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Chapter 3
Field study


Four African countries, Ethiopia, the Gambia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe (Figure 5) were selected for the field study. These countries were selected on the basis of their earlier involvement in rural poultry improvement programmes supported by FAO. Field visits in the present study were centred on the villages involved in the FAO programmes. In the Gambia, additional visits were made to villages involved in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) women-in-development (WID) project GAM/91/002, “Improving extension services for women”. Results from the present study were used to describe the village chicken production systems in the different countries. Although some comparative views are given, further interpretation should reflect the country differences in structural conditions, rural development objectives and strategies (Table 7).


Field data were collected during short missions to the four countries (Annex 2). In Ethiopia, the Gambia and the United Republic of Tanzania, data were collected through informal interviews with key informants, national researchers, extensionists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on rural development and farmer interviews in selected villages.

The case study countries


The villages were selected by scientists in the host country, mainly on the basis of actual participation in rural poultry improvement programmes.

Participatory rapid appraisal techniques (Paris, 1994) were used to collect gender disaggregated data on ownership pattern, division of labour and decision-making in village chicken management aspects using the guidelines shown in Annex 3. Hen production data, based on hen history, were collected in individual household surveys (Annex 4). In the United Republic of Tanzania, a market survey was conducted using the guidelines shown in Annex 5, to collect information on village chicken marketing and the participation of the different gender categories.

In Zimbabwe, a structured questionnaire for collection of socio-economic data was designed and adapted by FAO project TCP/ZIM/4553, “Emergency assistance for the control of Newcastle disease in Zimbabwe” (Rushton, 1996b). With technical input by an FAO consultant, Dr Jonathan Rushton, the questionnaire format was modified to facilitate data management, which included on-the-spot crosschecking of data accuracy and data storage (Annex 6). Annexes 7 and 8 show guidelines for collecting cross-sectional data used in the Zimbabwe project. Initial plans for participation in field data collection in the Zimbabwe project were not realized because of delays in the start of the project.


The qualitative data collected were subjected to the process of data reduction to obtain an organized assembly of information which was stored in a spreadsheet program. The summarized information was classified and analysed using pie charts and histograms. Descriptive analysis was conducted on the hen production data collected from individual household surveys.

Logistical data
CountrySalient features of the national economy and rural development strategiesRural versus commercial poultry sectors
EthiopiaMajor changes in development strategies result from policy changes from an authoritarian monarchy to a state-controlled economy in 1974, then to a free market economy in 1991Rural poultry contributes over 90% of the national poultry production
 Agriculture accounts for over 50% of national economy, 20% of which from livestockCommercial poultry poorly developed
 Peasant and producer association introduced during the centrally planned economy period (1974–1991) 
 Rural poverty widespread 
GambiaSmallest country in AfricaPoultry does not feature much in the traditional livestock sector
 Migration in rural areas is common Less differentiation of institutions working for rural developmentRecent rural poultry improvement programmes spearheaded by WID initiatives
 Ratio of extension personnel to farm families is one of the highest 
 Livestock improvement accorded high priority by the government's Economic Recovery Programme 
United Republic of TanzaniaDevelopment strategies emphasized equity and participationOver 80% of national poultry is in the traditional sector
 1967–1972 dominated by centrally planned development, with formal village organizationsChickens common in most households
 Structural adjustment adopted in 1982 
 High income inequality and absolute poverty within and between villagesCommercial poultry poorly developed, no cold-chain system
ZimbabweDominated by industrial sector, contributing over 35% to GDPDominated by commercial poultry
 Major rural resettlement and reconstruction after end of colonial rule in 1980Rural poultry contributes 30% of total national poultry products
 Traditional and subsistence agriculture account for only 15% of GDP; over 90% of marketed products come from commercial farmsCommercial poultry cold-chain system reaches some of the growth points and service centres
 Rural development centred on growth points and service centres 
 Labour migration to commercial farms, mines and urban areas common 
 Income inequality, poverty and food insecurity common among communal households 


Breed and type characteristics

Among the case study countries, only Ethiopia had a village chicken breed intervention activity. The villages Dembi-1, Kurkara-1 and Kurkara-2 participated in the continuing rural development project TCP/ETH/4455, “Training in rural poultry development”. For this project, the pure RIR breed was introduced in the villages. Each participating household was given six RIR birds, three pullets and three cockerels, and these were mixed with the local flock. In the Gambia and the United Republic of Tanzania, there was no clear record of introduced exotic genes in the case study villages.

