Livestock Research for Rural Development 15 (2) 2003

Citation of this paper

Information dissemination for family poultry research and development


E F Guye


Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA)
B P 2057, Dakar-Hann, Senegal

(Paper presented at the Family Poultry Pre-Congress, 17th Central American and the Caribbean Poultry Congress, 1-4 October 2002,  La Havana, Cuba)



Family poultry (FP), which are still important in low-income food-deficit countries, represent an appropriate system for supplying the fast growing human population with high quality protein and providing additional income to resource-poor small farmers, especially women. Although requiring low levels of inputs, FP contribute significantly to food security, poverty alleviation and ecologically sound management of natural resources. FP are also valued in the religious and socio-cultural lives of local communities.


However, constraints facing FP production systems are related to high mortality (mainly due to Newcastle disease), housing, feeding, breeding, marketing, training/education and credit. Significant improvements in FP production systems can be achieved through well-designed and implemented information dissemination programmes. There is a strong need for governments, non-governmental organizations, international agencies and donors to provide all people interested or involved in the FP sub-sector with institutional support by promoting easy access to relevant information relating to FP. Appropriate information dissemination programmes are those that make efficient use of conventional as well as unconventional methods. Communication tools to be adopted should take socio-cultural and economic environments of target groups into account.


Keywords: Communication, family poultry, information dissemination, low-income food-deficit country



The growth of the world human population, which is expected to increase from around 6,000 million in 2002 to over 7,000 million in the year 2015 (Anonymous 1999), will take place largely in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) of Africa, Asia, the Near East, Latin America, Europe and the South Pacific, LIFDCs being defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) ( as nations that are poor, with net income per person amounting to less that US$ 1,505 per annum, and are net importers of food. In 1998, 83 nations were defined as LIFDCs (42 in Africa, 24 in Asia, 7 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 7 in Oceania and 3 in Europe). Most of the 826 million people still suffering from malnutrition and approximately 1.2 billion people living on less than US$ 1 a day (Anonymous 2001) live in LIFDCs, especially in the arid zones of Africa and Asia. Poultry production represents one of the alternatives to feed the growing human population. Over the last decade, poultry population has grown spectacularly throughout the world: 23 percent in developed and 76 percent in developing countries, respectively. This increase, due to the (semi-)industrial or commercial production, has been most notable in the Far East where growth averaged 90 percent (Branckaert and Guye 2000). For example, in India, production has increased sixfold in ten years. However, according to Branckaert and Guye (2000) and Guye (2000a), most of the conditions required by the (semi-)industrial poultry sub-sector are not met in LIFDCs, namely:

      the ability to purchase most inputs, i.e. improved birds, feeds, vaccines, drugs and equipment;

      the availability of a highly skilled manpower;

      the presence of a strict disease control; and

      the existence of national domestic markets able to absorb poultry products at attractive prices by consumers with a good purchasing power.

In fact before developing medium to large-scale units, either for broiler or egg production, it is important to achieve either self sufficiency in cereal products or to generate the necessary hard currencies provided by the export of oil or other expensive raw materials, or to have a developed services sector.


Family poultry (FP) are still important in LIFDCs (Guye 2000b). While making one of the best uses of available natural resources, FP constitute an important component of the agricultural and household economy in LIFDCs, a contribution that goes beyond direct food production for the fast growing human population as well as employment and income generation for resource-poor small farmers, especially women (Guye 2002a). They also serve as a means of capital accumulation and as a barter product in societies where there is no circulation of currency. Furthermore, they are closely linked to the religious and socio-cultural lives of several million resource-poor farmers for whom poultry ownership ensures varying degrees of sustainable farming and economic stability. Additionally FP have medicinal and environmental functions. Therefore, the overall contribution provided by FP at household, community and country levels is generally underestimated since the multitude of roles played by poultry in LIFDCs are generally ignored, in part because extremely difficult to assess.


Because of the importance of FP, a great many research and development (R&D) programmes need to be launched to boost this critical but generally overlooked poultry sub-sector. All these intervention efforts should be spread through appropriate information dissemination tools.


