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Chicken Production, Food Security and Renovative Extension Methodology in the SPFS Cambodia

Borin Khieu

University of Tropical Agriculture
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Royal University of Agriculture
P.O. Box 2, Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
E-mail: [email protected]


The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), theMinistry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) with the assistance from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations introduced an innovative approach in agricultural extension. All SPFS activities are implemented trough the Integrated Farmer Field School (IFFS), which consists of a number of training sessions and field demonstrations. Learning by doing is the basic concept of the IFFS and the learning process develops the farmers' abilities for critical thinking and decisionmaking. The IFFS has achieved substantive results that can be used to address the priorities of food security and rural poverty.

Key words: Food security, field schools, innovative, extension, participatory, learning.


Poultry and in particular chickens is commonly kept by 90–95% of the households in the rural areas. The number usually ranges from 2 to 5 hens per family unit. The purpose of raising chickens is to provide protein for the family and sale for cash income. Chickens raising is very popular among rural people because of the small investment and short time to income. However, chickens raising faces many problems and farmers rarely get the benefit that they expect. The constraints of chicken production are diseases, feed and feeding and husbandry practices. In fact, the experience from Bati district, Takeo Province in Cambodia showed that if vaccination was applied against only two of the common diseases (Newcastle and Fowl cholera), farmers could benefit from 60–70% of the total chickens hatched in comparison to 20–30% without interventions.

Chickens can provide a good source of income to the rural villagers, particularly the poorest families with limited resources like land and capital. Women - and they constitute more than 50% of the total adult population - have direct benefit from chicken raising as they are working mainly at home. According to interviews with farmers at the Special Program for Food Security (SPFS) pilot sites, the income from chickens enables them to buy most of the materials needed for children to go to school. At the same time, chickens also provide protein for the family and high value food at occasional festivities.

Every year, much research is conducted to find solutions to improve productivity in agriculture, but, in fact, those who are expected to be assisted utilize very few research results. On the other hand, development institutions and agencies are trying to find ways and means to assist those people in a sustainable manner by introducing technologies that are adapted to the local conditions. In this regard, about 15 years ago, the concept of farmer field school was developed and it has been used mainly in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Today the concept of Farmer Field School (FFS) can be used in most agricultural activities.

In 1997, the concept of FFS was adapted to deal with problems related to food security at the household level. Therefore, the name was changed from FFS to IFFS1. The curriculum of IFFS was also developed based on the findings and discussions with villagers during Farmers' Seasonal Planning (FSP).

Geography and population

Cambodia has a land area of 180,035 square kilometers, which extend about 530 kilometers east to west, and 400 kilometers north to south. The country has a small coastline at its southwest corner, running approximately 320 kilometers on the South China Sea. Cambodia has a tropical climate characterized by the two main seasons: the rainy season from May to October and the dry season from November to April. Four distinct zones characterize Cambodia:

  1. Forest covers about 30% of the total area, mainly the north and south-western parts of the country,
  2. Low-land, rain-fed area located in the center and west of the country and recognized as rice cultivated area,
  3. The Mekong river system, encompassing the Tonle Sap great inland lake, forms a significant corridor of population and specialized agriculture and fishing
  4. Fringe zones of degraded forest form common buffers between dense forest and agricultural areas.

1. Integrated Farmer Field School.

Administratively, the country is divided into 23 provinces including 3 municipalities. These provinces are divided into 176 districts, which are further divided into 1,576 communes and 12,913 villages, with an average of about 8 villages per commune. The government's policy of decentralizing administration requires villages to form Village Development Committees (VDC) as the lowest administrative management unit at the community level.

The general population census in 1998 shows that Cambodia at present has 10.8 million inhabitants and the projected population for 2020 is expected to be 19.3 million persons with the expected growth rate of 2.4%. The population density is 55.4 persons/km2 ranging from 2 to 301 persons/km2 in Mondulkiri and Kandal provinces, respectively.

Development in Agriculture

In compliance with the free market economic performance during the first term in office of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the mission of the national institutions have changed especially the economic institutions. The changes from command to free market economy have moved agriculture to a main sector of the economy, which accounts for 47–50% of GDP (Agriculture Development Plan for Long, Medium and short-term, 1999–2010). It also plays an important role in household food security. In this regard the livestock sector has played an important role in generating more income for farmer households. Farmers who raise small animals like chickens and ducks would have an additional income of probably 50% in comparison to those who depend mainly on crop production (Agriculture Development Option Review, 1994). Within most farming systems, chickens provides an important source of cash income despite the high mortality (70–80%). Meanwhile, no serious effort is yet being put on research and development regarding chicken production. However, there are a few NGOs trying to establish veterinary agents at the village level who assist in organizing animal health activities.

Poultry development and demand

The present population of poultry is estimated to be 13,117,000 heads (Agriculture Development Plan, 1999–2010). This figure shows a 38.6% growth compared to 1993. Local breeds are popular among farmers in the rural areas. Since 1992, the exotic breeds for both meat and eggs have been introduced into Cambodia on a large scale due to the high demand for poultry products from the massive influx of international and UN personnel to Cambodia, who were to assist in organization of the general election in 1993. However, the popularity of the exotic breeds is confined mainly to the urban areas.