Although there was no distinct identification of the local chicken types, in all the case study countries identification was made on the basis of plumage colour. In Ethiopia, the local chickens were identified by plumage colour: black (Tikur), red (Kei), grey (Gebsima) and white (Netch).

In group interviews, farmers in the Dodoma region, the United Republic of Tanzania, said that there were marked differences in the type of chickens in the region. Naked-neck types were common and a local type known as Kuchi was described to be common in all of central United Republic of Tanzania. The history of the Kuchi could not be traced in the present study, but this type is known to be heavier than other local types.

Feeding and management systems

Table 8 shows the sites visited in the four countries and a description of the main features of the village chicken production systems. In Ethiopia, all the households visited had no separate housing for the chickens. However, within the family house there was an area marked for the chickens. In central United Republic of Tanzania, keeping chickens in the family house was common, but in Morogoro and Dar-es-Salaam, separate housing for chickens was common. In the Gambia and Zimbabwe, the use of separate houses for the chickens was more common than keeping the chickens in the family house.

Village chicken production: main features of flocks
CountryProvince/regions visitedNumber of households interviewedFlock size rangeHousingFeeding
EthiopiaAda'a Woreda, Eastern Shoa126–15Same as household membersScavenging and hand feeding of grains (wheat and barley)
GambiaWestern Division, West Bank Division, North Bank and Central River Division158–45Separate housingScavenging and homemade ration
United Republic of TanzaniaDar-es-Salaam, Dodoma and Morogoro246–130Same and separateScavenging, hand feeding of grains plus homemade ration (household ingredients and commercial feed)
ZimbabweMashonaland East and Masvingo172–38SeparateScavenging and hand feeding

The housing structures in the Gambia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe were similar. They were small and low and had very small outlets. Photos 1 and 2 illustrate traditional housing structures in the Gambia and improved communal housing with improved aeration and wider entrances for easy cleaning. The improved housing was developed as part of the Switzerland/UNDP project “Enhancing rural capacities through livestock development”. However, the small, low structures, also found in Zimbabwe and the United Republic of Tanzania, were associated with protection from theft. In Zimbabwe, the fowl run, which includes a fenced area for scavenging, was a common element of village chicken housing. However, not all village chicken structures in Zimbabwe had a fowl run.

Scavenging was the major feeding system in all case study countries. However, occasionally the chickens' food was supplemented with household refuse and grains (Photo 3). Preferential treatment, where chicks were fed separately, was reported in the case study countries, although the practice was not regular and the amount fed was not quantified. In the Gambia, farmers have been trained to improve feeding of the chickens using readily available ingredients. including oyster shells and fish bones. Use of termites was also mentioned by farmers in the Gambia. However, none of the households interviewed had the mixture at the time of the field visit.

Traditional poultry house in the Gambia


Table 9 shows the hen production data collected through the hen history interview from female farmers. In Ethiopia, the field visit coincided with the beginning of the rainy season, when incubation of laid eggs is not encouraged because there is poor hatching during this season. The farmers, therefore, use various techniques to prevent the hens from starting brooding. The methods used are based on distracting the hen from its normal pattern, such as changing its resting place. Various management techniques during brooding and rearing of chicks were reported along with the hen history data. This included selection of eggs for setting, preparation of nests, assisting with turning the eggs (particularly with big clutches) and introducing chicks to foster-mother hens known to have good mothering ability.

More data were available from the Gambia and the United Republic of Tanzania, probably because farmers visited in these two countries had bigger flocks and there was no seasonal hatching. The flocks were of varying ages, and during the interview the farmers were able to refer to the chicks or growers. In Ethiopia, the flocks had more mature stock and very few growers and chicks. This could account for the minimal information obtained in Ethiopia compared with the Gambia and the United Republic of Tanzania. In Ethiopia information given was for only one clutch per hen, whereas in the Gambia and the United Republic of Tanzania, the information was for 2.4 and 3.2 clutches per hen. Farmers interviewed in the Gambia had good recall of the hen history. This was attributed to their participation in the continuing rural poultry improvement programme.

