. Currently the relationship between poor households and the poultry as the sole domesticated animal kept by the household is more or less recognised as a fact. Furthermore, about 70% of the rural landless women are directly or indirectly involved in poultry rearing activities, which there-fore represent skills known to them.


A paradigm means in this context: 1) a framework concept comprising a set of mutually supporting activities, 2) a set of values expressing or clarifying the impact of the framework activities on poverty alleviation, and 3) methods to continuously improve and disseminate the concept and knowledge related to the subject (capacity building).

The framework concept is based on a model developed in Bangladesh in close cooperation between the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) and the NGO Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), (Saleque and Mustafa 1996, Fattah 1999, Saleque 1999).

The basic feature of the model is a Smallholder with some 10 hens supported by a number of small entrepreneurs, all available in the village, to provide the inputs and the services needed to maintain a flock of 10 hens.

The concept is glued together by community groups, awareness programmes, training, and access to micro-credits. Even though the different entrepreneurs are established as an integrated production chain each unit operates on free market conditions and is free to sell to customers outside the integration chain.

The framework concept's main activities are: 1) establishing and maintaining community groups and activities in the community groups (the learning process), 2) establishing and maintaining an enabling environment - in this case: all the activities needed to establish and operate a small flock of poultry, and 3) local capacity building.

It is stressed that the concept is not a replication of the Bangladesh model, but adaptation of the principles to the prevailing structure and culture in a specific country.

The values are socio-economic parameters, and not production parameters, and used in the process of adaptation in a specific country. Achievement made in single-discipline-oriented programmes is not sustainable even though the production efficiency is improved (Kitalyi 1998). Alam (1996) has in impact surveys focused more on socio-economic parameters in order to document the positive impact of the smallholder model in Bangladesh.

By choosing socio-economic parameters instead of production parameters the paradigm became circular rather than linear in its development. An activity, such as improved breed, may show a positive effect on the egg yield, but have a negative effect on the family livelihood because the new breed does not have the required brooding traits to produce and nurse chickens.

The values are the socio-economic parameters with which to judge an increase in the families' livelihood security and thereby ensure a sustainable and circular development by continuously adjusting the mutually supporting activities, which constitute the framework concept.

The Methods used in poultry development programmes have till now been rather one-sided: vaccination campaigns or cockerel exchange programmes, and with nearly no feedback procedures in-build in the projects.

Terminologies used in village poultry are rather confusing and have often a different meaning. For some backyard poultry are the same as village poultry and for others not. For some indigenous breeds have a low productivity when the egg yield is below 50 eggs per year, for others 50 eggs per year have no meaning, but if the 50 eggs mean 4 clutches and 4 hatches and the outcome are 30 saleable chickens per year it is a remarkable and high productivity.

Accessibility to information and experiences is troublesome: with no textbooks, databases, journals, or other media in which results and findings are published. The main parts of publications are in proceedings known only to a limited number of development workers.

Different projects, based on rural poultry, are uncoordinated either because there are different donors involved or because different persons are responsible. The consequences are often that the same mistakes are passed over from one project to the next. The smallholder project in Bangladesh has, in this respect, been in a rather unique position because the implementing institutions in Bangladesh have been the same, DLS and BRAC, over 5 projects in more than a 10 year period and Danida, is or has been, involved in 4 of these projects as donor. The experiences from one project have been accumulated in the same institution, which are responsible for preparation and implementation of the succeeding project of same type.

With establishment of the International Network for Poultry Development supported by FAO and the Danish Network supported by Danida the first steps are taken to establishment of a learning process in which not only a terminology is developed, but also methods of adaptation and dissemination are refined (Branckaert and Guèye 1999, Sonaiya 1999a, 1999b).

The methods intended to be used by the Danish Network are: (1) through a systematic feedback process to continuously improve the supporting concepts, (2) adaptation, through pilot projects, of the framework concept to other countries than Bangladesh, and (3) through capacity building make the concept and experiences available for wider application.

The capacity building is integrated in the pilot projects for local dissemination and in the Network for application in other countries and for diffusion of innovations.

Observations and generalisations

The experiences with micro-credits to the poor have over the past 2 decades clearly documented that the poor are credit worthy and that they are willing to take a calculated risk assuming they can comprehend the consequences (Todd 1996 and 1998). In the process of developing the micro-credit programmes it has also been experienced that women are better managers of loans than men are. As BRAC expresses it: “BRAC's experience shows that as the poor rural women are constrained to manage the entire household with extremely limited resources, they develop as better managers than their male counterparts. When a woman benefits, her entire household benefits and the impact is more sustainable”.

When poor people, even illiterate, get the opportunity they behave rational: diversify the income generating activities, make savings, send children to schools, improve the family nourishment, and improve the family health. (Todd 1996 and Alam 1996).

However, micro-credit alone is not enough as expressed in a statement by the International Food Policy Research Institute at the Micro-credit Summit Washington January 31 1997:

‘Rural finance alone will not relieve poverty. More credit does not necessarily mean less poverty. Appropriate policies and good governance are critical for creating an environment in which financial services can make a difference for the poor. People must be educated and healthy enough to use credit in productive activities. Efficient, functioning markets are also critical for small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs to obtain the inputs and outputs they need to produce and get their production market. Investment in social safety net, as well as roads, electricity and communication infrastructure, are necessary to enhance the impact of credit in relieving poverty.’

The activities constituting the framework concept are in line with this statement: the community groups are the educational part and the enabling environment enhances the impact of credit and alleviation of poverty.

It is the local environment, in which the poor accidentally live that cause the poverty and not the poor that create the miserable environment. Furthermore, even illiterate people can work themselves out of poverty if they get an opportunity they can comprehend. Consequently, focus must be on establishing an enabling environment.

Poultry are a unique tool to reach the poor women with minimum disturbance of the patriarchal family pattern. Traditionally, poultry are women's domain and the income from poultry is in the hand of women; consequently an increased income from a small flock of hens is easier kept under women's responsibility than an increased income from cattle.

In order to develop a standard concept with which to reach a vast number of the rural poor, especially the poor women, poultry are a unique tool because:

Based especially on experiences from Bangladesh it seems obvious that creating an environment in which the poor women have the opportunity to establish an income generating activity without any subsidy involved at user level most effectively does poverty alleviation. Poultry is a unique entity as a starting point for such a development and micro-credit is an essential, but not the only tool, in creating an enabling environment.

Vision and scale

Potential and policies

More than a billion people live in extreme poverty - on less than $ 1 a day - and the pressing question is: how can development assistance be most effective at reducing global poverty?

The OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) has as its task to be the principle strategy think-tank of the major bilateral donors. These strategies are elaborated on in its publication "Shaping the 21st century: ‘the role of Development Cooperation’1. Some of the goals set forth by the donor community are:

“All this points to a different role for aid. Development assistance is more about supporting good institutions and policies than providing capital. Money is important, of course, but effective aid should bring a package of finance and ideas and one of the keys is finding the right combination of the two to address different situations and problems.” (quoted from Assessing Aid, p. 14)

1. As used in Assessing Aid 1998: A World Bank Policy Research Report, 9–14.

Eradication of poverty has priority on the development agenda and it is realised that money alone is not enough; new ideas and new concepts have to be developed and implemented. To reach the target set by DAC approximately 50 million people must every year be lifted above the poverty line, from now till 2015, and this in addition to the existing effort with which the proportion of poor only is maintained at status quo. Furthermore, institutional development, with emphasis on health and education, must be improved.

According to FAO the absolute number of chronically undernourished people rose between 1990–2 and 1994–96 in three out of five developing regions of the world, namely Sub-Saharan Africa, Near East and North Africa, and South Asia. The number rose from 822 millions in 1990–92 to 828 millions in 1994–96. Only in East and South East Asia did the number decline while it stagnated in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To change the present status quo situation in reduction of poverty from approximately 20% of the world population living below the absolute poverty line to 10% by 2015 will require not only political visions, but also wider visions in our methods to eradicate poverty than currently practised.

Capacity building will be a key word in the effort to reach such a target. BRAC as well as the Grameen Bank has proved that it is possible to build up an institutional capacity with which to reach a large proportion of the poor. Both NGOs have each a member accession of about 200,000 per year. Assuming each member represent a family of 7 persons, then 2.8 million new persons are every year involved in a programme in which the main objective is poverty alleviation in a country like Bangladesh. In the case of BRAC, more than 50% of the new members start with poultry as their first income generating activity.

It is an unrealistic dream that capacity building in other countries can be done in the same way as in Bangladesh. However, if the political statements regarding poverty alleviation are to have any meaning, it is an absolute necessity that capacity building is integrated in poverty alleviation projects in such a way that a countrywide dissemination programme succeeds pilot projects in a specific country.

