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Chapter 10: Research and Development for Family Poultry

Research and development in the field of Family Poultry (FP) must first examine the social, cultural and technical constraints faced by this sector, and then observe how these have been addressed in past efforts and whether the lessons are being applied in currently ongoing efforts. While holding this perspective, the need for further research, training and extension must then be assessed in the light of a clear understanding of what the overall development objectives are, and what place FP has in achieving them. Having provided background in the preceding nine chapters, this final chapter takes the reader through these concluding stages.


A sociological appraisal is essential in determining strategies for development. Technical and economic appraisals are also necessary, but are insufficient on their own. Socio-cultural factors contribute to the wide variety of response of livestock keepers even under identical economic conditions. Many socio-cultural factors affect livestock production. For example, some communities ban ducks, as they are presumed dirty and destructive to drinking water supplies. Some communities regard pigeons as a sign of peace and concord. In such communities, the presence of pigeons is regarded as a good omen, and their departure would presage disaster. In other communities, pigeons are regarded as an evil omen, since they are used by native doctors in sinister rituals.

Another socio-cultural constraint to poultry development is the value placed upon poultry for use at ceremonies and festivals or even as a source of income in times of need but not as a source of daily food nor as a regular source of income. Some regard chickens as their pets or part of the family, thus it is only the arrival of an important unexpected visitor that could allow their use as food, although they can be sold without regret and the money utilised.

Another major constraint to poultry production is the high value placed upon crop production rather than livestock production. This affects the willingness to put much time, expense and effort into livestock production. Theft is also a great constraint. Villagers who have lost all their poultry to theft may be reluctant to face the expense of starting again.

Another constraint is the social norm that determines ownership of livestock. Typically, where crop farming is the men’s main activity, keeping livestock is perceived as a peripheral activity relegated to women and children. However, when the number of livestock increases, men usually take over the activity.

It should not be assumed that socio-cultural factors can be changed. However, by incorporating socio-cultural factors into development strategies, the programmes and technologies may encounter less resistance. Development programmes, which combine local knowledge with western science, yield strategies which are culturally more acceptable. Socio-cultural factors are thus not seen as a problem, but rather as a factor to be considered or used in finding a solution (Olawoye and di Domenico, 1990).


The most common FP flock size of between 5 to 20 birds seems to be the limit that can be kept by a family without special inputs in terms of feeding, housing and labour. These small flocks scavenge sufficient feed in the surroundings of the homestead to survive and to reproduce. Any significant increase in flock size often leads to malnutrition if no feed supplement is provided. In addition, larger flock sizes must forage at greater distances, which may involve damage to neighbours’ vegetable gardens. Any move to fence in or enclose the poultry then involves the need to provide a balanced ration. Larger flock sizes can easily arise once mortality is reduced through vaccination and improved hygiene. Flock size can rapidly increase to the point where the feed requirement exceeds the available Scavengable Feed Resource Base (SFRB) in the area around the dwelling (For more detail on the SFRB concept, see Chapter 3 “Feed Resources”). At this stage, either supplementary feeding or a semi-intensive system of management is required. If balanced feed, day-old hybrid chick and vaccine input supplies (and markets) are available and well organized, and then intensive poultry management systems may be a viable option. There have been many attempts to take short cuts to development and to start immediately with the semi-intensive system.

FAO consultation 1987

A wide range of approaches to improve FP production has been tried. An FAO Expert Consultation on Rural Poultry Development in Asia was held in Bangladesh in March 1987, to review these approaches in order to identify the reasons for success or failure. A major issue during the workshop was to clearly define the different systems of rural poultry production. There was confusion in terminology between the low-technology scavenging systems of Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan, and the small semi-intensive or intensive production systems (a few hundred birds) kept in India, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Table 10.1 The effect of rural poultry improvement on production, reproduction and off-take per hen/year

Production system

N° of eggs/hen/year

N° of year-old chickens

N° of eggs for consumption and sale


20 - 30

2 - 3


Step 0: Scavenging: no regular water or feed, poor night shelter

Improved Traditional

40 - 60

4 - 8

10 - 20

Step 1: offered water and supplementary feed, improved shelter, care in first weeks, ND vaccination

Step 2: as in step 1 plus further feeding, watering, housing; treatment for parasites, additional vaccinations


10 - 12

30 - 50

Step 3: (semi-intensive) as in step 2 with improved breeds and complete diets

160 - 180

25 - 30

50 - 60

Source: Bessei, 1987

These differences motivated the FAO consultation facilitator (Bessei, 1987) to classify the various poultry production systems in Asia (Table 10.1, above). The table shows the logical evolution from Step 0 to Step 3, and the Consultation agreed that many development projects had failed because they did not recognise the constraints present at the different steps of development. The constraints themselves (shown in Table 10.2) show the need for awareness raising in the farmers to recognise the needs of their poultry for regular watering and feeding, cleaning of the poultry night house and care of the young chicks. The Consultation recommended that the first critical step for rural poultry development is the encouragement and support of farmers to change their traditional system. Taking into consideration the chronic shortages of personnel and transport affecting extension services in the developing countries, the Consultation emphasized the importance of selecting pilot farms to serve as models as they can have a multiplier effect on the neighbouring farms and villages.