Introduced improved house in the Gambia

Photo 2
Hen production data collected through individual household survey
CountryNumber of householdsNumber of hensClutches recorded per henEggs incubatedHatchabilityChick mortality
United Republic of Tanzania24452.415±2.878±2.232.5±10.6

The low chick mortality rates observed in the Gambia could be as a result of continuing livestock improvement interventions. Women farmers showed great interest in the project activities. In Ethiopia the high chick mortality was attributed to the problem of external parasites.

Marketing was mentioned as a major constraint in both the individual household and group interviews. None of the case study countries had organized marketing channels for chicken products. The chickens were sold live, both inside and outside the village. In Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania, farmers used the existing trading centres, predominantly open markets, to sell their chickens. In the Gambia, the WID programme arranged specific marketing days for the farmers to sell their chickens. In Zimbabwe, the chickens were sold at the household level or along the main roads.

Information collected from two markets in Ethiopia (Dukam and Debre Zeit) showed that the offtake of chickens and the sale of eggs were highly influenced by national festivals. Prices of the chickens ranged from 6 to 20 birr (Br) (about US$1 to $3), with the highest price being fetched during the festival. The sale of eggs was a common practice in Ethiopia, whereas in the United Republic of Tanzania and the Gambia, the sale of eggs in the markets was not common.

Tanzanian farmers had different marketing channels for the village chickens: direct purchase by intermediaries at the household level, weekly village markets and fortnightly livestock markets. The livestock markets involved a number of villages, and buyers included traders from town and city markets. Supply in the United Republic of Tanzania was reported to be influenced by the cropping season. The supply was higher after the harvest, which marked the beginning of the dry season, and lower at the end of the dry season. Prices of live chickens in the United Republic of Tanzania ranged from 1 300 shillings(T Sh) (approximately US$2) at village level to T Sh3 000 (approximately US$5) at the city markets. Prices in the United Republic of Tanzania were much lower at the household level (less than T Sh 1 000, i.e. approximately US$1.6), and it was reported that buyers in town and city centres hired youths to buy the chickens at the household level. However, the local chickens had a premium price compared with the broiler chickens in towns.

Hand feeding the chicken flock, Zimbabwe

photo 3

Buying and selling of village chicken products in Debre Zeit market, Ethiopia

photo 4

The sale of chickens and eggs in the village markets was undertaken by both men and women (Photo 4).

Health and disease control

Farmers interviewed in the case study countries indicated diseases, and specifically ND, as the major constraint in village chicken production. However, in Ethiopia, external parasites, mainly fleas, were the major constraint at the time of the field visit, probably because the chickens were vaccinated against ND. In the Gambia the farmers interviewed had all participated in an ND vaccination programme for their village chickens, but they still indicated ND as the main problem in the village chicken production system. In the United Republic of Tanzania, one village in the Dodoma region, Chibelela, participated in an ND control programme executed by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika with financial support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Discussion with government extension officers indicated that there is no routine or regular village chicken health programme in place in any of the case study countries. Poor veterinary infrastructure and inadequate veterinary support services were mentioned as the main problems. Zimbabwe probably has the best infrastructure for delivery of veterinary services. Each district has a diagnostic laboratory equipped with minimum facilities for vaccine and drug storage (Photo 5). The epidemiology unit of the Zimbabwe Central Veterinary Laboratory carries out the disease mapping and operates the Geographic Information System (GIS) in the country, and ND is one of the diseases covered. A map of ND outbreaks is produced on a quarterly basis for information and monitoring purposes (Figure 6).

Diagnostic laboratory at the Murewa District Veterinary Centre, Zimbabwe

Photo 5

The most recent interventions in the four countries have centred on ND control. In Ethiopia and the Gambia, an FAO-supported project, “Assistance to rural women in protecting their chicken flocks from Newcastle disease”, TCP/RAF/2376, was implemented in 1994 and 1995 (Rushton, 1996a). The project's main objective was to introduce and evaluate under African rural conditions the heat-tolerant V4 oral ND vaccine, which had proved effective in Southeast Asia. Another objective was to involve rural women in the implementation with the aim of poverty alleviation.