The high demand for chicken's meat is also likely to be related to the shortage of fish supply in the market. The fish population has decreased dramatically in recent years for various reasons like illegal fishing by electricity, fishing during the breeding period, the use of insecticides and the destruction of inundated forests. To substitute, the demand has changed to other sources of animal protein and in particular chickens. The demand for chicken meat still varies somehow according to the seasonal fishing activities and festivities. During the seasonal fishing period (about 3 months) the price of chicken meat is lower compared to the rest of the year and it goes up again after fishing is over and during the season of festivities.

So far most efforts have been put on the means of controlling animal diseases. Some NGOs as well Government institutions have been working on the creation of Village Veterinarians. However the coordination and networking are still weak.

Traditional poultry raising practices


Villagers usually provide some grain, mainly paddy in the morning to their chickens. In some cases, they also feed them in the afternoon in order to encourage the birds to return to the house before the night predators begin to operate. Chickens drink water mainly from the ponds, canals and other sources of water surrounding the house and these sources usually are not available in the dry season.

Farmers rarely provide water to their chickens and most chickens suffer a lot particularly in the dry season when all open water sources, including ponds, dry up. Khieu Borin (1998) in a survey at the SPFS pilot sites during the dry season found that the mortality of chickens was 35% in the center of the village as compared to 14% in chickens raised outside the village even though both groups had been vaccinated. The reason for this difference was probably that the chickens outside the village had access to water2 in the ponds and also to insects in the open paddy fields.

2. Farmers in this pilot site (Prey Kabas) use underground water to grow dry season rice.


Chickens are rarely providing with a shelter in the traditional system and this exposes them to different predators during the day and night. This practice affects mainly the small chicks and the recently hatched. However, in a few cases, recently hatched chicks are confined during the first week of life. In this case the survival rate has been observed to be higher. Normally, chickens are allowed to nest on the trees close to the house, at the cow pen and on the roof of the house.

Constraints to chicken production in the traditional systems

The mortality rate is approximately 70–80% and this happens mainly between March to June. In this period the high mortality appears to be due mainly to Newcastle disease and the shortage of drinking water and feed in the dry season. No measure has been taken yet to solve this problem at the national level. High mortality has been found particularly in small chicks and it is not only due to diseases, but also to management, competition for feed between the big and small chickens and predators.

Observations made in villages indicate that small-scale farmers rarely give supplements to their chickens, as they first think about having enough to feed their family members. It is estimated that supplements to a flock of 10–15 chickens might be equal to six months' food for one person.

Economic analysis of chicken production

Experience indicates that local hens can lay and hatch 3–4 clutches per year and that each clutch has an average of 10 chicks. Assuming that 80% of them survive after introducing vaccination, feed supplementation and housing, then farmers can have an income of approximately 144,000–180,000 riels per hen per year (exchange rate US$1=3800 riels, March 1999). The price of chickens varies from 4,000–5,000 riels per kg live weight according to location and demand.

Opportunities for chicken production

Poultry, in particular chickens, is an important candidate to supply the protein needed by the increasing Cambodian population. The poorest families, women and landless families in the villages are the main beneficiaries from chicken raising as the investment required is low. If the farmers can be assisted to improve the health service, feeding and management, they can get a higher income from chickens. In addition, it is important to consider the time of the year when the price of chickens goes up (traditional and national festivities) in order to sell them for a better income.

Special Programme for Food Security in Cambodia3

SPFS is an innovative approach embracing different levels of specialization. Most of the activities are conducted through the Integrated Farmer Field School (IFFS). Learning by doing is the most important tool used to solve problems in SPFS and also to share experiences among the farmers themselves and between farmers and technicians. Through observation and Impact Assessment, the farmer participants showed great satisfaction in having solved problems by community action.

In the long-term, SPFS is also looking for ways and means as to how food can be better distributed among the rural people by looking into the rural infrastructure and marketing policy.

Background to SPFS in Cambodia

Cambodia was among the first countries, in the wake of the World Food Summit of 1996, to indicate its interest to participate in the Special Programme and requested in November 1996 FAO assistance in the formulation of the Special Programme. The SPFS Steering Committee is composed of directors from different Departments under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and chaired by the Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture. The National team comprising 5 persons from different disciplines was formed in September 1997. By mid October 1997, 7 pilot sites in 4 provinces were identified. The SPFS pilot sites cover a wide range of different ecological zones.

The SPFS programme was launched in November 1997 after a field study organized by the National, Provincial and District teams in accordance with the Farmer Seasonal Planning methodology.

3. FAO TCP/CMB/8821 project.

Structure of the SPFS

SPFS is a National Program run by the mentioned Team with supervision and technical support from FAO. The team is composed of experts in the four main components (agronomy, livestock and aquaculture, irrigation and farming systems). The SPFS structure was organized from the grass root to the central level. At the grass root level farmer organizations have been established such as village livestock associations (VLA) and water user associations. Provincial and District Teams have important tasks to implement activities with the regular supervision from the National Team. Government counterparts from different disciplines as mentioned above were selected to gradually take responsibility from the National Consultants. At the Ministry level, the SPFS Steering Committee composed by the Departments concerned was established and chaired by the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Community participation

Participation plays a key role in demonstrating the acceptance of beneficiaries of the proposed activities as well as the willingness of their involvement in the long run. SPFS has been found to provide sufficient power to the community to judge on its implementation. So far villagers are satisfied with the results obtained from both dry and rainy season activities in 1998. Problems faced by most villagers have been tackled during the IFFS and this contributes to better food production in the short as well as the long run. Villagers are stimulated to think about their own resources and to take decisions regarding future problems.

