In November 2014, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners initiated a new collaboration to provide better chickens to smallholder farmers in Africa.
The program will improve chicken genetics and the delivery of adapted chickens to support poverty reduction, productivity growth, increased household animal protein intake, and the empowerment of women farmers in rural communities. Beyond the target countries – Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania – the germplasm, data, and knowledge generated have the potential to impact millions of poor rural and peri-urban households in other countries with large backyard chicken production.
In Africa, chicken production is integral in nearly all poor rural smallholder households. Family chickens produce meat and eggs for home consumption and they are a source of income. Many past efforts to make smallholder chicken production more productive in sub-Saharan Africa have failed to deliver impact because they tried to use high-producing genotypes created for intensive temperate feeding systems. These exotic birds are often not suited to local conditions and demanded high investments in feeds, veterinary support and energy; while local breeds were overlooked.
The difference today is that we can combine new genetics, improved local breeds, and enhanced delivery systems to produce high-producing but low-feed-input birds, pre-vaccinated and suited to local conditions.
This program will catalyze public-private partnerships to increase smallholder chicken production and productivity growth as pathways out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.
The immediate goal is to increase the access of poor smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to high-producing but agro-ecologically appropriate chickens. We will test improved breeds of chickens from India and Africa to demonstrate high-production potential under low-input systems. We will develop public-private partnerships to make available farmer-preferred genotypes. On-farm testing will be combined with community-level Farmer Innovation Platforms that engage women to co-create solutions and decide what genotypes and service delivery models work best for them.
African Chicken Genetic Gains aims to leverage existing research while implementing innovative approaches to the development and supply of genetics in country value chains. The approach is characterized by:
- High-producing genetics that is well-adapted to low-input production systems
- Farmer preferred breeds of chickens
- Innovation platforms to develop solutions across the value chain
- Public-private partnership for improvement, multiplication, and delivery
- Women at the centre to ensure success
African Chicken Genetic Gains will deliver the following outcomes:
- Through functioning public private partnerships, smallholders have access to their preferred breeds that produce at least 200% more than existing local breeds, with significantly reduced mortality risks due to proper brooding and pre-vaccination;
- Data-driven and culturally-relevant insights on the types of chickens that poor farmers, especially women, prefer;
- Demonstrated and well-publicized data showing that the adoption of the proven chicken genotypes indeed leads to significantly increased production, productivity, income, and household consumption among smallholders;
- Increased empowerment of women smallholder farmers in the chicken value chain;
- A functioning multi-country network of public-private partnerships for long-term chicken genetic improvement that uses modern tools to drive accelerated genetic gains and to deliver more productive, farmer-preferred breeds.
Partners include the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria; Tanzania Livestock Research Institute; Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; Wageningen University Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, the Netherlands; PICO Eastern Africa. The program is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It contributes to ILRI’s global livestock genetics program – LiveGene.
This is a step in the right direction to improve the living standards of the downtrodden in the society. I am sure that the long-term goal of alleviating poverty will be achieved through the provision of more productive chicken genotypes to the rural populace especially women who are primarily involved in keeping village birds.