Why to disseminate information?


In most LIFDCs, the FP sub-sector does not receive due attention from agricultural policy makers (including livestock specialists). Small-scale poultry farming is not yet regarded by many researchers, development and extension workers as an area of importance in terms of political significance or scientific prestige (Guye 2000b). As a result of this, livestock population statistics in most LIFDCs even do not encompass specific figures relating to the FP sub-sector. Yet, there is a strong need for governments, non-governmental organizations, international agencies and donors to provide all people interested or involved in the FP sub-sector with institutional support by promoting easy access to relevant information relating to FP. This can be greatly facilitated when staff of national and international institutions are sufficiently and properly informed about the true importance of FP sub-sector, hence the need for increased gathering of detailed data and information at local community and national levels. The data collected from the FP sub-sector must be part of the data on the national economy as a whole, and FP development in LIFDCs must be seen as an integral part of the national development policy. There are no arguments better than figures!


There is a need to collect baseline socio-economic, to conduct gender research and to gather local knowledge on husbandry practices that tend to be more in the custody of women, if an appropriate model is to be built and tested at farm level. This work must be done by multi- and trans-disciplinary teams to ensure that the FP husbandry systems are fully understood and their constraints clearly identified. Furthermore, detailed information will help to develop appropriate interventions in areas such as disease prevention and control, predator control, poultry housing, feeding and watering systems, genetic improvement, marketing of poultry products, training, credit and information exchange system.


Every effort must be made to ensure that novel interventions in farming practices are successful (Guye 2000a), as failures are long remembered and are likely to inhibit the acceptance of further new ideas (Guye 2002b). Because of the inevitable gaps in farmers’ indigenous knowledge due to lack of scientific expertise and isolation (Sonaiya et al 1999), there is a need to provide them with comprehensive and objective information about all aspects of different FP production systems even if the exiting information exchange systems are quite informal and poorly developed.


Sustainable development in FP requires well-designed research at all levels (i.e. from various scattered FP-keeping farmers to all types of laboratories and research institutions, and vice versa). There should be full co-operation between scientists and FP-keeping farmers. The involvement of other workers (i.e. extension workers, communicators, planners, policy makers, etc.) are also highly desirable. Research can only have a real impact on FP production if gathered information are spread not only to FP-keeping farmers but also to all other people interested or involved in this poultry sub-sector, and feedback information is crucially important for successful interventions aimed at developing FP. Unfortunately, only few FP producers in LIFDCs can have direct contact with researchers. The main reasons are as follows:

        there are very few researchers dealing with issues relating to FP production systems compared with the number of FP-keeping farmers;

        FP-keeping farmers are numerous and often dispersed, and they keep small flock sizes;

        the transport system is poor;

        there is a large social distance between researchers and FP-keeping farmers;

        there is a difference in the economic environment in which researchers and FP-keeping farmers work.


Goals of FP-keeping farmers must be thoroughly identified before the initiation of any R&D programme. Mutual trust between poultry keepers and poultry scientists/workers is a prerequisite for success. Achieving the full participation and close collaboration of relevant members of the community requires scientists/organizers to spend a lot of time with potential beneficiaries, to inform them thoroughly of the details of any FP R&D programme, and to respect their values and beliefs. One particularly appropriate method of investigation that may be used is the ‘relaxed rural (or peri-urban or urban) appraisal’ (Guye 2002b). Information dissemination can help FP-keeping farmers to reach their goals by:

        making them aware of a particular (various) problem(s);

        increasing the range of alternatives from which they can make a(several) choice(s);

        allowing them to decide which goal(s) is(are) of the highest importance;

        allowing them to make decisions, either as individuals or as members of a group;

        informing them about the expected consequences of each(several) alternative(s);

        allowing them to learn from other views, experiences and results (successes, but also failures). This can contribute to avoiding unnecessary duplications, repeating errors and the ineffective use of continually dwindling resources (Guye 2000a). Spreading information on successful FP-keeping farmer innovations and getting access to new knowledge are also essential for sustainable FP farming.;

        stimulating them share their knowledge and acquired information with other people interested or involved in the FP sub-sector (i.e. FP-keeping farmers, researchers, extension workers, planners, policy makers, etc.);

        giving them opportunities to make choices about development options, for example, to move from free-range to semi-intensive, or even small-scale intensive poultry production, when required increased levels of resources and inputs (i.e. housings, cages, feeds, breeds, vaccines, drugs, equipment and time/attention) are available (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Level of intensification as a function of the level of resources and inputs