Interaction between project design and visions

Between 1973 and 1986, the World Bank lent US$ 19 billion for nearly five hundred (498) rural development projects, the total cost of which were estimated at $ 50 billion. The outcome for these was a large proportion of failures, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank, 1988 passim). In the words of the Bank's own, commendably self-critical evaluation: ‘the Bank apparently lost sight of the reality that the cost of failures, in what were identified from the outset as risky experiments, would be born by the borrower countries and not by the Bank’. The evaluation concludes that there are many lessons to be learnt. They included problems arising from:

(Robert Chambers 1997, in Whose Reality Counts?)

The above project strategy certainly has had a vision, 500 projects of similar types and an investment of US$ 50 billion. However, it could have been interesting to see the results if the rural development programmes, from the very beginning, had had a framework concept in which experiences were transmitted from previous projects to new projects through a circular feedback process. Then we would today have had a project concept that had been developed and refined through 500 steps.

The interaction between the vision and the project-design may be the most important element in the design of the pilot project. The pilot project must encompass involvement of all the stakeholders intended to participate in the final project.

Human resource development and institutional capacity development for dissemination (replication) are important element in the Network strategies and will as such be an integral part of the project design in the different countries


Alam, J. (1997). Impact of Smallholder Livestock Development Project in some Selected Areas of Rural Bangladesh. Livestock for rural Development:

Assessing Aid (1998) A World Bank Policy Research Report, 9–14.

Branckaert, R.D.S. and Guèye, E.F. (1999). “FAO's programme for support to family poultry production”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Women in Agriculture and Modern Communication Technology. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark. (These proceedings).

Chambers, Robert (1997). Whose Reality Counts?, London: Intermediate Technology Publications.

Fattah, Kazi Abdul (1999). “Poultry as Tool in Poverty Eradication and Promotion of Gender Equality”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Women in Agriculture and Modern Communication Technology. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark. (These proceedings).

Hyden, Goran (1996). Changing Ideological and Theoretical Perspectives on Developmen,. Dar es Salaam: Institute of Development Studies.

Jensen, Hans Askov (1998). “Network for Poultry Production and Health in developing Countries”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Women in Agriculture and Modern Communication Technology. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark, Copenhagen: DSR Forlag, 48–65. Also at:

Kitalyi, Aichi J (1998). Village chicken production systems in rural Africa, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 142.

Saleque, Md. A. and Mustafa, S. (1996). “Landless Women and Poultry: the BRAC Model in Bangladesh”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Integrated Farming in Human Development. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark, 37–55. Also at:

Saleque, Md. A. (1999). “Scaling-up. Critical Factors in Leadership, Management, Human Resource Development and Institution Building in going from pilot project to largescale implementation. Poultry as a tool in Poverty Eradication and Promotion of Gender Equality”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Women in Agriculture and Modern Communication Technology. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark, in press.

Todd, Helen (1996). Women at the Centre. Grameen Bank Borrowers after one Decade, Westview Press.

Todd, Helen (1998). “Climbing out of Poverty through Credit: or what do Cows have to Do With It?”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Women in Agriculture and Modern Communication Technology. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark, 13–22. Also at:

Sonaiya, E. Babafunso (1999). “International Network for Family Poultry Development: Origins, Activities, Objectives and Visions”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Women in Agriculture and Modern Communication Technology. Proceedings of a Workshop. Tune Landboskole, Denmark. (These proceedings).

Sonaiya, E. Babafunso, Branckaert, R.D.S. and Guèye, E.F. (1999). Research and Development Options for Family Poultry. First INFPD/FAO Electronic Conference on Family Poultry: Intropap.htm

International Network for Family Poultry Development: Origins, Activities, Objectives and Visions

E. Babafunso Sonaiya

Obafemi Awolowo University
Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria
E-mail: [email protected]


Most of the poultry in developing countries are held in small rural farms. Their development by blending new technology with traditional methods can contribute significantly to the generation of personal incomes for women and so alleviate poverty and promote gender equity. The limitations of financial and material resources facing most developing countries and their organizations dictate more low-cost and cost effective ways of supporting research and development work in animal agriculture. From a review of the International Network for Family Poultry Development, it is shown that careful consideration should be given to the political, social and economic context in which a network will operate along with the constraints of inadequate financial or technical resources as well as the issue of ownership of the network.

Key words: poultry, gender, rural, family, network.


The development of animal production requires cooperation in sharing information and experience within and between countries. In order to identify appropriate technologies that will improve the performance of locally available animal and feed resources within the rural system, there is a need to coordinate, codify, amplify and broadcast across state and language barriers the individual efforts undertaken at various locations. We must find, collate, share and crosscheck all procedures which “minimise risks and optimise production with low-cost inputs; conserve and improve the farming system resource base; minimize wastes and environmental degradation; and recycle wastes for animal feed or energy supply.” (Qureshi, 1993). This requires extensive contacts and information sharing, such as can be found in a network.

Types of network

Agricultural Research Networks (ARN)

An ARN is a group of individuals or institutions linked together because of a commitment to solve a common agricultural problem or set of problems and to use existing resources more effectively. ARN can function at three levels: the simple exchange of ideas, methodologies and research results; scientific consultation between individuals or groups working on a common problem, conducting their research independently and sharing their results at common meetings; and collaborative research with joint planning and monitoring of a common research problem.

ARN generally seek to focus research efforts, based in institutions, on an agreed set of problems in such a way that the benefit anticipated by individual participants exceeds the cost that they incur and that the sum of benefits exceeds aggregate costs. This implies a high degree of organisation and formality in agreeing on over-all research agenda, research methods, allocation and scheduling of tasks, division of financial and other resources, format and manner of reporting.

Information Exchange Network (IEN)

An IEN is a group of individuals or institutions linked together on a voluntary basis with the primary objective of exchanging information on themes of professional interest in cost-effective ways. A key feature of IEN is their low cost. Once set up, network members can share information on their own experience, and benefit from that of others, at a lower resource cost to them than would be the case if they had to submit articles and take out subscriptions to professional journals.

IEN can function in a variety of ways. They can support several methods of information exchange. An obvious possibility is an element of research which can help to generate information to be exchanged, to bring network members together in active assignments and to focus attention on specific themes. IEN can use several methods of communication. Conventionally, these include newsletters and network papers, as well as workshops and symposia. In addition to written communication, farmer - to - farmer visits and electronic media can be very important in networking.

Organisations with a networking function (ONF)

Much information exchange in agricultural development is carried out by ONF, which are structured primarily around objectives other than networking. Examples of ONF include: Information providing organisation which promote high rates of member interaction by well-targeted mailing lists and question-and-answer services (e.g. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, CTA); Advocacy and activist networks (Genetic Resources Action International, GRAIN; International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, IFOAM); and Informal local groupings such as farmer and craft groups or cooperatives.

Research Partnerships by an ONF

The International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) developed a strategy of partnerships with national and international institutions in collaborative research, training and information exchange. The mechanisms used included inter-institutional collaboration, informal consultations, information exchanges, joint planning and programming and collaboration in research, training and institution building. However, the primary focus was on collaborative research networking with the national agricultural research systems (NARS) in sub-Saharan Africa (Walsh, 1993). Before the reorganisation that resulted in the new International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), there were a total of nine ILCA-associated networks; three commodity research networks and six discipline-related networks.

The need to provide access to relevant livestock information for scientists; to focus their attention on the rural farmstead where the majority of livestock is held and to provide opportunities for training and shared experiences on livestock in farming systems justifies the establishment of a research and development IEN.

Prerequisites for networking

Networking in agricultural development has a strong element of voluntary collaboration and philanthropic ideals. The aim must be to improve living standards among those seeking to make a living under difficult farming conditions - the complex, diverse and risk-prone farming areas (Chambers et al., 1989). This cannot be a process in which those who are able to supply most resources (such as money and information) for a network are the ones who receive the most benefit from it. It must be a collaborative process working to support those who wish to develop solutions to difficult problems.

A prerequisite for networking is that there is self-motivation among the members. A group of individuals or organisations actively and consistently communicating or exchanging around a central theme is essential to an IEN. Regardless of the method of communication, it is a process of exchange. This rules out a one-way information flow from one agricultural research centre simply seeking to inform an audience of its activities. Networks function better if the members feel a sense of ownership as in a voluntary, non-governmental organization.

INFPD - a typical information exchange network

The International Network for Family Poultry Development (INFPD) formerly African Network on Rural Poultry Development (ANRPD) is a typical IEN. Its aims are to:

  1. consolidate knowledge of rural family poultry production and coordinate efforts to develop it.