Perhaps because of the variety of understandings of rural poultry development, many of the methods suggested seem more suited to the development of small units of intensive poultry production. The methods reflect the procedures required for transfer of new technology or total replacement of existing practices. For instance, incentives were required to encourage farmers to participate in the programmes, perhaps indicating that the programmes were not consistent with the priorities of the farmers. Selection of farmers was also identified as a major factor in determining the success or failure of a development programme. Incentives can often lead to the selection of farmers not genuinely interested in poultry production. To ensure the selection of authentic candidates, the following procedure was recommended:

The pilot farm method risks failure if a large amount of foreign input (such as equipment and construction materials) is needed to establish it because neighbouring farms can become discouraged by the fact that they are unable to procure the same equipment.

Table 10.2 Technical constraints and training requirements for family poultry development


Training Measures required

Disease risk

Advice on sanitation and health; training vaccinators.


Advice on predator control.


Advice on improved poultry housing.

Feed and water

Advice on locally available feed ingredients and their combinations; making of feeders and drinkers; regular provision of feed and water.

Genetic potential

Introduction of improved indigenous (and if necessary, exotic) breeds and advice on special management.


Advice on egg handling and storage, and training of farmers in group management and marketing.

Source: Bessei, 1987

In order to be effective in the process of technology and information transfer, pilot farms should be charged with special duties, which bring them obligatorily in contact with the other poultry keepers. Pilot poultry farmers have been successfully trained in Bangladesh and Burkina Faso to vaccinate chickens and guinea fowls, respectively. Pilot farmers can also be used to provide improved lines or to raise pullets for distribution so that a number of farms in the surrounding area will be regularly served with inputs and information.

Attempts to by-pass the phases as described by Bessei (1987) usually fail, and it appears that the transitory phases (especially Steps 1 and 2 as described in Table 10.1) are important if the development is starting from the traditional scavenging system. It has been noted that even in successful poultry development programmes, the supply of feed and veterinary products often lags behind the increase in flock size, especially if it is organized by the government extension service. The use of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private entrepreneurs is a better alternative.

INFPD and the 1998 FAO e-conference

The International Network for Family Poultry Development (INFPD) started as the African Network for Rural Poultry Development (ANRPD), and was established during an international workshop on rural poultry development held in November 1989 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The name was changed to INFPD at a meeting that took place in M’Bour, Senegal, in December 1997 (Sonaiya, 2000). INFPD is mainly an information exchange network. One of its objectives is to encourage higher standards of research and development that can sustainably increase the productivity of the FP subsector. This is achieved through providing advice and collecting data and detailed information about FP production systems. Information is disseminated through a trilingual (English, French and Spanish) newsletter, produced twice yearly and distributed electronically (with a printed version for members without email facilities) with the assistance of FAO.

In December 1998, FAO held the first INFPD/FAO electronic conference on FP, which proved so popular and interactive that it was extended until July 1999. The introductory paper to this conference addressed the issue of research and development options for FP (Sonaiya e. al., 1999). The layout of this important introductory paper was:

All papers, comments and discussions are available on the FAO/INFPD website. The constraints and issues facing FP that were recognized by the e-conference are:


Newcastle disease (ND) constitutes the most serious epizootic poultry disease in 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. Several recent surveys in Africa showed high rates of seropositivity in the absence of vaccination. In developing countries, ND occurs every year and kills an average of 70 to 80 percent of the unvaccinated village hens (Branckaert et al., 2000). It is very difficult to organize vaccination campaigns covering free-range birds. The main constraints are:

Diseases make poultry production a risky venture. FP producers using the free-range extensive system acknowledge this risk, and reduce its impact on the household economy by having small flocks. ND is a major disease problem for all FP producers wherever the disease exists. Vaccination of the flock against ND is very important and provides a basis for further development.

It is worth repeating that the reluctance of farmers to invest in poultry production is not due to a lack of resources but to the risk of disease outbreaks and mortality. Killer diseases like ND regularly decimate village flocks. In traditional farming systems, farmers often live close to the survival limit, so they naturally avoid risks. Minimizing risk ranks higher than increasing output. A key component of FP development is the control of the most important diseases. Regular vaccination is a prerequisite for any improvement in FP production.

Although the control of ND is the key constraint, there are other disease constraints, which rise in importance as soon as higher-ranking constraints are eliminated. Many poultry development projects have failed because only one constraint was tackled or, when more than one constraint was considered, the importance of other problems was poorly understood. Many projects concentrated either on disease control or on genetic improvement. There is no doubt that vaccination reduces mortality, but in one particular project, in certain periods, mortality due to predation was as high as 70 percent and the effect of vaccination was further negated by a secondary constraint of poor housing (Bourzat and Saunders, 1987). Generally, the costs of an isolated vaccination campaign cannot be justified unless actions to improve housing and feeding are also taken.


Predators such as snakes, rats, dogs, cats, foxes, racoons and birds of prey represent the main causes of predator losses, especially in young birds. Human beings can also represent another important predator for adult birds. Proper shelter should be constructed using locally available materials, and predators should be trapped, hunted or repelled by specific plants (Branckaert e. al., 2000). For example, in Nigeria, sliced garlic (Allium sativum) is placed around poultry houses to repel snakes.

