Empowering women to improve poultry production

Ethiopian woman farmer with chicken

Ethiopian women have been empowered to generate additional income through improved poultry production. The initiative has helped to preserve domestic breeds of chicken best suited for increasing production because of their resilience to local climatic conditions and environment.

Chickens play a vital socio-economic role in Ethiopia; rural production accounts for over 98% of the country’s egg and chicken meat economy. As chickens are considered low-status animals, women are allowed to keep them and the proceeds of the sale of poultry and eggs.

This project investigated the genetics of chickens, their resilience, disease risks and husbandry to understand what can be done to improve productivity. Researchers worked directly with women in rural and peri-urban areas of Ethiopia to develop understanding of different chicken breeds, chicken hygiene, feeding and how to achieve larger stocking densities.

The intensification and commercialisation of domestic production has historically resulted in the marginalisation of women. This project not only taught women how to best keep their chickens, it also taught them how to manage the money they made and maintain control of their businesses.

An art exhibition organised by the project with the National Museum of Ethiopia, on ‘women and chickens’, led to a follow-on bid ‘Causing a Flap’, working with a charity, Link Ethiopia, to develop chicken related educational resources to help children learn English.

Since this project highlighted the scope for empowering women by increasing chicken productivity, the Ethiopian government and NGOs have supported cross-breeding programmes and the importation of foreign ‘Western’ breeds.

While this GCRF funded project set out to increase poultry production in Ethiopia, it was discovered that Ethiopian stock currently has more diversity and resilience than many of the commercial strains worldwide. In the future, as global warming increases, these local Ethiopian chicken varieties could be the ones we turn to for food security.

This is one of the few projects which embraces arts and humanities research to bring about a scientific, economic and social change, the result of which will empower women and enable them to provide more for their families.

Garry Marvin, Professor of Human-Animal Studies at the University of Roehampton

Watch a short film about the project.

Going places: Empowering women, enhancing heritage and increasing chicken production in Ethiopia (Grant no. AH/P009018/1)

UK project lead: Naomi Sykes, University of Exeter
International lead: Professor Olivier Hanotte, International Livestock Research Institute
Call: GCRF Large Grant Innovation Awards Call, 2016
Delivery partner: Arts and Humanities Research Council

Image: Fantu Gebreyohannes, smallholder farmer in Ethiopia © International Livestock Research Institute

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