  2. serve as a forum for exchange of ideas and resources, comparison of methods and evaluation of results.

  3. document results and disseminate information.

  4. coordinate training programmes and develop human resources. Identify research and development priorities, funding sources and cooperation opportunities.

ANRPD has contributed towards rural poultry development in Africa in the following areas.

  1. identified human and institutional resources.

  2. facilitated contact and mutual development.

  3. guided emphasis onto rural poultry development.

  4. made rural poultry work respectable.

Some of the problems we have encountered include:

  1. too many dormant members.

  2. insufficient face-to-face interaction.

  3. incomplete or non-implementation of plans.

  4. insufficient feedback. And

  5. inadequate impact and coordination.


The challenge at Hameln

It was at the 1987 Poultry Workshop in Hameln, Germany, that I heard Werner Bessei speak about rural poultry production. He was then the FAO Poultry Production Officer. Before his paper I had never thought of studying the production system of traditional poultry production and I was completely at a loss for words, data or insight to contribute. I had lived with this system all my life but knew almost nothing about it even after about 15 years of poultry research experience. In response to this humiliation, I dedicated myself to learn all I could on this topic and to share such information with anyone interested. I asked Dr. Bessei to do a literature search of the available FAO database on rural poultry.

The idea of a network

The result was disappointing. It was then I decided to contact as many African scientists as possible to ask for all available publications, completed studies, raw data, research proposals and development ideas on rural poultry. But why should they supply these to me? What do they get in return? Why, of course, they will get the fruits of my own search in the same area. So it became clear to me that what was needed was a network of scientists and development workers interested in rural poultry development. A proposal was presented to the 1989 Poultry Workshop at Hameln (Sonaiya, 1989).

FAO midwifery

The network pregnancy was delivered with the assistance of the FAO's Professor Bessei who asked me to mount a workshop on rural poultry development in Africa in November 1989. It was at that workshop that participants agreed to become founding members of the African Network for Rural Poultry Development.

CTA wet nursing

The CTA has shown particular interest in the network. It provided part funding for the proceedings of the 1989 workshop and in 1990, mounted its own international seminar on smallholder rural poultry production in Thessaloniki, Greece. This seminar reaffirmed the formation of ANRPD and further developed its aims and objectives. In addition, CTA funded the meeting of the steering committee for the next 3 years. The former Deputy Director, Dr. Werner Trietz and the former Chargé de Mission, M. Dominique Hounkonou, were very instrumental to this support.

IDRC step fathering

The International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) also part financed the publication of the proceedings of the 1989 workshop and was the first organization to fund a proposal for collaborative research submitted by some network members in 1991. It has also provided funds for the publication of the 1997 ANRPD workshop. The Senior Programme Officer, Prof. Ola Smith has, from inception supported the Network.

From rural through village to family

But what is rural poultry? Is a turnkey, all-in all-out, 2 million broilers per cycle factory sited in a village qualified to be called rural poultry? What about small scavenging flocks kept in the peri-urban areas or even in the high-density residential areas? Rural Poultry was agreed by participants at the 1989 workshop in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, to be “… any genetic stock of poultry (unimproved and/or improved) raised extensively or semi-intensively in relatively small numbers (less than 100 at any given time). There is minimal investment on inputs with most of the inputs generated in the farmstead, labour is not salaried but drawn from the family with production geared essentially towards home consumption or savings.” (Sonaiya, 1990).

If rural poultry is understood locationally, the term village poultry will be preferable. Evidently, poultry kept within the villages will be owned and managed by villages and as long as there are villages, there will be village poultry. The Australians and their colleagues in S.E Asia prefer this term. But then, village poultry is still locational and as Aini (1990, 1998) has pointed out, very large flocks are kept in the villages under a semi-scavenging system.

The current FAO Animal Production Officer responsible for small stock - Rene Branckaert - has solved this problem by suggesting that the focus of our network should be on family poultry. When due cognisance is taken of the clientele of our network in the developing countries of the southern hemisphere, the concept of family poultry can hardly be understood in the same way as a Dutch family managed poultry farm with 50,000 layers in automatically controlled aviaries. In our reference areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America, family poultry refers to small flocks managed by individual farm families in order to obtain food security, income and gainful employment for women and children.

Past and current activities

As a result of two international symposia in Germany, one international workshop in Nigeria and an international seminar in Greece, the African Network for Rural Poultry Development (ANRPD) or Réseau Africain pour le Développement de l'Aviculture en millieu Rurale (RADAR) was established as a cost-effective means of coordinating efforts in research and development activities in Africa. At the meeting in Greece, nearly all participants from Africa indicated that Newcastle disease was the most significant disease of rural poultry. Many contributors proposed the creation of an international network for the coordination of research on Newcastle disease in village poultry in Africa. It was however agreed to incorporate this effort into the more general ANRPD. At the last general meeting of the network held in 1997 at M'Bour, near Dakar, Senegal, it was agreed that the network be renamed the International Network for Family Poultry Development (INFPD) or Reseau International pour le Développement Aviculture Familiale (RIDAF) and its coverage be extended to Asia and Latin America. The network now deals not only with “rural” but also with development of peri-urban, family-operated poultry production. It was agreed that all efforts be made to encourage network activities in Asia and Latin America and specialists were identified as correspondents for their regions: Asia - Prof Aini Ideris (Malaysia), Dr.D.P. Singh (India); Latin America-Antonio Jose Solarte (Colombia) and Dr. Niels Kyvsgaard (Nicaragua and Denmark). These specialists were identified to the FAO Representatives in their countries and regions and the membership and facilities of the former ANRPD were made available to them. Hence they became additional members of the INFPD Executive Committee.

The INFPD is an independent voluntary association targeted at researchers, policy makers, educationists, students and development workers (including NGOs) operating in or interested in Africa. By 1997, there were 369 members from 36 African, 9 European, 7 Asian and 3 Latin American countries. The network publishes a newsletter in English and French three times a year by email with a hard copy version once a year. Every two years, there is a meeting and general assembly.

An Executive Committee administers the Network with 8 members and 4 correspondents. This committee performs the following functions:

  1. Search for funds.

  2. Identify sub-regional and national coordinators.

  3. Assemble and disseminate information on research grants, training programmes, exchange visits, ect.

  4. Encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary and international cooperation in research, development and training activities. And

  5. Organise, every 2 years, meetings of Network members.

Research activities

Three priority areas were identified at the Thessaloniki meeting:

  1. Epidemiological assessment of the different strains of Newcastle disease virus and evaluation of the efficiency of traditional remedies, polyvalent vaccines and new vaccines with regard to the ease of field application, cost, integration into the feeding and management system and long-term environmental and public health implications.

    This priority is currently being addressed by the Coordinated Research Programme (CRP code: 313.D3.20.19) of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division on Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture titled: “Assessment of the effectiveness of vaccination strategies against Newcastle disease and Gumboro disease using Immunoassay-based technologies for increasing Farmyard poultry production in Africa.”

  2. Evaluation of the genotypes and their relationship to productivity in the different species raised singly or in combination under the three types of smallholder system in different ecological zones. Of particular importance is the study of the ability of different poultry species and breeds to utilise high fibre and unconventional feeds for egg and meat production.

    Genotype evaluation is an on-going preoccupation, which was given a boost by the 5-year EEC STD grant to a 5-nation team led by Prof. Dr. Peter Horst. The International Foundation for Science has also given individual research grants to Network members for genotype evaluation, NCD vaccine evaluation and management system evaluation. Similarly, the evaluation of unconventional feeds is proceeding in the laboratories of many members but the specific study of high fibre utilisation has not been sufficiently accomplished.

  3. Socio-economic analysis of the efficiency of the smallholder production system in relation to labour and animal productivity, rural food security, stability of the rural labour force and potential contribution to family incomes (especially of women). Assessment of the sustainability of the various technological interventions within the three types of smallholder production systems.

This priority area is still outstanding for most countries and is sorely needed. The excellent analysis of the Bangladeshi situation (e.g. Jalangir Alam, 1996; Jensen, 1997) can be a guide to other countries.

Development activities

The following priorities have been identified:

  1. Collection and compilation of unconventional feedstuff and assessment of their nutritive value.

Many members in different countries have addressed this and some compilations have been published (e.g. Sonaiya, 1995). A member has proposed a book on Poultry Feedstuffs in Africa.

  1. Promotion of smallholder producers' associations and their linkage with foreign partner associations.

There are up to 10 associations and organizations catering to smallholder farmers listed in the 1997 ANRPD Directory. They include Farmers Development Union, Ibadan Nigeria; Groupement Ferme d'Action Maraichere de Kokoro, Bangui, Central Africa Republic; Salima Permaculture Group, Salima, Malawi, etc. There is a need to do more in promoting linkages between these associations.