Analysis of mortality in FP flocks in Thailand (Thitisak, 1992) showed that the first four months of life are critical for the growing chicks. The mortality of chicks during this period often rose to 60 percent (Matthewman, 1977) even in flocks vaccinated for ND. In Africa, while various other diseases such as Salmonellosis or coccidiosis affected the chicks during the first two months of age (Chabeuf, 1990), the most important cause of mortality between two and four months of age was predation, by dogs, cats, hawks and snakes, which caused up to 70 percent mortality (Bourzat and Saunders, 1987). Overnight housing is an important way to reduce this loss, and can utilize locally available materials of reasonable cost.


Feed is also an input of major concern and the supply of adequate feed supplement is critical. The nutrient intake of scavenging birds varies from place to place according to the seasons, the crops grown and the natural vegetation available. In field experiments, feed supplements, including household waste (cooked potatoes, yams or cassava tubers), and oilseed cakes, have a positive effect on egg production and body weight of scavenging birds.

Careful attention should be given to ensuring adequate feed resources. Feed represents 60 to 80 percent of the input cost in the intensive commercial poultry sector. In Low Income, Food-Deficient Countries (LIFDCs), a 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 (Branckaert. et al., 2000).

Full ad libitum feeding of a balanced ration is essential for poultry intensively managed in confinement, even on a small scale. The usual recommendation is for commercially manufactured feed, but many farmers find it too costly and not in regular supply. The by-products of processing of local crops (brans, and oil and seed cakes) can be used as both energy and protein sources (see Chapter 3 “Feed Resources”) but on their own cannot make a balanced ration. More research is needed on local feed resources as sources of trace elements, minerals and vitamins, especially from leaves, fruits, algae, fungi and other available materials. However, even with this knowledge, the skills of a well-equipped and experienced nutritionist are needed to formulate least-cost balanced rations.

Breeding (genetic potential)

Indigenous or local breeds are generally raised in FP production systems. These birds are exposed to natural selection from the environment for hardiness, running and flight skills, but not for egg production. Hens are thus poor layers, but good mothers (except for guinea hens). When farmers contemplate the adoption of 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:

Genetic improvement has been considered a high priority in poultry development projects. Usually vaccination programmes are carried out during genetic upgrading programmes, but feed supply to the improved birds has not received sufficient attention. Thus it has not been possible to exploit the superior genetic potential of the improved birds.


Poultry products in most developing countries, especially in Africa, are still expensive. The marketing system is generally informal and poorly developed. Unlike eggs and meat from commercial hybrid birds (derived from imported stock), local 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 greater purchasing power live in and around cities, intensification of poultry production should be initiated in peri-urban areas or, at least, in areas having a good road network (Branckaert et al., 2000).

Traditional dealers and middlemen, who collect eggs and birds from the villages, facilitate the marketing of FP products in most developing countries. Such traditional marketing structures are often overlooked, bypassed or criticised. There has been a regrettable tendency in some countries to use government extension services or parastatals to market family poultry products. This practice should be discouraged as it is not sustainable.

Farmer organizations

Organizing FP farmers is not an easy task, for several reasons. Flock sizes are small and birds are maintained with minimal land, labour and capital inputs. Thus farmers generally consider FP a secondary activity compared with other agricultural activities. Nevertheless, it is essential to develop producer groups, which give members easier access to essential inputs (such as feed, improved breeds, medicine, vaccines and technical advice) and to credit, training, transportation and the marketing of poultry products. Producer groups also encourage more educated people to initiate FP farming as a secondary activity (conducted at the family level using medium-sized flocks), as well as facilitating the development of associated activities such as market gardening, which can utilize poultry manure and help to reduce or remove household waste and pests (Branckaert et al., 2000).

Farmers should be allowed to develop the market structures most suitable for them. Often women’s groups prove to be effective in marketing eggs along with other products at local markets. Such groups should be encouraged and supported if they exist, but their establishment solely for FP may be unnecessary and unviable.

In a case study in the region of Niamey, Niger (Kobling, 1989), it was shown that smallholdings (less than 20 hens) of layers, which were situated beyond 2.5 km from a main paved road, could supply eggs and meat to the city market at competitive prices. Villages much farther from the main routes could supply live birds competitively but not eggs. Eggs are not an important food item at the village level, as it is a relatively high-priced protein food, and thus marketing may require cooperative efforts by producers to transport eggs to larger towns. Possibilities for this include using existing commercial trading channels or opening new channels such as those through producer associations, cooperatives, women’s groups or young farmer associations. The establishment of specialized poultry production cooperatives has proved difficult in many places, and socio-economic factors play an important part in this.

Training and management

As was emphasized at the beginning of this chapter by Bessei (1987), technical skills need to be considered at both farmer and extension officer levels. Training is essential in the areas of disease control, housing, equipment, feeding, genetic improvement and marketing. A basic knowledge of specific features of poultry anatomy and physiology is also important, to provide a basis for understanding 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, such as feeders and drinkers (Branckaert et al., 2000).