Sources of information


FP-keeping farmers (can) use various sources to get the knowledge and information they need to manage their farms in a suitable manner. These sources include:

        other FP-keeping farmers through, for example, individual or group farmer visits, group meetings and demonstrations;

        government extension services;

        other government agencies offering technical assistance and other services, marketing boards and policy makers;

        word-of-mouth, traditional communicators/singers such as the troubadours;

        individuals or private companies selling inputs, offering credits and/or loans and buying poultry products;

        NGOs and their staff members;

        journals, radio, television and other mass media (e.g. films, newspapers, posters and books);

        private consultants, animal scientists and veterinarians.


FP producers usually learn most from their colleagues (Rushton and Ngongi 1998). In areas where intensification of poultry production takes place the most influential farmers are those who have experimented with new farm practices and adapted them to the local situation. Therefore, it is recommended to encourage educated people to initiate poultry farming as a secondary occupation, conducted at family level using medium-sized flocks (Guye 2002b).


Extension still remains a significant means by which farmers received information on new technologies (van den Ban and Hawkins 1996; Kassal 1998; Omoregbee 1998; Rushton and Ngongi 1998; Branckaert et al 2000). Figure 2 gives a simplified information flow for FP R&D illustrating the role played by the extension service and extension worker. Information gathered by the extension service is used to instruct extension workers to spread it to FP-keeping farmers so that they, in turn, may bring about appropriate changes in their farm management. Unfortunately, extension services in many LIFDCs are not effective, when they exist.


Figure 2. Simplified information flow for family poultry research and development


Training and education in FP are also channels for spreading information among FP-keeping farmers. Unfortunately, FP producers in LIFDCs, especially women, have no training in management (Guye 2002a 2002b). Training and education in FP are difficult and time-consuming tasks (Guye 2002), although they are essential if farmers’ skills are to be improved (Huque 1996; Guye 2000a; Branckaert and Guye 2000). In Mardan division, Pakistan, a research project carried out to investigate the impact of training given to female FP-keeping farmers by ‘female livestock extension workers’ indicated significant positive impact on chicken flock size, egg production, morbidity, mortality, egg storage duration, egg setting and hatching performance in a rural household (Farooq et al 2000) (Table 1). This intervention was capable of contributing to poverty alleviation and food security seeing that more eggs are available for sale and consumption.


Table 1. Impact of training given to female FP-keeping farmers on chicken flock size, egg production, morbidity, mortality, egg storage duration, egg setting and hatching performance in a rural household in Mardan division, Pakistan


Before training

After training

Average family size



Flock size**



(a) Chicks**



(b) Adult birds**



Total egg production**



Eggs produced per bird**



Per capita available eggs**



Overall morbidity in a flock (%)**



(a) Morbidity in chicks (%)**



(b) Morbidity in adult birds (%)**



Overall mortality in a flock (%)**



(a) Mortality in chicks (%)**



(b) Mortality in adult birds (%)**



Percent reduction in eggs due to mortality**



Egg storage during summer (days)*



Egg storage during winter (days)*



Eggs set per incubation*



Eggs used for hatching throughout the year



Frequency of egg setting for hatching per year*



Hatchability per number of eggs set under a hen (%)*



Source: Farooq et al (2000)

Means with different superscripts within the same row differ significantly at **a = 0.01 and *a = 0.05

How to disseminate information?

FP producers, especially women, tend to be fluent only in local languages (i.e. their mother tongues and, in some cases, other local languages) and generally cannot write. In addition to being illiterate, many of them are also innumerate. Women’s needs for information are to be structured according to their gender roles and responsibilities (Aitkin 1998). All these factors should be taken into account in deciding which information dissemination methods to use.