Rural power structure also becomes a very important topic to deal with during the implementation. During the Pol Pot time, people lived collectively but they were afraid to share ideas and comments with each other, even with friends and family. After Pol Pot it was difficult to talk with people about collectivization, clubs, associations, as people were afraid of a revival of the old system. In the pro??cess people have lost their custom of sharing, as it existed before Pol Pot. The SPFS Programme is trying carefully to find proper ways to re-establish the habit of sharing among people in the community through discussions during the sessions of the field school and this has proved positive among the farmer participants.

Essential elements for a pilot phase

Criteria to select farmers

The criteria to select participants should be based on the poor and interested farmers, who have most of their income from farm activities. The overall selection must include at least 30% women. The number of participants in each IFFS varies from 24 to 30. In the first field school, the number of farmer participants was 24 in most of the sites, but this has increased to 30 in all pilot sites. Since 1998 till the present, SPFS has assisted 652 families in five provinces in Cambodia.


A PRA was conducted early November 1997 to get information on the ground from each selected site and the findings has been used to indicate possible solutions. Workshops are organized every time after the production cycle in order to bring the team from the target provinces to discuss and share experience and make the action plan for the following season. Beside that, a detailed planning (Farmer Seasonal Planning) is also organized with the participation of the interested farmers during two days at the beginning of each production season. It is important to organize the FSP at least 2 weeks before the field activities. Some PRA tools such as village map, land use map, transect walk, pairwise ranking, etc. are used to identify problems faced by the majority of villagers. Results from FSP were the source to formulate the curriculum for the whole IFFS.

Methodology use for implementation

IFFS: is the main approach used in the SPFS program. IFFS is trying to tackle problems faced by the farmer community and at the same time farmer participants can learn during the demonstration or implementation. Brainstorming and small group discussions are also used. Farmers and SPFS facilitators meet once every week. In the first session of the IFFS, date, time frame, principles and regulations of the field school are placed into the discussion. Each session of the field school should last for four hours.

In the first two sessions before dealing with technical issues a pre-ballot box test in the field related to each specific technical topic. Real examples (pictures or drawings) are used. The results from the test provide ideas to the facilitators to deal with individual people. At the end of the IFFS a ballot box test is arranged to evaluate the level of understanding of the farmers that has been achieved during the school.

Farmer Field Day: the field day is organized at the last session of the IFFS. Farmer participants take responsibility to invite their neighbors and the neighboring villages to participate. The display of the products from the field school is organized by each group of farmers.

IFFS curriculum

Problems found during the FSP will be used to formulate the curriculum of the IFFS. However, the content of the IFFS is flexible and can be changed according to the requirements of the farmer participants. The duration of the field school is generally 20, 10 and 5 sessions in 20 weeks, which correspond to full IFFS, first follow-up and second follow-up field schools, respectively.

Local capacity building

Local technicians who are involved in the SPFS are subjected to a number of training sessions including on the job training. After each production season, all provincial and district teams meet each other to have training-discussion on the weaknesses, which are found during the implementation. Resource and skilled persons from each discipline are invited to play facilitator roles. In addition, the training of the Technical Field Staff is carried out in the afternoon after the IFFS session. The most important is that local technicians can learn a lot from the implementation together with the farmers. This can be considered as an innovative extension methodology where not only technicians talk and demonstrate to farmers but in reversal farmers also teach and share their experiences.

Livestock component in SPFS

Livestock is one component within the SPFS Programme. Mainly small animal like pigs, chickens and ducks are considered, as they require low investment, generate income in the short term and respond to the demands of the poor families in the village. So far activities on pig and chicken production such as disease prevention and housing and feeding improvements have been introduced. In addition, a Village Livestock Association (VLA) was also established in each village of the pilot sites.

Village Livestock Association

When a VLA is formed the necessary equipment, tools, vaccines and drugs are provided as the first input to start the activities. The farmers with the assistance from the SPFS team organize meetings to discuss regulations of the VLA and to select a leader, an accountant and a bookkeeper. Till now 23 VLAs have been established within the SPFS pilot phase. The VLA plays an important role in the sustainability of the Programme. The main tasks of VLA are: organizing and planning for vaccination, collection of vaccination fees and loans and sharing of experience with other farmers who do not have a chance to participate in the programme.


After the first 2–3 sessions, the farmers should vaccinate chickens by themselves with a regular supervision from provincial and district technicians. The main constraint of vaccination is to keep vaccines in the village so that farmers can have access to it when needed, but the ice to conserve vaccines is very expensive. The main vaccines used are Fowl Cholera, Newcastle and Fowl Pox.

There is no vaccine production in Cambodia and it depends mainly on import. Sometimes it is not available when it is needed and this influences the vaccination campaign run by the farmers and makes them lose confidence. Lack of cold chain makes it difficult to keep vaccines in the village, which is also a problem at district level and ice is expensive.

Feed improvement

Recently duckweed ponds and earthworm were introduced in the village. In the case of duckweed, farmers still have problems with the fertilization of the pond. Fresh cow manure was used, but the result was not satisfactory. The duckweed disappeared after the first week due to the decomposition of cow manure.

Housing improvement

Every farmer participant should make the chicken house with his or her own materials. According to the VLA contract, each farmer should have the chicken house ready before the loan is provided. The housing will provide safe shelter to the chickens during the night, provide a facility for vaccination and give farmers better control of their chickens.