  1. Installation of a regional programme for training, research and development for poultry (and other small domestic stock).

The FAO is preparing a Manual on Family Poultry Production, which can be used in training and development work. The biannual meetings of the Network have a strong, though informal, training element, which is continued in the published proceedings as well as in the other publications of the Network. The Newsletter, which is in its 10th year, has provided information to about 1000 people annually. It is available to students and staff of institutions, colleges and departments that subscribe. Up to 30 such training related institutions subscribe. They include Kwa-Zulu-Natal Poultry Institute, South Africa; Chevalier Training Farm, Fiji; Africa University, Zimbabwe; Egerton University, Kenya; Bunda College, Malawi; Livestock Training Institute, Tangeru, Tanzania; College of Agriculture, Ekpoma, Nigeria; and even mass media organizations such as the BBC, and the Farmers Radio Network, Toronto, Canada.

There is still a need for regional training programmes especially for Africa and Latin America but this will have to be packaged in a new form.

Visions for INFPD

As we approach the 21st Century, there is need to reassess the role and function of the INFPD. Will there still be a need for Family Poultry? What factors will govern the production of family poultry and its contribution to poverty alleviation and to promotion of gender equity?

Family poultry of the future

There is no doubt that urbanization is increasing very rapidly in the developing countries. Therefore, a greater percentage of family poultry will be produced in peri-urban and even urban areas. At the same time, there is a drive in the developed countries away from intensive poultry production. We are aware now that development of family poultry must be in the direction of greater intensification of resource use be it feed, health, housing or management resources. According to Christensen (1998), “Producers have realised that adopting a simpler technology of production without giving up the production and disease control (both animal and public health) gains of the intensive poultry systems is not easy… Approaching the frontier from the intensive side carries the same pitfalls of compromising consumer expectations by indiscriminate use of therapeutic and prophylactic medicines rendered obsolete by modern poultry production systems, as does the approach from the subsistence side.”

Less than 60 years ago, most families in Europe kept small flocks of laying hens in their backyards to provide animal protein at an affordable cost. Most developing countries are at that stage and have a lot to learn from the developed countries on how to develop a poultry industry. European countries have forgotten the effect of free-range poultry on families and their environments but can now observe such conditions in the developing countries. The INFPD can play a crucial role in this exchange of data and experience. The greater scientific, technological and financial powers of developed countries are needed to complement the wider spread in biodiversity and socio-cultural circumstances of the developing countries.

Future role of INFPD

For agrarian countries, livestock plays a strategic role in the farming system. Ruminants have been duly recognized in this capacity. However, poultry and other small stock are the livestock of the poor and the women. Approaches to livestock development for poverty alleviation and gender equity that have less negative impact on the environment must properly involve poultry. INFPD wishes to continue to play a role in the search, evaluation and institutionalisation of such approaches.

Hence, our priorities and visions for the future centre on institutionalisation of the family poultry paradigm for poverty alleviation and gender equity. It is in this light that our linkage with the World's Poultry Science Association (WPSA) should be seen. Through WPSA, we wish to place family poultry in the purview of the world's poultry scientists. The Executive Committee of WPSA meeting in Jerusalem agreed that a symposium be mounted during the World Poultry Congress (WPC) 2000 in Montreal, Canada. The theme is Family Poultry and Food Security. This is a result of the deliberate and consistent förderung of Dr. Rene Branckaert who has served as Chairman of our Advisory Committee for about 7 years. He ensured the inclusion of the 1st International Symposium on Rural Poultry Development Policy in the XIX WPC in Amsterdam, and the Rural Poultry Development Symposium in the XX WPC in New Delhi.

At the country level, individual INFPD members are encouraged to be active in the local branch of the WPSA and other animal science associations with the aim of focusing the attention of their peers on family poultry. Wherever possible, national networks on family poultry are encouraged. Tanzania and Kenya already have or are ready to launch their networks. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal and Togo should be able to initiate their own networks. In Nigeria, the partnership with WPSA seems to be flourishing. An annual Poultry fair including a symposium is the public vehicle chosen. The years ahead will witness a greater awareness and interest in family poultry research and development by our scientists, extension agencies and policy makers. Early this month (March 7–11, 1999), an NGO (FAcE-PaM) organized an international seminar around the theme: Promoting Sustainable Small scale Livestock production towards Reduction of Malnutrition and Poverty in Rural and Sub-urban Families in Nigeria. The Director of Federal Livestock Department, who attended, has directed that a national programme for rural poultry development be devised.

At the international level, information management will remain a priority. With the continued assistance of the FAO, electronic conferencing will be a major emphasis. We would like to see the provision of facilities for groups (based on region or specialisations) to exchange information, have group meetings and for the whole Network to treat various topics and subtopics. The results of such group activities and general conferences should be storable, searchable and readable by old and new members of the Network. Such information should be organized hierarchically in a relational manner so as to allow access by category, key word, etc from our web site on the Internet. Along with these reports, we would like to develop interactive courses of family poultry at different levels of competence. Some such courses should be downloadable for use as texts in ordinary schools, colleges and universities. Some other courses should be useable for promotion of family poultry in primary and secondary schools as well as in a poultry advisory system. Taken together, these can represent the desired regional training programmes when appropriate languages and local coordinators are used.

Electronic conferencing notwithstanding, INFPD will continue to promote regular face-to-face interaction of its members every 2 years. Those coinciding with the World Poultry Congress (WPC) will be held during WPC and those in the years between WPC will be held independently.

References and bibliography

Aini, I. (1990). “Indigenous chicken production in South-east Asia”, World's Poultry Science Journal, 46, 125–132.

Aini, I. (1998). “Village chicken production and health - Southeast Asian perspectives”, Proceedings 4th Asia Pacific Poultry Health Conference, 22–26 November 1998, Melbourne, Australia, 35–42.

Alam, J. (1996). Impact of smallholder livestock development project in some selected areas of rural Bangladesh. Livestock for Rural Development,

Chambers, R., Pacey, A. and Thrupp, L.A. (1989). Farmer First: Farmer Innovation and Agricultural Research, London: IT Publications.

Christensen, N. (1998). “A philosophical approach to disease control in free-range poultry”, Proceedings 4th Asia Pacific Poultry Health Conference, 22–26 November 1998, Melbourne, Australia.

Demey, F. and Pandey, V.S. (eds). (1991). “Newcastle Disease Vaccination of Village Poultry in Africa and Asia”, Proceedings of an international seminar held on February 13–14, 1991 in Antwerp, Belgium, Antwerp: ITM, 75pp.

Gueye, E.F. (ed). (1998). INFPD Newsletter, Vol. 8, Nos 1–3, http://

Jensen, H. (1997). “Semi-Scavenging Poultry Flock”, in Frands Dolberg and Poul Henning Petersen (eds.), Integrated Farming in Human Development. Proceedings of a Work-shop at Tune Landboskole, Denmark, March 25–29, 1996, DSR Forlag (publishers). Also on:

Nelson, J. and Farrington, J. (1994). Information Exchange Networking for Agricultural Development: A Review of Concepts and Practices, Wageningen, Netherlands: CTA.

Qureshi, A.W. (1993). Issues related to sustainable development of livestock production, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 107: 1.

Riest, U. (ed). (1990). Smallholder Rural Poultry Production - Requirements of Research and Development. Proceedings of an international seminar held on October 9–13, 1990 at Thessaloniki, Greece, Vol. 1&2, Wageningen: CTA.

Sonaiya, E.B. (1989). “African Network for Rural Poultry Development - A Proposal”, Proceedings of 4th International DLG Symposium on Poultry Production in Hot Climates, June 19–22, 1989, Hameln, Germany. Frankfurt: Deutsche Landwirtschafts Gesellschaft e.V., 130–135.

Sonaiya, E.B. (ed). (1990). Rural Poultry in Africa. Proceedings of an international work-shop held on November 13–16, 1989 at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Ile-Ife:ANRPD, 266 pp.

Sonaiya, E.B. (993) Towards sustainable poultry production in Africa, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 107:255.

Sonaiya, E.B. (ed). (993) A Training Manual on Baseline Survey in Rural Poultry, Ile-Ife: RPD/IDRC, 25pp.

Sonaiya, E.B. (1995). “Feed resources for smallholder rural poultry in Nigeria”, World Animal Review 82(1): 25–33.

Sonaiya, E.B. (ed). (1997). Sustainable Rural Poultry Production in Africa. Proceedings of an international workshop held on June 13–16, 1995 at the International Livestock Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ile-Ife: ANRPD, 160pp.