Genetic upgrading

This was the earliest and most commonly favoured FP development strategy, and has been adopted and supported by many donors from the 1960s onwards. It has usually involved substantial investment in government infrastructure (in terms of establishing farms and buildings to multiply stock numbers), and less investment in training village farmers or developing distribution networks for vaccine and medicine. The Cockerel Exchange Programme (CEP) represented the traditional approach, in which cockerels from exotic strains were reared up to 15 to 20 weeks of age, usually in government poultry farms, and then exchanged with local cockerels owned by FP households, which kept small flocks and were requested to remove or exchange all local cockerels. In addition, sometimes the flocks of the farmers (or of the whole village), were vaccinated against ND, and the farmers were given advice on poultry feeding and housing.

In the Machakos district of Kenya, an evaluation by Ballard (1985, as cited in Mbugua, 1990) of the performance of hens upgraded through a CEP in 1977 (using a layer hybrid strain cockerel) showed an increase in egg production of about 30 eggs per hen in a flock of nine hens and one cock (Table 10.3).

Table 10.3 Production increase per hen of a nine-hen flock in Kenya

Per hen, per year

Local hens (before)

Improved hens (after)

Eggs per hen



Eggs for consumption and sale



Eggs for hatching



Chicks hatched



Birds for consumption and sale



Source: Ballard, 1985 (as cited in Mbuga, 1990)

The CEP method is criticised mainly because the raising of cockerels in government farms is costly, and exposure of the intensively raised cockerels to village conditions leads to considerable adaptation problems with resulting mortalities of 50 percent or more. Also, local cockerels are not always removed, as the farmer (quite rightly in many cases) distrusts the survival and mating ability of the exotic cockerel. The presence of the local cocks reduces the effectiveness of the attempt at genetic improvement, as they are easily able to compete for the favours of the local hens against the exotic breed cocks.

In view of the problems of the CEP, other methods have been developed, including the distribution of chicks, pullets and hatching eggs of improved breeds. A comparison of the relative efficiency of these upgrading methods (ter Horst, 1987), based on the number of “improved” day-old chicks produced in the village over three years, showed that the distribution of hatching eggs was the most cost-effective method (as shown in Table 10.4 below).

Table 10.4 Efficiency of strategies for improving poultry production


Percent increase

Distribution of pullets


Exchange of cockerels


Distribution of day-old chicks


Distribution of hatching eggs


Source: ter Horst, 1987.

In operation, hatching eggs of selected lines are sold to families raising poultry. Local broody hens hatch the eggs. The chicks are raised by the hens and adapt easily to the environment. The distribution of hatching eggs is thus the least costly and most efficient method of genetic upgrading. This method has the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of distributing hatching eggs:

Disadvantages of distributing hatching eggs:

The words that follow come from a prominent Nigerian livestock expert, (Suleiman, 1990), but they reflect the growing appreciation of the genetic and environmental resources placed in the care of all people of all countries: “Perhaps the time has come for us to redefine the ideology for the development of African agriculture and indeed the entire economy. African agricultural ideology appears to be based on the premise that the genetic resources indigenous to the continent are inferior to those found elsewhere and as such they must be replaced or diluted to a large extent by genetic materials foreign to the continent. Similarly, we have viewed our environment as hostile and, in fact, a direct threat to our existence. These postures have prevented us from capitalising on the strengths of our genetic and environmental resource endowments. We must move from a position of emphasizing the weaknesses of our resource endowments to one of amplifying their positive aspects, while seeking to overcome the weaknesses inherent in them.”


Protection against Newcastle Disease requires three vaccinations during the six-month growing phase of pullets and cockerels. Depending on local conditions, between two and three vaccinations per year are needed for adult birds. Because of the limited resources of government veterinary services, it is necessary to build networks of private veterinarians, veterinary assistants and vaccinators to provide preventive veterinary care in remote rural areas, and to ensure a reliable supply of vaccines (with a cold chain for the storage and distribution of conventional vaccines). In Bangladesh, the Department of Livestock Services established such a cold chain from the vaccine production laboratory to the village level in 1984. Within three years, 4 500 poultry farmers (especially women) were trained as village poultry vaccinators. The full cost of vaccination was charged to poultry producers in order to sustain the full cost of vaccine production and distribution. When it is possible to extend this fee to partly cover an extension service, it can result in the creation of a partly privatised poultry extension service. Such a system, financed by vaccination fees and the sale of exotic birds to farmers, was established in Sao Tome and Principe.

Strategy combinations

A combined approach, including vaccination against ND, the provision of a regular water supply and feed supplements (household waste) and special care for the young chicks during the first weeks of life (for example, through improved night shelters and creep feeders), increases the number of eggs laid by about 100 percent as well as increasing the number of chickens raised per hen/year to between 10 and 12.

The introduction of genetic improvement, in combination with further improvement in feeding (compound feed), housing (semi-confinement) and health (full vaccination and anti-parasites), will again increase egg production by approximately 50 percent and egg weight by 60 percent.


Some countries have had successes in developing FP systems. In Egypt, the Fayoumi District Cooperative has raised the productivity and incomes of village FP producers. It distributes improved Fayoumi local birds and produces supplementary feed at its own feed mill using mostly local ingredients. It also assists farmers in marketing their eggs and birds.