Results of the pilot phase

After the first season, an impact assessment was conducted in all pilot sites and the farmer participants appreciated the result. The percentage of farmers indicating that they faced food shortages in the SPFS target areas dropped significantly from more than 50% before the start of the project to 15% after SPFS while the number of farmers indicating to produce a food surplus in 1998 increased from 10% before the SPFS to 40% after the SPFS.

Advantage from SPFS as indicated by farmers in general

The demonstration results of optimized application methods of mineral fertilizer indicated that with the same investment in mineral fertilizer the farmers could increase production 300 kg/ha on average, simply by improving the timing of the fertilizer dose and improving the application method. High yielding varieties were introduced to all pilot sites and the cost benefit analyses indicated that a USD extra investment in HYV seed returned the farmer on average USD 4.3.

Advantages of SPFS as indicated by women

Farmers estimated that 80% of the total yield increase measured from crop cuttings was due to better water distribution in the irrigation scheme and also an increase of 20% in cultivated area due to better water distribution. In addition, Water User Associations and small hydraulic structures were strengthened and this resulted in optimization of the irrigation schedule, increased efficiency of water use, better fee collection and reduced conflict between water users.

Impact of vaccination and housing on mortality of chicken

Small animals like pigs and chickens are important sources of income. A study conducted by the Agriculture Option Review (1993) indicated that 50% of the cash income of the farmers comes from small livestock. During the pilot phase only vaccination was applied to both chickens and pigs and the production was improved by reducing the mortality from 74% before SPFS to 23% after SPFS in chickens and from 66% to 9% in pigs. This shows a great potential for small livestock development in the rural areas.

The IFFS has demonstrated the important impact it can have by effectively promoting improved agricultural technologies. Field monitoring has also demonstrated the weaknesses in its first year of implementation. Much effort of all staff involved needs to be given to ensure that the training and integrated farmers field school approach are indeed consolidated into an Programme, which is cost-effective that responds to the requirements of the farmers. Content and curriculum need to be further improved and field staff needs to properly prepare and improve the quality of the interventions.

Sustainability of SPFS

When the required inputs are available production can be improved. However, in SPFS we are looking at the long-term perspective. SPFS is moving further into human resource development along with the food security issue. The creation of local initiatives, local decision-making and the re-establishment of exchange of experience and materials have been taken into considerations. The future goals will be focusing on improving rural structure and infrastructure. The inputs provided as a start by SPFS have been circulating through the Farmer's Association. The poor infrastructure contributes to the inadequacy of food distribution in remote areas and to improve that is a big task, which needs cooperation and financial support from the national government, bilateral donors and international institutions. Rural marketing policy has to be formulated which stimulates local producers and provides them opportunities to the outside markets.

Conclusions and recommendations

SPFS plays an important role in combining an emphasis on basic physical inputs and human development and village structures and infrastructures. In this way assistance can be accessed for both the vulnerable groups and those who have their own inputs.

Farmer participants express their satisfaction to have solved problems faced during each production season. The Integrated Farmer Field School is a new extension approach, technology transfer and message delivery from farmers to farmers, from farmers to scientists and technicians and from scientists and technicians to farmers. This approach has to be expanded to other places and should be included in the curriculum at the university and college levels.

Although good results are obtained so far it is strongly recommended that technicians, particularly provincial and district teams who have full responsibility for activities in their pilot sites, must go through a regular training on the Farmer Field School approach.


Agriculture Development Plan Long, Medium and Short-term 1999–2010, Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia.

Agriculture Option Review, 1994. Phase I, Volume 1 of 3 volumes (main text). Report No 42/94 UNDP-CMB 1 SR.

Khieu, Borin (1998). Approaches to participation in the Special Programme for Food Security. The publication was in local language (Khmer version). FAO TCP/CMB/8821 Project.

Khieu, Borin (1998). Monthly Progress Report on Special Programme for Food Security in Cambodia, Period 01 March to 31 March 1998, FAO TCP/CMB/8821 Project.

General Population Census of Cambodia, 1998. National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Special Programme for Food Security, 1998. Impact Assessment of the Special Programme for Food Security of the dry season 1998. FAO TCP/CMB/8821 Project.

FAO's Programme for Support to Family Poultry Production

R.D.S. Branckaert and E.F. Guèye

Animal Production Service
Animal Production and Health Division, FAO
Via Delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy
E-mail: [email protected] and [email protected]


In developing countries, family poultry represent an appropriate system to feed the fast growing human population and to provide income to poor small farmers, especially women. It makes one of the best uses of locally available resources. Although requiring low resource inputs and generally considered secondary to other agricultural activities by smallholder farmers, this type of production has an important contribution in supplying local populations with additional income and high quality protein. Family poultry are also valued in religious and socio-cultural lives. How-ever, high mortality, mainly due to Newcastle disease, especially in growers, constitutes one of the greatest constraints on development. Other problems are related to breeding, feeding and marketing. Appropriate development programmes are those, which adopt a holistic approach.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is committed to family poultry development and, through the International Network for Family Poultry Development (INFPD), is ideally placed to co-ordinate family poultry development. Family poultry are within the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), launched in 1994 by Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO.

