This week, chick geneticists and researchers are meeting in Addis Ababa to set out plans and deliverables for the African Chicken Genetic Gains project. ACGG is a research-for-development partnership project working in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania. It aims to develop public-private partnerships that will contribute improve chicken productivity to benefit smallholders. The project will test and disseminate improved breeds of chickens likely to suit the needs of farmers in low-input systems.
Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general opened the deliberations pointing to the high potentials the project offers: for impact, for capacity development, for strength through partnerships.
In developing countries especially the potential for this project to have impact is especialy high: most chickens are produced in backyards and homesteads with indigenous birds. “On yesterday’s field trip I saw the potential for improved chickens to improves incomes as well as nutritional security.”
“In CGIAR we look hard at the junctions between agricultural productivity and nutrition but it’s no easy connection to find. When farmers increase their production, they want to produce even more. This project has an important nutrition component. Some of the production will be sold but some will be used for rich, safe nutrition for households. Let’s not underestimate the impact of backyard nutrition.”
Representing the Ethiopian government, Fentahun Mengistu director general of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultral Research (EIAR) also emphasized the potential roles of poultry to help the needy.
“Here in Ethiopia, it is very common for chickens to be asset-building. Children start with chickens, they make money with them for their schools. Chickens are essential for impact in the community. Moreover, there is high demand for eggs from the local chickens.”
“Creating access to smallholder farmers is a development objective of ACGG and we like the emphasis on women. Enhancing productivity, public-provate partnerships, and participatory approaches through innovation platforms are all very encouraging. We have good indigenous knowledge and practices to share and our smallholder farmers care about nutrition, poverty, safety, and security.”
Speaking for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Donald Nkrumah highlighted the potential of this project to help poor farmers – especially women – generate income. He said that this is one area where women have a comparative advantage.
He is also very excited about the potential of the project to catalyze changes beyond the three countries – the improved genetics need to flow out and beyond and into the hands of farmers. He suggested that success in this project will be when poultry industries in the countries have been transformed and national capacities have grown such that ILRI is not needed in implementation.
ILRI’s Steve Kemp re-emphasized that ILRI looks to step back from the downstream implementation. The partners will be doing this – and will be supported to do so.
He explained that ILRI does however have a strong interest in ways that the approaches and lessons of this project can be replicated and expanded in other projects. He mentioned his keen interest to also draw out the longer term genetic and genomic insights of the project.
Introducing the project approach and expected results, project leader Tadelle Dessie explained the focus on indigenous chickens. While these are often called ‘low input and low output’ they actually offer many opportunities for smallholders in Africa
- They are often owned and managed by women; so improved breeds = empowered women
- The demand for chickens and chicken products is growing, locally and globally, so improved breeds = improved incomes
- The eggs and chicken meat they produce are nutritious and healthy; so improved breeds = better nutrition
Adding them all together, empowerment + income + nutrition = food security
He also explained why this project will succeed where others have failed. The ACGG will:
- produce high-producing genetics adapted to low input production systems
- deliver farmer-preferred birds
- use participatory innovation platforms to co-develop solutions with different actors
- form public-private partnerships to improve, multiply and deliver the birds, at scale
- put women at the centre to ensure success
The first ACGG program management team (PMT) meeting brings together key participants from the three countries as well as other key implementing partners.
African Chicken Genetic Gains is an Africa-wide collaboration that uses genetics so Africa’s smallholder can get more productive chickens. http://africacgg.net