Sonaiya, E.B. (1998). Family Poultry Production and Development, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper, 150 pages, (in press).

Walsh, J. (1993). Partnerships: The effective harnessing of research for the advancement of animal agriculture in developing countries, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 107:173.

Critical Factors in Leadership, Management, Human Resource Development and Institution Building in Going from Pilot Project to Large Scale Implementation: The BRAC Poultry Model in Bangladesh

Md. A. Saleque

BRAC Center, 75 Mohakhali C.A.
1212 Dhaka, Bangladesh
E-mail: [email protected]


BRAC's poultry program in 1999 reaches more than one million poor women following a model that is now known as the Bangladesh or BRAC-DLS (Directorate of Livestock Services) Model. Several studies have documented the model's potential for creating income for the poorest women. The paper narrates the evolution of the Model from the late 1970s, when BRAC identified poultry as a potential source of income for poor women. Cockerel exchange was a first intervention, which, however, failed. A regular vaccination program for an entire village proved successful as it reduced chicken mortality and increased their numbers. This led to involvement of poor women as vaccinators for a fee. Subsequently, chick rearing by women was introduced. They raised 200 – 300 day-old-chicken to eight weeks at which age they were sold for rearing and egg production to other women, who were named Key Rearers. In 1983–1985 the Model was tested in cooperation with the District Livestock Officer in Maniganj and in 1985– 1987 in 32 Thanas. In 1987 the Model was applied to the Income Generation for Vulnerable Group Development Program supported by the World Food Program. From 1988 the number of exotic birds per key rearer was increased from 1–2 to 10–15. Credit was introduced in the late 1980s and the Model saw large-scale project application in the Smallholder Livestock Development Project from 1993, followed by more projects, subsequently. Learning on the basis of feedback from the users has been a key element in its evolution. The Model is now applied in 380 of Bangladesh's 460 Thanas, and BRAC's top managers feel that continued expansion is possible provided the organization strives to conduct research, training and expand logistics support at the same rate or faster than the growth of the program.

Key words: Poultry, women, poverty alleviation, income, Bangladesh Model, scavenging.

Introduction: Poverty in Bangladesh

Poverty. Bangladesh has a total area of 143999 square kilometers and a total population of 124 million people. It is well known that poverty is acute in Bangladesh. Forty seven percent of the country's population lives below the poverty line and twenty seven percent in extreme poverty. Over 25 million people are classified as the poorest by any standard of Development and household expenditure surveys show that over 40 percent of the population (about 50 million people) consume less than 2122 kilo calories a day. Women are particularly disadvantaged which is evident in their higher mortality rates, lower literacy rate, poor health condition and limited access to employment. The literacy rate is still low at 35 percent (females 29% and males 45%) (Hamid, 1995). Land, which is the single most important resource in rural areas, is distributed very unequally with 50 percent of the households owning less than 0.50 acre.

Access to credit has been identified as a major mechanism with which a household can improve its economic condition (Rahman, 1989). The rural household in general and the landless in particular have very little access to institutional credit. Less than seven percent of the landless and 14 percent of all rural households had access to institutional credit (including NGO programs) (Rahman, 1989). Although this figure might be higher now due to the micro-credit programs, overall coverage is still too low. Women in rural areas had virtually no access to institutional credit until the 1980s. Since the beginning of the 1980s some specialized programs were launched to provide financial support on a credit basis to women, who in their turn have proved themselves to be “bankable” (Rahman 1989; and Hossain and Afsar 1989). BRAC feels that poverty is not only characterized by a poverty of income and Resources, but also aggravated by limited access to services, justice and rights. The essential elements in the design of any Development program thus require target orientation, gender specificity and sustainability of the activities.

The poultry sub-sector

Before looking at the details of the activities provided under the BRAC's poultry program, it is necessary first to understand the poultry sector in Bangladesh and the rationale for intervening here. The poultry sector is an integral part of the farming system in Bangladesh. There are about 138 million chickens and 13 million ducks in Bangladesh. About 89 percent of rural households rear poultry and the typical number of birds per household is between 6 and 7. It is an important source of cash income for poor rural families, particularly for women. Most birds are kept in a scavenging system and are fed on household waste and crop residues. The poultry Breed in Bangladesh are mainly local. The productivity of the local hen is about 40–60 Eggs per year. The government poultry farms keep Exotic breeds such as Rhode Island Red (RIR), White Leg Horn (WLH), Australorps and Fyaumi. There are eleven government hatcheries in Bangladesh, which produce day old chicks of which a substantial number are distributed to BRAC project areas to develop the local breed. There are some private hatcheries that are also producing commercial day old chicks (more broilers than layers). The production costs of eggs and meat in the commercial farms are higher, comparatively, than the eggs and meat produced in the scavenging system.

The growth rate in the chicken population was 6.5% between 1990–94 (Alam, 1997). The per capita egg consumption was only 23, which is much lower than the estimated, required, consumption level of 100 egg per capita per year. For optimal productivity, the HYV poultry require improved feeding. At present, the private sector owns and operates eight semi industrial feed mills, but the distribution system in the rural areas is inadequate and the amount produced does not meet the demand. BRAC is the sole supplier of feed to rural areas through its own projects.

The existing poultry diseases in Bangladesh are Newcastle, Fowl Pox, Fowl Cholera, Fowl Typhoid, Coccidiosis, Gumboro, deficiency diseases and worm infestations etc. The mortality rate of the poultry is high (35% to 40%) due to disease and predators. Although 4 types of major vaccines are produced in Bangladesh all parts of the country are not served, especially the remote part of the rural areas. The Government's Directorate of Livestock Services only has four field staff and one Livestock Officer at each sub-district level and they are responsible for about 200,000 poultry, 50,000 cattle and 20,000 goats and sheep.

Government institutions that are responsible for the delivery of support services in the rural areas are not geared to assist landless farmers. There is thus a need to assist the landless in their efforts to earn an income and to improve their long-term sustainable agricultural potential. In remote areas where government services are either inoperative or inadequate, BRAC collaborates with the government machinery to extend the service delivery system through training and organization of local manpower.

The constraints and major issues in the poultry sector

The main constraints and issues in the poultry sector can be listed as:

Table 1. Poultry population (in million)


Source: Fattah, 1998.

Emergence of poultry based commercial enterprises

Though modern poultry production is emerging, the bulk of poultry meat and egg still comes from traditional poultry birds. A recent development in Bangladesh's poultry sector, is the emergence of private entrepreneurs who are setting up small-scale, semi-industrial farms and are producing day-old-chicks. The majority of poultry rearers, including the traditional ones, are now shifting to buying their layer and broiler chicks from these farms. The government is getting interested in this sector and is encouraging both urban and rural people to work here. If we look ten to fifteen years back there were only very few poultry farms. But now as credit and extension services are more supportive, people are taking to poultry production as a business. Emergent private sector entrepreneurs, Government and NGO (like BRAC) are coming up with new programs in this sector, leading to generation of income and employment.

At present, in Bangladesh there are about 34 private poultry hatcheries (including BRACs five) and eight Government hatcheries. About 1 million women are involved in small-scale poultry production under BRAC's poultry program. BRAC distributes more than 1 million day old chicks per month to these women. This represents more than 60% of the total day old chick (layer) production in the country.

The scope and advantage of poultry development

Over 70% of the rural landless women are directly or indirectly involved in poultry rearing activities. Traditionally these women have some experience in poultry rearing as they already keep 1 to 2 local birds. There are almost no job opportunities for the landless, disadvantaged women in the country. Poultry rearing are the only activity in which a large number of landless women can participate.

Egg and meat, two important sources of protein originate from the poultry sector. On an average every person should consume at least 100 egg and 43.5 kg of meat per annum to prevent malnutrition, but the present availability is 23 egg and 4.35 kg meat. It can be seen that the production level is far behind the requirements. Therefore, it is essential to increase the production of egg and meat, besides the possibilities to do so are good.

In rural areas, women head 20% -30% of the households. Women in Bangladesh have less access to normal rural and agriculture financial services than men. Many factors limit their access such as lack of information about credit availability, lack of security of loans in the form of land, legal restrictions on credit for women etc. Besides, the supply of day-old-chicks from the private and government farms is unable to meet the demand. As a result BRAC thought about promoting homestead based poultry rearing and related activities which would offer them a regular and sustainable income and would empower them at the family and social level. These activities would also help in raising the present deficiency of egg and meat production.