Key words: Family poultry production, FAO, smallholder farmers, protein intake, Newcastle disease


Although food availability has kept pace with the growing human population during the last 30 years, there are still some 800 million people suffering from malnutrition. This problem is due not only to insufficient food production and inadequate distribution, but equally to insufficient income to acquire food in adequate quantity and quality to satisfy family needs (FAO, 1993)

Livestock production constitutes an important component of the agricultural economy of developing countries, a contribution that goes beyond direct food production and includes multipurpose products and uses, such as skins, feathers, fibre, manure for fertilizer and fuel, power and transportation, as well as a means of capital accumulation and as a barter product in societies where there is no circulation of currency. Furthermore, they are closely linked to the religious and sociocultural lives of several million resource-poor farmers for whom animal ownership ensures varying degrees of sustainable farming and economic stability. However, official statistics generally underestimate the overall contribution provided by animals since they underestimate, or ignore, the multipurpose and culture roles played by livestock in food and agricultural production in developing countries.

The world human and livestock populations have increased considerably over the last three decades but at different rates (Table 1). There are major differences between developed and developing countries, with the vast majority of all domesticated species found in the latter countries. Growth in human and livestock populations is both higher in developing countries than in the developed world. Although all categories of livestock have increased in numbers, the increase is much greater in poultry when compared to ruminants and pigs.

Table 1. Human and livestock population statistics 1960 and 1990 (millions)

 HumansLarge ruminantsSmall ruminantsPigsPoultry
1960 – 1990 (% increase)
Developed countries977–1251
Developing countries2097–4138

The world human population is expected to grow from 5,285 million in 1990 to 7,032 million in the year 2010, again this increase will take place largely in the developing countries. To feed the growing human population, more land will need to be devoted to staple food and cash crops as intensification has not occurred in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). Because land is a finite resource an increased use will reduce land for pasture and fodder, as has already occurred in Asia. This situation will largely determine the composition of the livestock population, and will have a major effect on both the available natural resources and future demand for commodities and, consequently will determine the management systems adopted. What is clear to maintain food production will necessitate increased efficiency of resource utilisation as well as developing alternatives, such as marine and freshwater fish culture in a sustainable way.

Poultry production represents one of these alternatives. Over the last decade, poultry population has grown spectacularly throughout the world: 23 percent in developed and 76 percent in developing countries, respectively. This increase, due to the commercial production, has been most notable in the Far East where growth averaged 90 percent. For example, in India, production has increased six fold in ten years. However, most of the conditions required by the commercial poultry sector are not met in LIFDCs, namely:

In fact before developing medium to large-scale units, either for broiler or egg production, it is important to achieve either self sufficiency in cereal products or to generate the necessary hard currencies provided by the export of oil or other expensive raw materials, or to have a developed services sector.

In many developing countries, poultry production is based mainly on traditional extensive poultry production systems (Aini, 1990; Spradbrow, 1994; Branckaert, 1996; Kitalyi, 1997; Guèye, 1998a; Sonaiya et al., 1998). All over the developing world these low input/low output husbandry systems have been a traditional component of small farms for centuries and are assumed to continue for the foreseeable future. For example, it has been estimated that 80 percent of the poultry population is found in traditional family-based poultry production systems, which contribute up to 90 percent of poultry products in some countries. Approximately 20 percent of the protein consumed in developing countries originates from poultry (i.e. meat and eggs). Yet, despite the importance of family poultry (FP), relatively few field programmes have been initiated to improve the output.

Family poultry (FP) is an integrated component of nearly all rural, many periurban and some urban households and provides valuable protein and generates extra cash. All ethnic groups tend to be involved in FP production. Women, assisted in some cases by children, play a key role in this sector, as they are the main owners and managers of FP. For instance, according to Guèye (1998b), more than 85% of rural families in sub-Saharan Africa keep one or more species of poultry, and more than 70% of chicken owners are women, while traditionally pigeons belong only to children.

Four management sub-systems have been described by Bessei (1987) and Sonaiya (1990). There are the free-range system or traditional village system, the backyard (family or subsistence) system, the semi-intensive system and the intensive husbandry system. According to Guèye (1998a), the two first types are the most commonly practised in rural Africa. There is no doubt that adoption of one or more management sub-system(s) is largely determined by the availability of resources and inputs i.e. housing, cages, feed, drugs and time. Also, these management sub-system(s) frequently overlap, thus, free range is sometimes coupled with feed supplementation, backyard with night confinement but without feeding; standard poultry cages in confined space, etc.

According to Sonaiya et al. (1998), FP contributes more than 70 percent to total poultry production in most LIFDCs, with some exceptions. FP flock composition is heavily skewed towards chickens in Africa, towards ducks in Asia and turkeys in Latin America. Household flock sizes range from 3 to 97 in Africa, 10 to 31 in South America and from 50 to 2,000 in Asia. Flock size is related to the objectives of the poultry enterprise. The level of productivity is very low compared to high input systems. For example, a scavenging hen lays only 30–50 eggs per year and up to 90 eggs per year under improved feeding and husbandry conditions. In contrast, an industrialized battery hen lays 280 eggs annually. Furthermore, studies in Nigeria estimate that the overall flock mortality may be as high as 90 percent in some areas.

