Smallholder poultry and pigs

Probably more than 75% of rural households keep village poultry (family poultry or rural poultry, whatever we call them). Production systems are very much comparable worldwide, with some variation in numbers, from about 10 to even 40, depending on local feeds available, disease and predator pressures and consumption peaks. Village poultry are a safety net for the poor. Production is low: a hen can sit on 10-15 eggs, but only few chicks survive, due to diseases and predators. Labour productivity, however, is very high; they mainly feed and manage themselves.

A lot of research is being done on improvements in village poultry. We experienced that only low cost improvements will work. In most areas, you have to start off with vaccination against New Castle Disease. One of our students once wrote in her thesis that ‘predators like vaccinated chickens just as much as unvaccinated chickens’. So, the next step has to be protection against predators. In the end you need a whole package of innovations, and for this most households do not have the resources.

Rural people really prefer the taste of local chickens and their eggs. The demands and prices are increasing, so what really could be helpful is a better organised marketing network. But, village poultry systems will not supply the growing urban markets. For this we need commercial poultry systems. You can do this with 50 hens or 500, or 5000. It requires commercial hybrids, commercial poultry feed, commercial equipment. So, commercial poultry farming needs cash inputs and labour, and a market. This also means competition with other farmers, large- or small-scale, and competition with imports. In periods of economic crises, commercial poultry keeping is the first intensive livestock industry that will stop. But it is also very easy to start again.

Also, the whole range of pig production systems, from extensive village production to commercial pig production systems is rather similar throughout the world. In developing countries and up-coming economies, pig production increases with about 4 per cent per year. This increased production mainly occurs outside the traditional agricultural sector. However, there is renewed interest in village pig keeping. SE Asia has a long tradition of integrated farming. The use of concentrates and hybrid pigs are major tools in intensification of pigs in such farming systems. Research in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, showed that, in particular, the off-farm impact of the production of concentrate sources contributed most to the relatively large environmental impact of pigs. In the South Pacific, pigs have a very important role in the social life of people, they represent prestige and wealth. This often precludes any extra inputs into them, because there is a high probability that the owner of the pigs will have to contribute them to important social activities.

Relevant publications

  1. Aklilu, H.A.; Udo, H.M.J.; Almekinders, C.J.M.; Zijpp, A.J. van der (2008)
    How resource poor households value and access poultry: Village poultry keeping in Tigray, Ethiopia
    Agricultural Systems 96 (1-3). – p. 175 – 183.
  • Udo, H.M.J. (1997)
    Relevance of farmyard animals to rural development.
    Outlook on Agriculture 26 (1). – p. 25 – 28.

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