BRAC: The organization

BRAC is the largest national non-government organization, with more than 20,000 full time staff. BRAC was founded in 1972 as a relief organization, and has since evolved into a development organization, with programs specifically designed to reach its target group - the poorest and the most vulnerable. The development strategy of BRAC pursues two major goals: (a) Alleviation of rural poverty and (b) Empowerment of the poor. BRAC works with people whose lives are dominated by extreme poverty, illiteracy, diseases and other handicaps. With multifaceted development interventions, BRAC strives to bring about positive change in the quality of life of these people.

BRAC is known as a learning organization and as an organization that has learned to scale up rapidly and effectively.

BRAC's Programs

BRAC's definition of the poor refers to those people who own less than half an acre of land (including the homestead) and to those who earn their living by selling manual labour. Efforts to empower this group have been evaluated and adjusted many times over the years in the light of BRAC's growing capacity and the needs of the program's participants. Today, working as a development organization in the private sector, BRAC strives to attain its two goals by implementing such programs as:

  1. Rural Development which involves development of Village Organizations (VO) of the poor, credit operations and facilitation of savings habits. The VOs are designed to mobilize collective strength of the poor with a view to empowering them to be self-reliant. BRAC has a Human Rights and Legal Education Program (HRLE) to further the initiatives aimed at empowering the VO members. BRAC's Rural Development Program (RDP) implements these initiatives along with several income and employment generating programs, designed particularly for the women VO members, who are provided with credit and training to carry out these activities. There are also some special programs that have been introduced under the program Income Generation for Vulnerable Group Development (IGVGD) and then there are the Smallholder Livestock Development Program (SLDP) and presently the Participatory Livestock Development Program (PLDP). The latter two are implemented through RDP.

  2. Education initiatives in the form of the Non Formal Primary Education Program (NFPE) for the children of the disadvantaged rural people.

  3. Health Programs addressing the health and nutritional status of women and children in the country. These initiatives seek to develop and strengthen the capacity of communities to sustain health related activities.

  4. Administrative and technical support services that facilitate BRAC's program activities, e.g., Training, Research, Monitoring, the “Aarong” marketing outlet, Publications, Public Affairs & Communication, Accounts & Audit, Logistics, Computer Service, Construction service, Dairy plant and Program support enterprises.

  5. Furthermore, in order to attain budgetary self-reliance the organization has set up its own revenue generating enterprises i.e., the BRAC Printing press, BRAC Cold Storage and the BRAC Garments factories.

BRAC's view of poverty alleviation and empowerment is rooted in sustainable gain for the poor, through the following program components: i) Institution Building (develop organization of the rural poor). ii) Employment and Income Generation Program (development of sector programs). iii) Credit. iv) Human Resource Development and Support Service Program.

By June 1998, BRAC had covered more than 50,000 villages of the country. Until now a total of 2.5 million landless women are organized in 64,000 village organizations (VOs). Of these 1 million women are directly involved with the poultry development program spread over 380 Thanas1 (out of 460) in Bangladesh. Top managers in BRAC feel that if the organization continues to build support services (research, training, logistics etc.) at the same rate that it scales up programs or faster, continued growth is possible.

1. The administrative unit below district.

BRAC's Poultry Development Program

Evolution of the Poultry Program. The history of BRAC's efforts at developing a program design can be divided into three parts, viz. formative, development, and replication. These relate roughly to an eleven year time-frame during which the program continuously under-went changes and fine-tuning.

Formative Phase. In the late 1970s BRAC identified poultry rearing as a source of income for the landless, particularly destitute women. A high mortality rate for poultry in Bangladesh, combined with its relevance as an income generating activity for poor women led BRAC to carry out participatory “action research” aimed at increasing productivity.

Initially, efforts were made to increase the productivity of local varieties by cockerel exchange, but this system with improved cockerels for cross breeding failed because (a) the VO members were simply selling on the high value HYV cockerels, rather than using them for breeding, (b) the supply of HYV cockerels was limited and (c) mortality was high. In order to reduce bird mortality BRAC initiated an action research in its Manikgonj Project area. BRAC staff regularly vaccinated poultry birds in the five intervention villages, for one year. The positive results in terms of reduction in mortality rate and increase in bird population led BRAC to realize that vaccination must be an integral part of any intervention to promote poultry rearing as an income earning activity.

It was decided to involve women group members in vaccination work and to let them vaccinate for a fee, using vaccines supplied free of cost from the government.

However, it was observed that the pullet supplied by the government and other farms were (i) in short supply and (ii) suffered high mortality in the scavenging system of rearing and it was decided to buy day old chicks from the government farms. Selected, trained and supervised by BRAC, rural women were to rear the day old chicks for two months in confinement in houses built on their homestead plots and thereafter sell the chicks to other women called Key Rearers (see Saleque and Mustafa, 1997). The advantage was that the chicks would become better adapted to the rural environment, and it would not require any extra staff involvement by BRAC.

Between 1978 and 1982 the BRAC poultry program had no model or design, it was being done on an ad hoc basis. The focus changed from 1983 to supply of improved chicks, common disease prevention and training in improved rearing under scavenging conditions. The following model was developed:

Development Phase. Having developed a model for rural poultry development, the District Livestock Office in Manikgonj (60 km from Dhaka) was approached for cooperation by BRAC's project staff. Between 1983 and 1985 an informal collaboration developed in Manikgonj whereby the Government officers supplied vaccines and provided technical advice on the chick nursing units. After extensive evaluation by officials from the Directorate of Livestock Services (DLS) in Dhaka the BRAC model was accepted as viable and replaceable. Based on this experience the model was further tested.

Between 1985 and 1987, the model was tested in 54 Area Offices of BRAC's core Rural Development Program (RDP). The Sub-district Livestock Offices in the respective Areas ensured the supply of vaccines to the participants through the Area Offices of BRAC, in 32 Thanas. The test was positive in term of increasing the income for the participating women, and it caused a reduction in mortality rates and an increase in the bird population. Through the intermediation of BRAC the government structure was brought closer to the people.

In 1987 BRAC integrated the experiences of poultry development collaboration and the government food aid for destitute women, into an independent Program. The Income Generation for Vulnerable Group Development (IGVGD) Program was launched in August 1987, in collaboration between BRAC, the Departments of Livestock and Relief and Rehabilitation and the World Food Program (WFP).

In 1988, it was found that the income earned by the rearers was very low because the participants were only able to buy one or two HYV birds. This prevented development of a crossbreed and improved productivity, resulting in slow income generation. In the late 1980s credit support for poultry rearing was introduced in BRAC.

In 1993, the BRAC/DLS model was replicated in the IFAD/Danida sponsored Smallholder Livestock Development Project (SLDP), and in 1998 in the Asian Development Bank/Danida sponsored Participatory Livestock Development Project.

Having incorporated the credit component, efforts were directed at sustainability. The range of income generation activities is being increased so that the beneficiaries can undertake additional non-poultry enterprises. To support this the credit operation is also being scaled up. The money earned from interest on the loans and the service charge to be levied for technical services, are estimated to cover most of the cost of the program. Furthermore, the need for technical services from BRAC is expected to decline over time as the beneficiaries become familiar with the different technologies.

Objectives of the poultry program

The Program aims to provide the women an entry point to diversify their income earning and employment opportunities through training in poultry activities in order to improve their socioeconomic situation.

The specific objectives of the Program are:

  1. Introduction of poor village women into poultry rearing activities, so that they can earn a monthly income of at least Tk. 350 (US$ 7).
  2. To reduce poultry mortality from 35–40% to 15%.
  3. To increase the poultry population.
  4. To introduce crossbreeds and high yielding breeds to increase the production of eggs and meat.
  5. Improve the protein intake level of the rural poor.

Methodology and development model

BRAC designed a specific model for poultry development from its experiences of the formative and development phases as described above. This was in 1983 and the government accepted it as a model for poultry development. The approach consists of an integrated package of support as BRAC's early experiences indicated that no single intervention was able to improve the productivity and profitability of poultry production for a poor woman.


BRAC through its Rural Development Program organizes the landless women into groups. There are 35–45 members in each group, out of which 20 members are selected for the various poultry activities and provided with different types of training concerning poultry rearing and management as described below.


  1. Poultry Workers: Per group one woman is selected from each village and given five days' training on poultry rearing, management, vaccination and treatment. The poultry workers are engaged in vaccination and treatment of birds in their respective villages. Once a month they attend a one-day refresher course and they receive poultry vaccine and medicine twice a month. The workers charge Taka. 0.50 – 1.00 per bird as a fee. (One US$ = 48 Bangladesh Taka).

  2. Key Rearers: They are given three days training on methods of poultry rearing and developed as key rearers. Every key rearer must have 10–15 birds and a good housing system.