Strategy for FP development

To improve FP productivity, and move from backyard to semi-inten-sive/commercial poultry production, a number of important constraints have to be overcome:

1. Disease control:

Newcastle disease (ND) constitutes the most serious epizootic poultry disease throughout the world, particularly in developing countries. No progress has been made in controlling ND in free-ranging village flocks, which represent more than 80 percent of the total poultry population. For example, several surveys in Africa showed high rates of seropositivity in the absence of vaccination. In developing countries, ND occurs every year and kills on an average 70–80 percent of the unvaccinated village hens. It is very difficult to organize vaccination campaigns covering free-range birds and the main constraints are:

Furthermore the large number of farmers involved implies the need for considerable budgets (vaccines costs, transportation, refrigeration equipment, etc.) and makes actual vaccination programmes difficult to accomplish. In fact, planned vaccination programmes using existing commercial vaccines to control ND in village poultry have been successful, but the need for large labour and technical inputs has limited their efficiency.

It should be kept in mind that, besides the vaccination, other general approaches can be used to control ND: hygiene, slaughter of infected birds and selection for resistance to the disease or for a better immunological response. Moreover, ND does not represent the only disease affecting FP. Consequently, the following activities are recommended:

2. Protection against various predators

Predators such as snakes, rats, dogs, cats, foxes, racoons, birds of prey represent the main causes of losses, especially in young birds. Human beings can also represent another important predator for adult birds! Prevention can be contemplated through the following measures:

3. Feeding

Careful attention should be given to ensuring adequate feed resources, which represent 60 to 80 percent of the economic inputs in the commercial poultry sector. In LIFDCs, surplus of cereals is generally not available. It is, therefore, not advisable to develop a wholly grain-based feeding system. The recommended policy is to identify and use locally available feed resources to formulate diets that are as balanced as possible. Research capacities must be strengthened to develop strategies to optimise locally available feed. Both conventional and alternative feed resources that are readily available to smallholder farmers should be identified. Shrub leaves (Leucaena sp., Calliandra sp., Sesbania sp., etc.), aquatic plants (Azolla sp., water hyacinths, etc.), insects (termites), fruits (palm-oil fruit, papaya, guava, etc.), small animals (e.g. snails, earthworms), etc. can all be used as poultry feed. These products are rich in protein as well as vitamins and minerals and are all appropriate for supplementing diets of scavenging poultry. All these products, and the list is far from being exhaustive, are available in some parts of a country and during certain periods of the year; however, people must be skilled in using them properly. This implies the need for extension officers and farmers to be trained in the use of these alternative feed resources.

4. FP farmers' organisations

Organizing FP farmers is not an easy task. There are several reasons. Flock sizes are small and birds are maintained with minimal land, labour and capital inputs. That means that farmers generally consider FP as secondary occupation compared with other activities in agriculture, trade, etc. Nevertheless, it is essential to:

5. Genetic improvement

Indigenous or local breeds are generally raised in FP production systems. These birds are usually selected for their hardiness and sometimes for meat production, but not for egg production. Hens are thus poor layers, however they are good hatchers, except for guinea hens. When farmers contemplate to adopt a more intensive poultry production system, they are eager to purchase more productive birds. There is a need to find the best method to provide them with such birds and the options are:

However, poor hatching is commonly observed from hatcheries in many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, regular imports of hybrid parent stock must be carefully planned because usually there are many obstacles to overcome, e.g. purchase of importing licences, obtaining hard currency, adequate shipment and transportation facilities, customs clearance and ensuring excellent conditions for the reception of birds, etc. Smallholder farmers cannot afford to carry out these operations themselves, while government structures have proved unreliable and the private sector does not seem really interested. However, some solutions have proved to be efficient:

6. Marketing facilities

Poultry products in most developing countries, especially in Africa, are still expensive. The marketing system is generally informal and poorly developed. Unlike eggs and poultry meat from commercial birds derived from imported stocks, consumers generally prefer those from indigenous stocks. The existence of a local market offering good sales opportunities and adequate transport facilities are obvious prerequisites for FP development. As most consumers with the greater purchasing power live in cities, intensification of poultry production should be initiated in peri-urban areas or, at least, in areas having a good road network.

7. Training and management

Technical skills need to be considered at both farmer and extension levels. Training is essential for both farmers and extension officers in the following areas: disease control, housing and equipment, feeding, genetic improvement and marketing. A basic knowledge in specific features of poultry anatomy/physiology is also important to understand the basis of the above topics.

Housing and management could be improved through appropriate farmer training, preferably conducted on-farm. Local craftsmen could be trained to manufacture small equipment, like feeders, drinkers, etc.

FAO and FP development

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is committed to support FP production (Branckaert, 1997). Its mandate targets the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in developing countries. Many efforts to develop the commercial poultry sector have failed because of their dependence on imports of expensive inputs such as day-old chicks, cereals, drugs and pre-mixes (which need hard currencies) and because of periodic shortages of feed and other inputs. Moreover, the highly mechanized commercial sector does not provide many job opportunities. Thus, the wellbeing of small-scale poultry farmers, who represent the majority in developing countries, is not improved through this poultry sector.

The FAO, through its Animal Production and Health Division (AGA), has always supported rural FP development activities. In recent years, the importance of FP production has been the subject of various international workshops, seminars and conferences (Table 2). Most of them have, totally or partially, been sponsored by FAO and have generally taken place in developing countries, mainly in Africa and Asia.