In Malaysia, small flocks of poultry are fed on “Domestic Feed”, a reduced-price feed marketed by feed millers with a lower “nutrient density” (balanced for all nutrients, but lower in energy because of the inclusion of low-energy ingredients such as rice or wheat bran) than commercial broiler diets. In 1986, village egg and poultry meat production in Malaysia was estimated at 150 million eggs and 17,000 tonnes of meat, accounting for five percent of total egg production and seven percent of total poultry meat. Due to a high demand for village poultry meat, some of the backyard village poultry flocks have evolved into relatively large-scale commercial village chicken producers. Some of these farms rear between 2 000 and 15 000 young stock, which are then sold for growing under the traditional extensive system.

In Uganda, duck meat production rose from 600 to 3,500 tonnes in the 12 years between 1980 and 1992. This was achieved by improving health care in the traditional small-scale FP units, with the result that average mortality decreased from over 40 percent in 1980 to less than eight percent in 1994 (Country Profile 1994).

The Bangladesh model (FAO e-conference 2002) and research topics

In Bangladesh, there has been a significant effort over the past 20 years to develop the FP system. The Bangladesh model was the subject of the second FAO/INFPD electronic conference on FP “The Bangladesh model and other experiences in FP development”, which was held in May-July 2002. All papers, comments and discussions were compiled and presented on the FAO/INFPD website ( within two months of the conference conclusion.

What was not covered in the e-conference about the Bangladesh situation was more detail on their views on research priorities and what progress they have made. Bangladesh determined five areas for research potential in FP:

These are close to the same categories outlined above under the Technical Constraints section. Under the above five headings, the Bangladesh Department of Livestock Services poultry research committee suggested protocol outlines for research proposals in FP (those marked below with an asterisk were regarded as being of top priority as of October 2000), under the Bangladesh government’s poultry model FP improvement programme, which is currently (1998-2005) aided by the Asian Development Bank and Danida in two ongoing overlapping projects.

The protocol outlines were intended as guidance for formulating detailed research proposals or study proposals for post-graduate degrees or activities of research institutions or NGOs. The protocol outlines are detailed below:




Marketing and Socio-economics

Management and production

Bangladesh model - research in progress

A report on results (completed in mid-2002) from the field-based part of the M.Sc. students’ research related to the production and health of rural scavenging poultry in Bangladesh was produced (Permin, 2002) by Danida’s Network for Smallholder Poultry Development (NSP) for an INFPD workshop held in Bangladesh in November 2002. Eight post-graduate veterinary and animal production graduates (with field experience in government service in Bangladesh) conducted FP field research (under the Danida and AsDB-assisted PLDP project) towards their M.Sc. (from KVL, Denmark), in the 10-month period from July 2001, in cooperation with the:

This effort represents the first time that animal scientists and veterinarians have worked together on solving problems directly related to rural poultry production under the difficult logistic conditions in the northwestern districts of Bangladesh covered by PLDP. It is also the first time that problems identified in the field by Danida-supported livestock projects (PLDP and SLDP) in Bangladesh have been fed back to the educational system in Denmark, creating the basis for a new M.Sc. course in rural poultry production and health, supported by a number of research and educational institutions in Denmark and hosted by the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen. It is envisaged that the results will be passed on to responsible parties in government and NGOs working on rural development in Bangladesh, thereby enabling an adjustment of the present activities to the ultimate beneficiaries, the poor farmers.

The eight research projects covered a range of important problems relating to scavenging and semi-scavenging poultry production in Bangladesh, notably relating to disease and production aspects. The following list of the eight M.Sc. research project titles is not presented in order of importance, but in connected areas of relevance.

The Malawi model

Based on a Danida-sponsored study tour to Bangladesh in 2000 (Chinombo et al., 2001), the Malawi Department of Animal Health and Industry learned that the Bangladesh smallholder poultry model is designed as an integrated system to provide the necessary supplies and services to establish an enabling environment for sustainable smallholder FP semi-scavenging production. The FP model consisted of smallholder farmers with small flocks of hens supported by a number of enterprises, all available in the village, to provide inputs and services needed to maintain these flocks. NGO-initiated and motivated farmer groups supported the model. Awareness programmes, training and access to micro-credit was provided to the beneficiaries, the majority of whom were women.

The sustainability of the Bangladesh model relies on a unique implementing organizational structure, involving groups of FP smallholder women farmers, micro-credit, NGOs and government institutions. The study team suggested to their government that the model be replicated in Malawi, with appropriate modification to suit prevailing conditions. For example, Malawi has a much lower population density than Bangladesh and a less developed NGO infrastructure. It was therefore recommended that the Bangladesh model, comprising eight income-generating elements, should be simplified. Results from the Malawi situation analysis (participatory rural appraisal) in the Danida project area showed that the poorest of the poor did indeed exist in the pilot area. By using the criteria of the farmer’s perspective, it was found that 37 percent of all households belonged to this poorest segment. It was also found that female-headed households constituted 60 percent of the poorest segment. The analysis further revealed that poultry keeping has a high preference as an income-generating activity, in fact the highest among all livestock categories. The relative status of the importance of different types of livestock was ranked as: sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and chicken.