  3. Chick Rearers: Chick rearers are given 7 days training. They rear 200–300 day old chicks per batch up to two months and then sell them to the key rearers. The chick rearers are supplied with day old chicks from the government, private, or BRAC's own farms and the beneficiary operated rice husk hatcheries.

  4. Feed Sellers: One poultry feed sale center in each area is established. With the spread of hybrid birds, people are gradually getting used to buy balanced feed for their birds. Feed producers receive balanced feed from BRAC's feed mills and sell to the rearers. It does also happen that they prepare feed with ingredients from locally available sources under close supervision of BRAC.

  5. Model Rearers: They are given three days advanced training on poultry rearing and management. They rear 22 hens and three cocks and produce hatching eggs, which are supplied to the hatcheries operated by the beneficiaries.

  6. Poultry Hatcherer: To meet the demand of day old chicken (DOC) five small rice husk hatcheries are established in each area. The capacity of these hatcheries is 5000 chicken per month. The eggs for hatching are purchased from model rearers through egg collectors.

  7. Cage rearers: The cage rearers are developed from interested and upgraded key rearers. They rear 36–100 laying hens from 8 to 70 weeks of age to produce table eggs.

  8. Broiler rearers: They rear 100 – 200 day old broilers up to 6 weeks and sell to the local market.

The flow chart of the Poultry Program is in annex-1.

Input Supply

  1. After completion of training, the poultry workers are provided with vaccination kits. There are specific dates for vaccine distribution. Vaccines are supplied by the Government and distributed twice a month to the vaccinators. Initially the government field staff did the vaccination work by themselves. Now there is a different strategy and they are responsible for the distribution of vaccine instead of the vaccination work.

  2. Medicine especially anthelmentics are supplied by BRAC at cost price each month. Initially medicines of Tk. 25 are given to poultry workers as a revolving fund from where they buy and sell the medicines.

  3. The government, BRAC and Private farms supply DOC. BRAC has five parent farms with a total capacity of 1 million DOC per month. Presently - from the different sources - BRAC distributes more than 1 million-day-old chicks per month.

  4. The eight week HYV chicks from the chick rearing units are sold to the key rearers or cage rearers from the BRAC office or the Union Porishad's (Local Government) office.

  5. To make the feed available, BRAC supplies balance feed from its own feed mill at cost price to the beneficiaries. Presently BRAC has three feed mills with a total capacity of 40,000 metric ton per year.

Table 2. Component wise poultry Program participants - cumulative number (1990–1997)

1. Poultry worker3,8415,0007,50422,78825,03330,13533,57241,228
2. Chick rearer6501,1061,9525,8368,2448,45310,98614,723
3. Key rearer56,664105,051191,457455,441638,104802,906840,4881,190,490
4. Pullet rearerNANANANANANA1,3082,260
5. Model rearerNANANANANANA7,76111,195
6. Egg collectorNANANA2,2552,2842,3842,6292,798
7. Hatchery operatorNANANA3274549551,1151,349
8. Feed seller24521048071,5152,8002,3472,450
9. Cage rearersNANANANANANA505,000
10. Broiler rearersNANANANANANA251,000

Table 3. Year wise day old chick distribution and doses of vaccine used - in million (1990–1997)

1. Day old chick distributed0.711.
2. Doses of vaccine used12.735446471647054

Note: From January 1997, Government has fixed a price for vaccines, which BRAC used to get for free. For this reason achievements in 1997 are lower than 1996.

BRAC offers to beneficiaries

(a) Tangible inputs such as veterinary supplies, feed and chicks. These are obtained from Government, the private sector or BRAC, but usually supplied via BRAC's Area Office.

(b) Intangible service such as training and advise. Training is participatory and designed for non-literate and semi literate people. It is organized and usually delivered by BRAC, although specialist government staff may also be used. Training is largely technical and has a strong practical component with demonstrations, trials and visits. Training is usually followed by extensive routine follow-up sessions conducted by BRAC staff.

The development of the Poultry Program's training and support methodology has been an iterative process, based on many years of experiences and feedback from beneficiaries and field staff.


There are 10–15 egg collectors for each area who are responsible for buying eggs at a reasonable price from the group members and to market them.


To ensure proper utilization of skills, BRAC provides credit to the beneficiaries as initial investment capital required to start poultry rearing, chick rearing, feed selling, egg collection, hatchery and other poultry related activities. The rearers have savings accounts in BRAC where they deposit the weekly or biweekly savings Taka 5 to 10.

Leadership in promoting the program activities

Scholars define leadership as to influence others for achieving the desired goals. BRAC promotes the women in Bangladesh to take part in the development activities towards self-sufficiency. BRAC tries to minimize the negative aspects of hierarchy between men and women and among the staff by the flatness of its organizational structure, by its participatory training and planning in the workplace and by its continuous feedback system. BRAC's top managers seems to understand the difference between “flexibility and control” and the important use of each. They recognize that there are situations in which control is appropriate (financial transactions, parameters of client targeting, personnel rules, Logistics etc.) and that refusing to control where necessary could lead to organizational collapse. BRAC managers also appear to understand that they can not and should not emphasize control in inappropriate circumstances and that they must encourage their staff to take independent action and that they must enable capacity building and flexibility in the field so that empowered staff can better empower villagers.

BRAC managers operationalize numerous informal as well as formal feedback systems both upward and downward. Feedback takes place through the numerous meetings and constant dialogue that is held regularly at all levels (i.e. village, area, regional and head office level). Feedback from and to villagers (poultry rearers) provides a foundation for learning. The Program organizers meet regularly with village groups, discussing issues and problems. Regional Managers and head office people visit village meetings or visit with individual villagers (rearers) when they are in the field. These meetings, together with informal discussions, form the basis for village feedback of the Program.

Institutional analysis

Like any organization of comparable scale, BRAC has a formalized corporate structure, with well-established operational and administrative systems. The poultry and livestock Program operates in 575 area and sub-area offices and has a staff of 760, only for the poultry Program.

Institutional arrangement

BRAC's poultry Program was developed in close cooperation with the Directorate of Livestock Services. Presently the Program has been implementing through the following Program.

  1. BRAC's own Rural Development Program (RDP) - A number of income generating activities are implemented by RDP and the poultry are one of its largest activities.

  2. Income Generation for Vulnerable Group Development (IGVGD) - It is a joint collaboration among the Directorate of Women Affairs (DWA), Directorate of Livestock Services and BRAC to improve the earning potential of the destitute women who are Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) cardholders, which means they receive a monthly wheat allocation for one and a half year from the WFP (World Food Program).

  3. BRAC was a partner in the implementation of the SLDP, which phased out in June '98. From July 1998 a new Program named as PLDP has started.

Poultry activities are organized in a hierarchical pyramid starting with the head office in Dhaka, regional offices and then a large number of smaller area and sub area offices. At the area office level BRAC staff works directly with the target group, self organized into Village Organizations (VOs) comprising 35–45 members. An area office typically works with 140–160 VOs (approximately 6000 women, 60% of them in the poultry program). After a period of need identification, social organization and capacity building groups begin savings and credit activities. Then other activities like poultry are introduced depending on group capacity and demand. The individual and not the groups conduct all enterprises.

Management system

  1. Management of Program - The area office is headed by an area manager. It has a Program Organizer (credit) for credit and a Program Organizer (Program) for each sector Program (e.g. poultry). The area offices are given the freedom to make operational decisions. It is this field unit that continuously faces new challenges and must adapt to changing circumstances. The Regional Manager at the regional level looks after ten to fifteen area offices and Regional Sector Specialists (RSS) such as poultry, agriculture etc, assists him. The RSS provide all technical support to the area office. The Sector Specialist at head office is involved in implementing the field activities related to poultry. The Program Manager, of the Employment and Income Generation (EIG) Program co-ordinates the different EIG Programs under the guidance of the Director of RDP.

  2. Training and Logistics support - Most of the skill training of beneficiaries is organized at the area offices and some of the higher level training is conducted at BRAC's training centers called TARC (Training and Resource Centers). The Program inputs such as HYV chicks, feed, vaccines etc are directly distributed to beneficiaries from the area office.

  3. Strategy and planning - Because of the scale, complexity and breadth of its activities, strategic awareness and strong planning are essential for BRAC's Poultry Program. Over the years standardized and systematic planning functions have developed at all levels of the organization. The poultry Program has a comprehensive planning system and incorporates monthly, quarterly and annual targets for inputs, outputs and impact.

  4. Measurement of activities, outputs and impact - BRAC assesses its work at three levels: (a) By program-level monitoring; (b) Through an independent monitoring department; and (c) By a separate evaluation capacity in the research and evaluation department (RED). In addition external parties have routinely assessed BRAC across all its activities and the development of its M&E capacity has been in part driven by the information requirements of external parties.