FAO encouraged the development of the ANRPD (African Network for Rural Poultry Development) or RADAR (Réseau Africain pour le Développement de l'Aviculture Rurale, in French) in November 1989 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The network has been renamed INFPD (International Network for Family Poultry Development) or RIDAF (Réseau International pour le Développement de l'Aviculture Familiale, in French) and appropriate resolutions were adopted by the ANRPD General Meeting held on 13 December 1997 in M'Bour, Senegal. It was decided that membership and coverage of Network be extended to Asia and Latin America and that all aspects of family-related poultry production be addressed. The network's activities will focus not only on rural areas but also on other poor areas, like the peri-urban ones. In addition, development efforts should be devoted to other poultry species such as ducks, geese, guinea fowls, turkeys, quails, pigeons and even ostriches. Another important point adopted was to publish the quarterly and bilingual (English/French) INFPD Newsletter electronically, with a combined printed version produced twice a year for members without e-mail facilities (INFPD, 1998). Since 1990, FAO/AGA has supported INFPD (formerly ANRPD) through technical and financial assistance. The preparation, publication and distribution of its Newsletter have been financially supported by FAO through annual authors contracts. Furthermore, the preparation of a Manual on Rural Poultry has been entrusted to Prof. E. B. Sonaiya, INFPD Co-ordinator. After editing, this manual will be published and hopefully translated in French and in Spanish.

The rewarding collaboration between INFPD and FAO/AGA should continue. Joint INFPD/FAO activities have already been planned up to the year 2000. Since November 1998 a young professional, Dr. E. Fallou Guèye, has been assigned to FAO/HQ in order to co-ordinate the various joint INFPD/FAO activities. A data bank on improved FP in LIFDCs will be initiated and the types and sources of information to be collected have been identified (FAO, 1997). Training sessions in rural FP development through refresher courses and study tours are contemplated.

Table 2. International workshops, seminars and conferences on rural FP, 1981–2000

1981• FAO Expert Consultation on Poultry and Rabbit Farming in Rural Areas, 30 November - 3 December, Rome, Italy (in French), *, **
1984• FAO International Workshop on Rural Poultry Development for French-speaking Participants from sub-Saharan Africa, December, Rome, Italy (in French), **
1987• FAO Expert Consultation on Rural Poultry Development in Asia, 23–28 March, Dhaka, Bangladesh, *, **
• Poultry Production in Hot Climates, Third DLG Symposium on Rural Poultry Production Hot Climates, 12 June, Hameln, Germany, *
1988• Proceedings of the Second Northern Agriculture Seminar on Native Chickens, 17–19 August, Tha Pra Khon Kaen, Thailand
1989• International Workshop on Rural Poultry Development in Africa, 13–16 November, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, *, **
• International Seminar on Animal Health and Production Services for Village Livestock, 2–9 August, Khon Kaen, Thailand
1990• International Seminar on Smallholder Rural Poultry Production: Requirement for Research and Development, 9–13 October, Thessaloniki, Greece, *, **
• FAO Expert Consultation on Waterfowl production in Africa, Accra, Ghana, 2–5 July, *, **
• FAO Expert Consultation on Strategies for Sustainable Animal Agriculture in Developing Countries, 10–14 December, Rome, Italy, *, **
1991• Newcastle Disease Vaccines for Rural Africa, 22–26 April, Debre Zeit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, *, **(GCP/RAF/318)
• International Seminar on Newcastle Disease Vaccination of Village Poultry in Africa and Asia, 13–14 February, Antwerp, Belgium
• ACIAR International Workshop on Newcastle Disease in Village Chickens: Control with Thermostable Oral Vaccine, 6–10 October, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, *
1992• International Workshop on Village Poultry Production in Africa, 7–11 May, Rabat, Morocco, *
• International Workshop on Guinea Fowl Production in the African Dry Areas, 19 to 23 October, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (in French),*, **
• First Symposium on Poultry Development Policy during XIX World's Poultry Congress, 20–24 September, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, *
1995• ANRPD International Workshop on Smallholder Rural Poultry and Sustainable Development in Africa: Empowering Women, Generating Income, Employment and Improving Nutritional Status, 13–16 June, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, *, **
• ACIAR International Workshop on Newcastle Disease Vaccines for Village Chickens, 6–9 December, Pretoria, South Africa
1996• Symposium on Rural Poultry during XX World's Poultry Congress, 2–5 September, New Delhi, India, *, **
1997• INFPD (formerly ANRPD) International Workshop on Rural Poultry Development Data Bank, 9–13 December, M'Bour, Senegal, Proceedings forthcoming, **
1998• Teleconference on improving FP production in Africa, 10 November, with participants from AGA/FAO (Rome, Italy), IAEA (Vienna, Austria) and Wageningen (The Netherlands)
• FAO Workshop on the use of Newcastle Disease Vaccines, December, in Harare, Zimbabwe, ** (Phase II of TCP/ZIM/4553 (E))
1998-1999• First INFPD/FAO Electronic Conference on The Scope and Effect of FP Research and Development, 7 December 1998 - 5 March 1999, Rome, Italy, **
1999• Second INFPD/FAO Electronic Conference on FP, ***
2000• Symposium on FP and Food Security during XXI World's Poultry Congress, 20–25 August, Montréal, Canada, ***

* Proceedings available
** (to be) sponsored by FAO
*** scheduled

Furthermore, for more than twenty years FAO/AGA has identified, formulated, backstopped and monitored, with the financial assistance of UNDP and FAO's Technical Co-operation Programme (TCP), projects to support FP development activities (Table 3). Countries involved were: Bangladesh, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Honduras, Democratic Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Tanzania, Turkey, Union of Myanmar, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. In 1995, Mrs. Dr. Aichi J. Kitalyi, a livestock specialist from Tanzania was awarded the André Mayer Research Fellowship. Her 18-month research project focused on the “Village chicken production systems in rural Africa: Household food security and gender issues”. She made some recommendations on the most cost-effective targets for FAO's Technical Assistance, which should be focused on poverty alleviation among rural women (Kitalyi, 1998).