The Danida-ENRECA experience in Africa

The abbreviation ENRECA is derived from the Danida objective for the EN-hancement of RE-search CA-pacity in Developing Countries. This is a programme concept of Danida’s (Danida-KVL, 2002) in Africa, and involves one poultry project in the United Republic of Tanzania. The immediate aims of the ENRECA programme are to strengthen:

There are other new FP projects planned for student thesis work in the areas of:

Initial results from Enreca’s Phase 1 (1996-99) in the United Republic of Tanzania are available on the web site <> for the project: “Improving the health and productivity of the rural chicken in Africa”, which has formed the basis on which priorities were laid out for a second phase of the project. In terms of collaborative research, the objectives of Phase 2 of the project are to:

Phase 2 of the project is focused on obtaining knowledge of optimal management conditions for FP rural chicken production in Africa. In continuation of this, a Phase 3 will be proposed within three years, to focus on promoting better poultry management practices and disease control, specifically Newcastle Disease control at the village level and on a wider scale (whole districts rather than just a few villages). In addition, and most importantly, Phase 3 will focus on developing village cooperative societies, modelled on the Livestock and Poultry development projects in Bangladesh. In phase 3, models for establishing such cooperatives will be tested in the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Kenya, in collaboration with government extension staff and scientists from agricultural, veterinary and social sciences. The farmer cooperatives will have farmers and farmer groups specialized in four production areas:


The achievement of FP development objectives requires a concerted effort, incorporating research, development and training. A coherent strategy should emphasize, but not be limited to, the following:

In many developing countries, only commercial small-scale intensive (broiler and layer) chicken production is part of the agriculture curriculum in schools. FP chicken production and the production of other poultry species are not considered at any level. For the development of FP production, it is important that this subject be included in the regular education and training schemes of agricultural generalists, as well as livestock and poultry specialists. It is also important that more research on the problems of FP producers be initiated, as this is a precondition for the successful development of FP production. Poultry and livestock specialists in Low Income, Food-Deficient Countries (LIFDCs) must come to accept that the family poultry system is of significant economic and social importance to their countries and is worthy of coordination, examination, intervention and development.

In the past, too much emphasis was given to the development of an autonomous poultry extension system, while the links between poultry production and other agricultural services were neglected. Even if the specialized poultry extension system is well organized and working effectively, its impact on the very large number of smallholder FP keepers (particularly in rural areas) will be very low. This is because government budgets can provide for only a few poultry extension specialists. It is therefore necessary to establish links between poultry specialists and established institutions such as general agricultural extension services, veterinary services, agricultural colleges and NGO services. It is important to revise the strategies and activities of existing poultry farms and stations, so that a considerable part of their capacity is devoted to indirect extension through general extension services.

A study of agricultural training and educational institutions in Africa (FAO, 1984) showed that livestock training facilities were mainly concentrated in North Africa and some West African countries. This means that some African countries do not have the institutional capacity to meet their manpower needs for livestock research, extension and development. It is important that national training institutions be strengthened through utilizing the manpower and training facilities available in other countries. The inauguration of a Regional Poultry Training Programme is an example of such cooperation. The international FP development programme of Danida’s Network for Smallholder Poultry Development (NSP) is commendable in its scope, and is committed to the education and training of national scientists and experts in the field. The Fellowships and Networks section later in this chapter presents more details on the NSP foundation, structure, objectives and activities.

Transfer technology (extension) methodologies

Transfer technology (extension) methodologies (Branckaert et al., 2000) should include a communication strategy for Small livestock Projects for a Food Production (SPFP) framework. A strategy is a systematic process which takes into account the project objectives, the results to be achieved and the technical activities to be carried out. In a participatory planning strategy, it is necessary to identify the needs of the stakeholders and target groups, in order to:

A good extension methodology should include a systematic, rational and pragmatic approach to planning, implementing, managing, monitoring, and evaluating effective technology transfer to farmers. An information and extension programme such as the Strategic Extension Campaign (SEC) fits these criteria. FAO’s Research, Extension and Training Division (SDR), has recommended this SEC package to AGA for the needs of FP extension. The methodology emphasises the importance of people's participation in strategic planning and systematic management and implementation of information, extension and training programmes. Its training and extension strategies and messages are especially developed from the results of a participatory problem identification process regarding the causes or reasons for non-adoption, or inappropriate practices, of a given recommended technology or innovation.

SEC activities are geared to narrowing the gaps between existing and desired knowledge, attitudes, and appropriate practice levels of the target beneficiaries regarding the technology recommendations. The SEC programme is carried out over a relatively short time period, and aimed at increasing the awareness and knowledge level of target beneficiaries and altering their attitudes and behaviour so as to encourage a favourable adoption of given ideas or sustainable technologies. It follows a systems-approach, which starts with a survey of the target public's Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (a KAP survey), the results of which are used as planning inputs and benchmark baselines for evaluation purposes.

For more detail on how to identify the problems to be faced and overcome in using the SEC (Strategic Extension Campaign) approach, the reader is referred the full text of the paper (Branckaert et al., 2000).

Target populations

The primary target beneficiaries should be the poorest households, women (in particular widows and female-headed households), the disabled (often as a result of civil conflict), women's groups and schools.


Rural women carry out a fundamental role in agricultural production, rural development and food security. FAO studies and statistics show that women produce between 60 and 80 percent of food in Africa and Asia and approximately 40 percent in Latin America. In many regions, women are also responsible for the management of small livestock, including reproduction. An appropriate approach to working with women and poultry will not only boost productivity and reduce work time, workload and strain, but also promote the transfer of appropriate technology knowledge, tools and skills.