A number of reports on the TCP/RAF/2376 project were produced by national scientists and international consultants (Annex 9) and are available from the FAO Agriculture Department. In Ethiopia, wheat, maize and barley were selected for testing of their suitability as carriers for the vaccine, while in the Gambia, millet, unhusked rice, polished rice and cooked rice were tested. In the first year an increased level of protection from ND through oral vaccination with the heat-tolerant V4 vaccine ranging from 22 to 66 percent was reported (Palya, 1995). However, the results were not conclusive in the first year, and the project period was extended for another year to allow for more field trials.

The technical reports from project TCP/RAF/2376 in Ethiopia indicated that there were no conclusive results from the field trials on the effectiveness of the oral delivery of the vaccine in the field. Failure to obtain conclusive results was attributed to inadequate involvement of extension services and low farmer participation. Results from field trials were reported to be unreliable because the seromonitoring activity was not successful (G.Y. Mebratu, unpublished). However, positive results were reported from the laboratory vaccine trial (M. Yami, unpublished), which showed 100 percent protection levels for ocular-vaccinated birds and those given barley-based V4 vaccine. Lower protection levels were reported for maize (55 percent) and wheat (22 percent).

Example of the map produced quarterly by the Zimbabwe Central Veterinary Laboratory to monitor Newcastle disease outbreaks


In the Gambia, cooked rice was reported from on-station trials to produce the highest protection relative to unhusked rice and millet, while in field trials, unhusked rice gave the highest protection (B. Jaw, unpublished).

A spillover effect of the project TCP/RAF/2376 was reported in a sister project in Ethiopia, “Training in rural poultry development”, TCP/ETH/4455. Results of laboratory trials from project TCP/RAF/ 2376 were used as an input to the training of vaccinator trainers in 12 villages under project TCP/ETH/4455.

In the Gambia, project TCP/RAF/2376 was followed up with other ND control programmes using other ND vaccines. A UNDP project, GAM/91/ 002, “Improving extension services for women”, a subcomponent of the WID programme, supported ND control in village chickens using the conventional vaccine, Hitchner B1. Similarly, a Switzerland/UNDP project, GAM/93/004, “Enhancing rural capacities through livestock development”, coordinated from Yoro Beri Kunda Veterinary Research Centre, used conventional vaccines (Hitchner B1) and an inactivated vaccine (Pestaviform).

In the United Republic of Tanzania, efforts to control ND in village chickens using the heat-tolerant vaccine were initiated in the Morogoro and Dodoma regions. The activities in Morogoro were coordinated at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, with support from FAO. In the studies in Morogoro, boiled maize, roasted maize, raw rice, raw sorghum and roasted sorghum were the V4 vaccine food carriers tested. Final results from this research are not yet available; however, the interim results showed better protection from the sorghum-based vaccine, while the oral method gave lower protection levels than ocular and drinking-water delivery methods. In the Dodoma region, the field trials, conducted by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika with technical and financial support from ACIAR, reported similar results (Table 10).

In December 1996, a strategy for the control of ND in village chickens in the United Republic of Tanzania using a food-based vaccine was discussed in a workshop financed by ACIAR and attended by scientists from Mozambique. A food-based vaccine specialist from Australia involved in the ND vaccination trials in Southeast Asia also attended. The workshop discussed modalities for introducing the V4 vaccine and I2, a new seed vaccine containing an avirulent thermostable Australian strain of ND virus, for control of ND in village chickens. The workshop participants were veterinary officers from the zonal veterinary investigation centres, veterinary research officers and poultry extension officers from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Trials with vaccines in three villages in the United Republic of Tanzania
Method of vaccinationSerologyNumber survived/
GMTaProtective titrebnumber challenged

Source: Foster, unpublished data.
a Geometric mean titre, log2.
b A titre ≥3 is accepted as evidence of protection.

The state of ND control in Zimbabwe was different from that found in the other three countries, because ND outbreaks in Zimbabwe were dealt with at national level, while conventional vaccines were being used at village level. The country was reported to be free of the disease until a 1967 outbreak, which was controlled in two years. There were further outbreaks in 1986 and 1994. The last outbreak in 1994 was controlled by mass vaccination. Zimbabwe applied for technical assistance from FAO to cover the expense. The project “Emergency assistance to control Newcastle disease in Zimbabwe”, TCP/ZIM/4553, was approved in 1995. The main objectives of the project were to develop a community-based sustainable ND control programme in village chickens based on the heat-stable V4 vaccine.