Conventional methods of information dissemination

FP producers in LIFDCs have limited access to mass media for several reasons. Newspapers mostly do not contain information relating to FP. In addition, they are mostly not distributed in rural and remote areas, and, when available, are too expensive for most resource-poor families. Television is also too expensive for almost all of them. Radio may however be available to most FP-keeping farmers. In rural areas, there are no electric power supplies, or, when available, there may be many blackouts or current fluctuations which damage the apparatuses. Besides, in villages, it is difficult to repair the apparatuses, and batteries are usually considered to be too expensive. Participatory development programmes increasingly use rural radio, television and other mass media as tools for farmer-to-farmer exchange. A survey carried out in Oyo State, Nigeria (Apantaku et al 1998), revealed that radio is the only source of electronic mass media agricultural information for 51.7% of the 60 surveyed FP-keeping farmers, while 1.6% mentioned television only and 46.7% said both radio and television. Seventy-three percent of the farmers indicated that the follow-up and use of information received from the electronic mass media contributed immensely to increase the level of productivity and performance of their poultry flocks (Table 2). The resulting increased income can help FP-keeping farmers to better maintain their radio and television.


Table 2. Use of electronic mass media by FP-keeping farmers and level of productivity in rural areas of Oyo State, Nigeria

Follow-up and use

Number of farmers

Frequency, %

Influence on productivity

Number of farmers

Frequency, %

Follow-up and use of information received from radio and TV



Contribute to improved productivity level



Do not follow-up or use information received from radio and TV



Did not contribute to improved productivity level



Source: Apantaku et al 1998


The physical availability of mass media is not the only most important factor. The extent to which their messages are phrased and programmed for rural and peri-urban audiences is also to be considered. Most newspapers and television stations are located in cities, and they direct their information to urban audiences in most cases. They address very rarely issues relating to FP R&D. Community or rural radios may be set up (used) to overcome this problem. It should be borne kept in mind that the target groups are the less educated rural and peri-urban audiences.


There are numerous languages and dialects in some LIFDCs. For example, it is not rare to see every village speaking its own dialect in some traditional communities. In addition, even when educated urban people and less educated people speak the same language, these two groups use it so differently that the language used on radio and television is difficult for many rural people to understand. The speed of presentation on electronic media must not be too high so that large audiences (including FP producers) are able to comprehend the messages or to decode the pictures.


New advanced communication tools using electronic medium are being increasingly used for disseminating information about FP, e.g. video conferences, electronic conferences, electronic journals, CD-ROMs and Websites (Waltham 1999; Guye 2002b). Unfortunately this information does not usually reach the majority of potentially interested persons living in LIFDCs, especially those dwelling in rural and remote areas. In the area of electronic publication, an example is given by the international on-line journal on sustainable livestock-based agriculture: Livestock Research for Rural Development (LRRD) ( This journal, which is endowed with an Editorial Committee composed of experts from various parts of the world, offers an opportunity to scientists from LIFDCs to get their findings published. The Senior Editor of LRRD, Dr Thomas R. Preston, can be contacted at

Unconventional methods of information dissemination

Information dissemination tools to be adopted should take into account socio-cultural and economic environments of target groups. Although women, and secondly children, should be the target groups for meetings to share information, it is recommended that the whole family or special interest groups also be informed.


Unconventional methods such as word-of-mouth, theatre, songs, traditional communicators/singers/troubadours and ‘learning by doing’ are to be preferred, and simple extension messages must be used. Some interesting results are being obtained in Mozambique (Alders and Bagnol 2000). Other historically alternative methods must continue to be explored and promoted in order to achieve broad dissemination of information and the effective uptake of innovations/interventions. Mass media communicators must closely collaborate with all other workers involved, especially the extension specialists.