Numerous disparities persist regarding the participation of rural women in poultry production. Undoubtedly they face greater difficulties than men with regard to access to input resources (such as land and credit, among others) and to services designed to increase productivity, for example, research, technology transfer and extension services. Training programmes for women should be planned taking into account their socio-cultural traditions and their high illiteracy rate. In many regions, such programmes should also consider the training of women as extension workers, in order to effectively reach this important target audience.


During FAO World Food Day (1999), the theme “Youth against hunger” was given considerable attention, together with the significant role that youth can play in food security. An important message from this event is that given adequate training, education and support, young people can become active partners in helping to meet the World Food Summit goals of halving the number of the hungry by the year 2015.

In terms of technology transfer, many government agricultural extension services include rural youth programming as an integral part of their overall work to help women, men and young farmers apply new practices. An even larger number of NGOs, through extension-type programmes, work to assist youth audiences in the use of improved agricultural technology.

Some of the features of rural youth programmes that make them particularly valuable include their ability to successfully promote the application of technology, such as poultry production, to improve agricultural production on a sustainable basis. Experience has shown that young people are usually more open to new ideas and practices than adult farmers. Most programmes also focus on the start-up of agricultural and rural-based non-agricultural income-generating activities. Any attempt to enhance the knowledge, skills and experience of young people, and increase their access to resources through rural youth programmes, will have an immediate impact on food security.

Rural youth programming, as a technology transfer mechanism, has the potential to overcome some of the major constraints related to expanding FP production in developing countries mentioned earlier in this paper, such as training, management, group organization, disease control, feeding, genetic improvement and protection against predators.

There are already some experiences in developing countries related to the training and education of rural young people in the area of poultry, that, if supported more fully and expanded to other countries, could contribute significantly to more efficient and effective egg and meat production.

Through community-based non-formal educational programming, rural youth gain the necessary knowledge, skills and experiences enabling them to be productive today, as well as to become better farmers for the future. It is essential for farmers to have some knowledge of basic agricultural science related to their daily work. Without this knowledge, the technology often manipulates farmers, often forcing them to act in ways they do not understand, which can be a severe hindrance to effective technology transfer.

Individual and group poultry project activities have been a part of youth programming in some countries for many years. There are two primary ways of reaching young people in rural areas. One is through community-based rural youth programmes, which target out-of-school rural young people. The other is using the rural schools by incorporating agricultural topics as an integral part of the regular curriculum or as extracurricular activities.

Basic poultry science is easily adapted to either community-based groups or school programmes. The most effective way to work with youth in a practical way, either in the community or the schools, is through non-formal education methodology using a hands-on, experiential approach to learning. Community youth members learn such things as basic poultry anatomy and physiology through structured group learning activities and then apply the knowledge to practical experiences, planning and carrying out individual and group small-scale poultry projects.

Where proper facilities are available, small-scale poultry projects can be carried out on the school grounds. Students can learn first-hand many of the practical aspects of raising chickens. The study of embryology by hatching chicken eggs is particularly well suited to the classroom. Much can be learned by students from the incubation and hatching of chicken eggs. Experience around the world has shown that this activity generates much interest and excitement among young people as they anxiously wait 21 days for the eggs to hatch.

One of the constraints to expanded FP production in developing countries is the difficulty of helping farmers organize themselves into groups and associations. This is not a problem where farmers as youth had the experience of being a member of a community or school agricultural club. Belonging to a formal group offers the young person experiences of democratic action with elected officers and structured decision-making. The communication and leadership skills gained enable youth to make immediate contributions to their communities. These skills also help them accept formal and informal leadership roles in community and farmers’ organizations as adults.

Through school and community-based rural youth programmes dealing with FP production, youth learn and practice knowledge and skills related to sanitation, vaccination, housing construction using low-cost naturally available materials, predator control, adequate nutrition, improved breeds of chickens and alternative marketing strategies.

As a mechanism for technology transfer, youth programmers, when given adequate support, can make a significant contribution to expanding FP production in developing countries. Young people learn basic principles and sound practices of raising poultry through practical, hands-on projects and activities, enabling them to successfully start and maintain a small enterprise in an efficient and effective manner, thus contributing to food security.

Disabled - handicapped

During the past decades in many developing countries, civil wars, international conflicts and the dissemination of mines (with their terrible consequences), along with the propagation of handicapping diseases and the increase in traffic accidents, have been responsible for a considerable increase in the number of disabled persons.

For the disabled, FP raising represents a valuable occupation, providing excellent revenue and enabling them to rejoin the social community. Many disabled persons are literate and can thus easily be approached and trained.

Rural workers

Whatever their gender or age, livestock vaccinators, extension workers and rural development agents need some basic socio-cultural information in order to improve their impact in technology transfer.

The vaccinator needs to know the reasons for the non-adoption of the technology and must be prepared to provide the farmer with a relevant demonstration or explanation. The extension worker should develop extension and training programmes according to the farmer's knowledge and information need. Finally, the development agent should be able to explain the positive advantages for the rural community in having members develop income-generating activities. Specific training programmes and teaching materials, using appropriate media, should be produced to cover these requirements.