The progress report produced by the project team gave the preliminary results of the laboratory trials that tested virucidal activity of different food carriers, droppers for dispensing the vaccine in the eyedrop delivery method and water from different sources in the country (Department of Veterinary Services, Zimbabwe, 1997). In the Zimbabwe laboratory trials, feeds tested were pearl millet, sunflower, maize, finger millet (rapoko), barley and sorghum. Rice was used as a control. Feeds reported to show good recovery were pearl millet, sunflower, finger millet and sorghum. Barley gave poor results and crushed and cooked maize gave intermediate results. Field trials were postponed to a second phase because of problems with the potency of the vaccine batch received from a commercial source. This batch has just been replaced and field trials will commence soon.


Poultry is one of the production systems used to address gender issues in agriculture in the case study countries. The government recognizes the importance of village chickens for women. The two rural poultry improvement programmes, TCP/RAF/2376 and TCP/ ETH/4455, both targeted women on the basis of earlier reports on the role of women in village chicken production (Rushton, 1996a, 1996b). Similarly, in the Gambia, project TCP/RAF/2376 targeted women, complemented by the UNDPWID programme. In the United Republic of Tanzania, there were no direct interventions addressing gender issues in village chicken production. However, under the Ministry of Community Development, Women's Affairs and Children, a non-governmental Women's Development Fund was in place to finance poultry activities and promote the formation of women's groups and associations as a means of increasing gender equity.

In Zimbabwe, there were various NGOs supporting women's small-scale enterprises, including rural poultry production with the same goal of empowering women and increasing gender equity. The Ministry of National Employment Creation and Cooperatives runs training centres such as the National Training Centre for Rural Women, where the government and NGOs run courses on extensive and intensive poultry production. Implementation of the SPFS, which includes a household poultry component and has a major bearing on gender equity, is expected to have an impact on addressing gender issues in rural poultry in these countries.

Ownership pattern of village chickens within households in West Division, the Gambia (n=45)


The ownership pattern of village chickens as a resource can be used to understand gender relations in a production system, as it gives insight into the access to resources of the different genders. In the present study, the individual household interviews in the Gambia show that ownership of village chickens is shared among the different gender categories in the household (Figure 7). A different pattern was observed in the United Republic of Tanzania in the Dodoma region where the responses on ownership patterns of village chickens showed that the chickens are predominantly owned by women and children (Figure 8). Little quantitative data on the ownership patterns of village chickens could be obtained from Ethiopia and Zimbabwe during the field visits.

Division of labour among the different household members is another gender aspect that was studied in the present investigation. The main activities in village chicken production considered in the analysis were shelter construction, feeding, cleaning, watering, the sale of chickens or eggs and disease control and treatment. The study showed that all gender categories are involved in village chicken management (Figures 9 and 10). Construction of shelters was mainly done by men, or by men and children. Group interviews in Ethiopia indicated that management of chickens was fully in the domain of women and children. During the individual interviews it was reported that women manage and prepare nests for laying and brooding, especially where fostering of eggs or chicks was practised.

Ownership pattern of village chickens in Dodoma, the United Republic of Tanzania (n=76)


Division of labour among household members in village chicken production in the Gambia


Increasing meat and egg production from village chickens will result in more equitable distribution of food and income in rural households


Decision-making in village chicken production in the Gambia


Information on decision-making regarding control of the access to resources was studied by asking questions about which household members decide to sell or dispose of the chickens products. Figure 11 shows the responses obtained from the Gambia, which reflect gender plurality in decision-making in village chickens production. Participation of all categories in selling village chickens was evident in the markets. The market survey in the United Republic of Tanzania shows that men dominated both in selling and buying chickens in village markets (Figure 12).

Buying and selling of village chickens in village markets in Dodoma, the United Republic of Tanzania (n=102)


Implications of the gender issues discussed above in village chicken production improvement programmes and the role of the production system in household economies and gender equity are discussed in Chapter 5.

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