Human resource development

  1. All BRAC staff starts out as Program Organizers in the Field after basic direction training on rural development and management. Technical skills for staff are developed in several ways. BRAC's flat and decentralized structure and numerous feedback processes enable participation and learning on a day to day basis. Management and technical skills are also developed through more formal training.

  2. Technical capacity. The Poultry Program staffs all exhibit high degrees of technical knowledge and experience. The key element of BRAC staff training is designed to develop appropriate relationships with beneficiaries and to foster ‘closeness’. Opportunities for staff development are extensive within BRAC. For example most field staff receive initial intensive training for upto 3 months, with regular opportunities for additional training as required. BRAC has also established its own central Training and Resource Centers (TARC) for staff training. Many senior staff attend overseas training and education.

  3. Linkages. BRAC has established sound working relationships with both the government and with donor agencies.

    1. Government has the existing capacity to produce tangible ‘commodities’ such as vaccines and day old chicks that BRAC can utilize. Such production is relatively centralized and easily controlled.

    2. BRAC's two main ‘offers’ are its extensive and effective capacity to deliver services on a countrywide basis, and its ability to bring to bear considerable resources (particularly from external donors) in a sector where government funding is constrained.

  4. A large number of women participating in the Poultry Program have improved their skills, increased their mobility and increased their exposure to operation of business. They are now an active workforce at village level.

Impact of the poultry program

The impact of the poultry Program can be assessed at three levels: (a) the individual enterprise or household level, (b) the sub-sector level; and (c) in terms of government activities and policies.

A number of studies have been carried out both internally and externally on poultry production enterprises. These indicate that it has a positive impact on the lives of the program participants. The findings of the assessment are summarized below:

a) Individual

A 1994 review of poultry sector performance in three Thana over 12 months indicated a monthly income for key rearers of between US$ 6.5–7.5. Profitability for all activities was as follows:

Table 4. Profitability of poultry sector activities 1994 (US$)

 Poultry workersChick rearesKey rearesFeed sellersHatchery operators
Average annual profit3617650190318
Average monthly profit3154627

Source: BRAC, 1995.

A 1997 survey conducted a similar analysis of income against expenditure and produced the following data:

Table 5. Profitability of poultry sector activities 1997 (US$)

 Poultry workersChick rearesKey rearesFeed sellersHatchery operators
Total weekly income3.6628.701.4453.3923.64
Total weekly expenditure1.4922.150.6149.9618.15
Total profit2.46.550.833.435.49

Source: Alam, 1997.

Most observers agree that the participants' overall income has risen demonstrably after poultry Program support, perhaps by over 30% while income from poultryrelated activities increased by over 400%. A degree of dynamism is also apparent amongst VO members, with growth in both vertical and horizontal directions.

Changes in husbandry practice and techniques are almost certainly the best indicators in this regard. There is some evidence to suggest that the VO members' practices have changed, particularly when compared to those who were not receiving BRAC (or similar NGO) support. VO members exhibit considerable technical knowledge regarding husbandry techniques such as light and airflow requirements, hygiene, hatchery techniques (including fertility and temperature tests) and veterinary skills.

b) Sub-sector

In 1997 BRAC estimated that the number of poultry reared per household, was approximately 26 birds, compared to a national average of only 6.8 birds per household. With this increase there has been a corresponding increase in consumption of eggs and meat with potentially positive health implications. Mortality rates of the birds have decreased. Clearly the small-scale poultry sector has experienced dramatic improvements in productivity and growing commercialization, and these changes are in part due to BRAC's interventions.

c) Government activity and policy

One of the most remarkable achievements of the poultry Program appears to be the degree of government involvement. BRAC has succeeded in eliciting support from central government through to local government extension workers.

Lessons learned

(a) Poultry rearing is the only enterprise in which a large number of the landless women can participate.

(b) It has been proved that homestead small scale poultry production is an economically viable enterprise for the landless women if they are properly trained & supported with credit and the necessary inputs and veterinary services.

(c) Poultry rearing is culturally acceptable, technically feasible and economically viable. Moreover the ownership of poultry is entirely in the hands of women. This is an asset over which the poor women actually have control. These activities can play an important role in poverty alleviation, which is the main goal of BRAC.

(d) The crossbreed poultry and some hardy commercial breeds are suitable for village conditions and their production performance is better than the local breed's.

(f) For optimal productivity, the exotic birds need improved feeding. Depending upon the adaptability of the birds to the local conditions, the management skills and veterinary services must be adequate for the breeds that are being promoted.

(g) A reasonable level of management skill is required for success.

(h) Ownership is important. All beneficiaries in the poultry Program make a considerable investment in terms of cash, equipment and labour. Such a contribution is vital to the success of any enterprise or development intervention, it generates commitment and initiatives, it fosters an entrepreneurial environment where the relationship between risk and return is recognized and it places solutions in the hands of the beneficiaries, reducing dependency on an external agency.

(i) It is the aim of rural poultry development to increase poultry production as a result of improved management practices. It should be based upon more efficient use of the farmers' own resources and it should not require significant use of external inputs, although some inputs will obviously be required, since this development is aimed at the rural poor and landless population. It can not be expected that this development will occur spontaneously and considerable support will therefore be needed from the Government and Non Government organisations to provide training, equipment, extension and veterinary care.


This Program has made a significant contribution to raise the income level of the disadvantaged women, who would otherwise be left out of the working sector. They are now an active work force and even if their income is not much, it helps to augment the meager earning of the family as well as improving the quality of life. For many it is the sole source of income and a means through which they can become entrepreneurs.

What is noteworthy about this Program is that rural poor women can actively participate in the rural economy both as buyers and sellers of the goods and services. Moreover, they can develop strong linkages with the government and can access the services of both the government and the private sector. An even more important aspect of the Program, is the feeling of the participants have of the dignity of self-employment, which is readily apparent in a substantial number of the women.


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BBS (1995). Summary Report of Household Expenditure Survey 1991–1992, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka

BRAC (1995). The BRAC Report - 1994, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Chowdhury (1995). “Nutritional Dimension of Poverty” in Rahman and Hossain (eds.) (1995).

Farrington, J. and Lewis, C. (eds.) (1993). Non-Government Organizations and the State in Asia: Rethinking Roles in Sustainable Agriculture Development, Overseas Development Institute (UK), London: Routledge.

Fattah, K.A. (1998). Present status of Poultry Production And Supply of Inputs For Its Profitable Rearing, Directorate of Livestock Service, Government of Bangladesh

Hamid, S (1995). “Gender Dimension of Poverty” in Rahman and Hossain (eds.) (1995).

Hossain, M. (1995a). “Structure and Distribution of Household Income and Income Dimension of Poverty”, in Rahman and Hossain (eds.) (1995).

Hossain, M. (1995b). “Socioeconomic Characteristics of the poor”, in Rahman and Hossain (eds.) (1995).

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Lovell, K. (1992a). Breaking the Cycle of Poverty - The story of BRAC, Kumarian Press, New York.

Mustafa, S. (1993). The state and BRAC: a case study of Joint Public Action in Bangladesh, Paper for workshop on NGO-Local Government Collaboration in Management of Local Development in South Asian Countries. Organized by the UN Center for Human Settlement, Rajendrapur, and (Bangladesh).

Mustafa, S., Rahman, S. and Sattar, G. (1993). “BRAC: Backyard Poultry Development and Landless Irrigators Programs”, in Farrington and Lewis (eds.) (1993).

Rahman, A. (1989). “Credit for the Rural Poor”, in Institutions (compendium Volume V), Bangladesh Agriculture Sector Review, UNDP, Dhaka.

Rahman, H.Z. and Hossain, M. (eds.) (1995). Rethinking Rural Poverty: Bangladesh as a case study, Dhaka, Bangladesh: UPL.

Saleque, Md., A. (not dated). Poultry Development model applied for Landless Women in Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh: BRAC.

Saleque, Md., A. and Mustafa, S. (1997). “Landless women and poultry: the BRAC model in Bangladesh”, in F. Dolberg and P.H. Petersen (eds.) (1997), Integrated Farming in Human Development. Proceedings of a workshop at Tune Landboskole, March 25 – 29, 1996. Denmark, DSR Forlag.

SARC (1993). Meeting the Challenge: an Overview of the Report of the Independent South Asian Commission on Poultry Alleviation, ISACPA secretariat, Colombo.

Sen, B. (1995a). “Rural Poverty Trends, 1989–90”, in Rahman and Hossain (eds.) (1995).

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Poultry Program Flow Chart

Note: Credit support is given to all Program participants.


Poultry Program Flow Chart

Note: Credit support is given to all Program participants.

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