In anticipation of development assistance under the Special Programme For Food Security (SPFS), FAO provided guidelines for FP field surveys and research (Mack, 1998). Any research or Participatory Rural Appraisal undertaken for FP should ensure that the following list is consulted regarding data collection:

Sources of information

Sources for this data could include livestock and agricultural census figures and Veterinary Department records, including:

Veterinary Departments should have information on the major epizootic and parasitic diseases that occur in a country, and increasingly there are sections dealing with epidemiology. The Ministry of Agriculture, poultry research institutes and parastatal organizations are sources of information on the technology available, past development experience and the supply of breeding stock, usually from state farms.

Another information source is FAO country production data, which is based on government-submitted information and locally undertaken household surveys or Participatory Rural Appraisals. Other sources include universities, nutrition and home economic departments, the Agricultural Census Office, NGOs and bilateral agencies.

National crop data allows for the use of conversion factors to estimate the supply of agro-industrial by-products and broken grains. Availability is always a concern as these products have many alternative demands, and cost is an important factor. Reports on availability of non-conventional feeds often indicate these alternative uses. Import statistics can give an indication of the level of self-sufficiency for the major animal food products, including eggs and poultry meat. Government household surveys, agricultural census data and local rural appraisal surveys may also provide information on levels of household consumption. If a commercial stock-feed sector exists, they may provide additional information on:


Many agricultural policy-makers (including livestock specialists) believe that the smallholder poultry system should be considered only as a means of subsistence, and as such needs no coordination, examination, intervention or development. Such notions must be challenged and changed.

Since FAO’s first technical assistance project (BGD/79/003) for FP in Bangladesh in 1979, FAO (AGA) has identified, formulated, backstopped and monitored (with the financial assistance of UNDP and the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme [TCP]), many projects supporting FP development activities. The countries involved have included Bangladesh, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Honduras, Maldives, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Turkey, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

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 as a major activity of the SPFS diversification component.

The SPFS presently covers 40 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is rapidly expanding, with more than 60 countries expected to join it during the next few years. The collaboration between SPFS and INFPD will grow simultaneously. The development of South-South cooperation in the field of rural FP is encouraged through the use of Technical Cooperation between Developing Countries (TCDC) experts. Since 1997, important support has also been provided by FAO’s Telefood programme. Up to US$10 000/group has been distributed for small-scale FP projects in several countries (Branckaert et al., 2000).

Productivity objectives

What is required to maximize the productivity of family poultry production systems? First, the whole web of interdependent factors affecting the overall activities of the family farming system, along with their advantages and constraints, must be fully understood. It is certain that village production will continue as long as there are villages, but various aspects of the production system need to be carefully modified. For example, it is now known that vaccination against Newcastle Disease can improve chick survival rate from 30 up to 70 percent; simple housing and other predator protection is required for chicks and young growers; supplementary feeds are important; and other poultry species such as ducks, guinea fowls, pigeons and quails need to be considered.

FP is a vehicle for rural development, income-generation and nutritional enhancement. It is clear that the presence of flourishing industrial peri-urban poultry farms does not negate the need for a parallel FP system in rural areas. Priority must be placed on the development of appropriate technologies, the provision of extension services, farmer training, input and output transportation, markets and credit supply.

It is not appropriate to concentrate entirely on boosting food production at all costs without concern for who produces the food and with what type of management system. FP systems reflect the need to increase job opportunities, stimulate the development of associated non-farming, rural activities and generate benefits that accrue equally to all segments of society, urban as well as rural.

Fellowships and networks

Development is an ongoing process that requires feedback and constant interaction between operators and the knowledge network, both local and international. The restructuring of the agricultural and livestock extension system towards this approach is an important strategy in poultry development. FAO’s Travelling or Visiting Fellowships and regular consultations on poultry development are other examples.


The International Network for Family Poultry Development (INFPD), which is supported by FAO, can play a useful role in this regard by promoting:

The role of the INFPD was expanded from its African focus in 1997, and in December of that year, the first international workshop “Issues in Family Poultry Development Research: Current Concepts in Family Poultry Development Research” was held in M’Bour, Senegal. Proceedings of the workshop (Sonaiya 2000) are also available at:

Danida’s Poultry Network

Danida’s “Danish Network for Poultry Production and Health in Developing Countries” was established as a concept in Denmark in 1997 and then renamed the “Network for Smallholder Poultry Development” (NSP) when it became operational in August 1999. The objective of the NSP is “poverty alleviation and improved welfare of the moderate and extreme poor in rural areas”. To achieve this, the overall scope of work for the NSP coordination unit is to initiate and coordinate resource bases related to village poultry production in the Danida programme countries (and in Denmark) and to build institutional capacity to implement poultry projects. The coordination unit will promote and carry out research, education and planning of projects, based on experience with the FP smallholder concept in Bangladesh and other countries. This will ensure that necessary education, training, and research will be integrated into the Danida development sector programmes or funded as independent activities. The coordination unit assists in fund-raising for these activities from Danish and international sources. Further information can be found on the website: <>

Socio-economic objectives

To develop effective strategies for family poultry development, some inefficient aspects of traditional production must be replaced by more suitable methods. The main socio-economic objectives of FP development should be to:

Development strategies

The overall aims of development are to reduce poverty and improve income and nutrition. To develop effective strategies for FP development, traditional but inefficient methods of production must be replaced by more suitable measures. The main objectives of such strategies should be:

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