Table 3. Some of FAO's TCP Projects to support FP

TCP Project, CountryDurationTitle, year of publication
(T), Ethiopia and The Gambia
July 1993 – 1994- Assistance to rural women in protecting their chicken flocks from Newcastle disease, 1995*
- Consultancy (2–17 September 1995), Assistance to rural women in protecting their chicken flocks from Newcastle disease, 1995*,**
Union of Myanmar
May 1992 - April 1994Small-scale poultry and pig production in eastern border areas*
February 1995 - July 1996 (extended until December 1996)Training in Rural Poultry Development, 1997*
1996 – 1997 (extended until the end of 1998)Rural poultry production-socio-economist consultancy (12–22 December 1998), Emergency assistance for the control of Newcastle disease, Phase II of TCP/ZIM/4553 (E), 1998*,**
1996 – 1997 (extended until the end of 1998)Feed-based Newcastle disease vaccine specialist consultancy (12–22 December 1998), Emergency assistance for the control of Newcastle disease, Phase II of TCP/ZIM/4553 (E), 1998*,**
April 1996 - December 1997Appui aux groupements féminins pour le développement de l'aviculture villageoise dans le sud malgache, 1998*

* Rapport available
** Consultant's report

The FAO Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) was launched in 1994 by the FAO Director-General to respond to the urgent need to boost food production. In 1997, improved household poultry production - either peri-urban or rural was identified as a key element in the overall SPFS approach, and a major activity of the SPFS diversification component. For this purpose, various documents were prepared by AGA in English, French and Spanish and include:

The SPFS presently (i.e. at 31 January 1999) covers 39 countries: 23 in Africa, 10 in Asia and the Near East, 3 in Latin America, 2 in Europe and 1 in Oceania. It is rapidly expanding and more than 80 countries are expected to join the SPFS during the next few years. The collaboration between SPFS and INFPD will grow simultaneously. The development of South-South Co-operation in the field of Rural FP is encouraged through the use of TCDC (Technical Co-operation Among Developing Countries) experts. For this purpose, specific technical packages to be used in SPFS pilot and expansion phases are being prepared.

Since 1997, Telefood has provided another important support: up to US$ 10,000 per group has been distributed for small-scale poultry projects in several countries.

It is important to mention that other international organizations such as CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation, Wageningen, The Netherlands) and IDRC (International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada) have provided constant and valuable support to the INFPD, since its creation. Other international institutions and NGOs have also demonstrated their interest in the course of recent years, namely the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Vétérinaires-Sans-Frontières (VSF) and the World's Poultry Science Association (WPSA). Many national institutions in developed and developing countries are also closely collaborating with INFPD. It is strongly hoped that this rewarding and much appreciated collaboration will continue, especially with the future institutionalisation of the INFPD.


In developing countries, the backyard poultry sector represents the basis on which a sustainable, well adapted semi-commercial sub sector could be progressively developed. As sustainability assumes preservation of natural resources, as well as economic usability and social acceptance, this evolution should be conducted in the most appropriate socio-economic way, taking into account the specific local features and constraints to be overcome.

This means that after collecting the appropriate data on a poultry sector in a specific environment, an appropriate model must be designed and tested at farm level. This work must be done by multidisciplinary teams to ensure that the FP husbandry systems are fully understood and that their constraints are clearly identified. Detailed information will help to develop appropriate interventions in areas such as disease prevention and control, predator control, suitable feeding and watering systems, improved poultry housing, genetic improvement and marketing of poultry products, etc. that can strengthen FP in developing countries. FP development programmes will then be easier to initiate, implement, monitor and evaluate. Furthermore, the data collected from the FP sector must be part of the data on the national economy as a whole and FP development must be seen as an integral part of the national development policy. The existence of data can help to properly inform policy makers.

In addition, some small trials, as indicated above, are being conducted in Africa under support from FAO's Technical Co-operation Programme (TCP) and with some NGO's assistance.

Such approaches have only started recently. A successful project is presently being conducted in Bangladesh under IFAD and DANIDA financial support and its first results were published in the Symposium on Rural Poultry Production, which was held during the XX World's Poultry Congress in New Delhi in September 1996.

The INFPD has been set up to co-ordinate research, training and/or extension in relation to FP production. One of the objectives of the INFPD is to encourage higher standards that can sustainably increase the sub-sector's productivity. This will be achieved through collecting results, providing advice and disseminating information through its quarterly and bilingual Newsletter and its annual electronic conference on FP.


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Bessei, W. (1987). “Tendencies of world poultry production”, Proceedings of the 3rd International DLG-Symposium on Poultry Production in Hot Climates, June 19–22, Hameln, Germany.

Branckaert, R.D.S. (1996). From Backyard to Commercial Poultry production: The keys of success, paper presented at an International Workshop on Newcastle disease, University of Pretoria, Dec. 1996, 9pp.

Branckaert, R.D.S. (1997). “FAO and rural poultry development”, in E.B. Sonaiya (ed.), Sustainable Rural Poultry Production in Africa. Proceedings of an International Work-shop, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 13–16, 199. Ile-Ife: ANRPD, 24–29.

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