Since FP producers, especially women, undertake a great many other activities, meetings to share information must be brief and frequent. They must be scheduled in those periods of the year and days when women are not involved in other duties, although this is a challenging exercise. Furthermore, campaigns for the elimination of illiteracy are to be recommended whenever possible. Better informed and better-educated women are far less inclined to accept dictates from the outside.

Networking for FP R&D

Several networks have been established to exchange views, experiences and R&D results between people engaged in FP keeping in LIFDCs (Branckaert and Guye 2000; Guye 2002b; Guye and van’t Hooft 2002). Several examples can be given. FAO encouraged the setting-up of the ANRPD (African Network for Rural Poultry Development) in November 1989 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. This mainly information exchange network has been renamed INFPD (International Network for Family Poultry Development) or RIDAF (‘Rseau International pour le Dveloppement de l’Aviculture Familiale’, in French; or ‘Red Internacional para el Desarrollo de la Avicultura Familiar, in Spanish) and appropriate resolutions were adopted by the ANRPD General Meeting held on 13 December 1997 in M’Bour, Senegal. One important point adopted was to publish the trilingual (English, French and Spanish) INFPD newsletter electronically, with a printed version produced for members without e-mail facilities. Since 1990, the preparation, publication and distribution of the newsletter has been financially supported by FAO through annual authors’ contracts. Furthermore, the INFPD Directory for FP Development is regularly updated and made available to INFPD members and non-members. This facilitates contacts and collaboration among members as well as between members and non-members. The current subscriber list reveals that there are presently more that 480 members from 70 countries in five continents. Out of these members 74.1 % are from Africa, 14.7 % from Europe and the remaining 11.2 % from South/North America, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East. It can however be estimated that the newsletter has provided information to more than 1,500 persons annually. Moreover, from 1998 to 1999, the first INFPD/FAO electronic conference on FP, with the theme “The Scope and Effect of Family Poultry Research and Development”, was run successfully. The second INFPD/FAO electronic conference on FP, which has “The Bangladesh Model and other Experiences in Family Poultry Development” as theme, has been running since 13 May 2002 and is expected to come to an end on 5 July 2002.

Further information about INFPD activities is available on the Internet:


Other important networks devoted to FP R&D include:

        the ‘Network for Smallholder Poultry Development’ of the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Frederiksberg, Denmark (;

        ‘Fowls for Africa’ of the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa (; and

        the ‘Rural Poultry in Developing Countries’ of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and University of Queensland, Australia (


One issue that these networks have focused on is the development and testing of thermo-stable vaccines for the control of Newcastle disease under rural family conditions. Newcastle disease (ND) constitutes the most serious epizootic poultry disease throughout the world, particularly in LIFDCs (Sonaiya et al 1999; Guye 2002b; Guye and van’t Hooft 2002). No progress has been made in controlling ND in free-ranging village flocks, which represent more than 80 percent of the total poultry population (Branckaert and Guye 2000). For example, several surveys in Africa showed high rates of seropositivity in the absence of vaccination. In most LIFDCs, ND occurs every year and kills on an average 70 to 80 percent of the unvaccinated rural FP (Branckaert and Guye 2000). Therefore, ND control can appropriately be used as an entry-point for developing the FP sub-sector as a whole (Guye 2000a). It is, however, extremely difficult to organize vaccination campaigns covering free-range birds, and the main constraints are related to the characteristics of the husbandry systems practised (i.e. small flock sizes, multi-age birds, scattered flocks over vast area, birds not usually housed, etc.). Moreover, conventional vaccines (La Sota, Hitchner B1 and Clone 30) are not available either in small doses or in small-lot ampoules. Cold storage, which these thermolabile vaccines require, is not available in rural areas in LIFDCs. The heat-resistant vaccines against ND (i.e. NDV4-HR and I-2 strains) developed by Professor Peter B. Spradbrow and his colleagues at the University of Queensland in Australia appear to offer considerable prospects for controlling ND in rural FP (Spradbrow 1999, 2000). For instance, a trial carried out under village conditions in central Tanzania revealed that about 70-80 % of the birds vaccinated using the V4 vaccine were protected again ND (Spradbrow and Foster 1997). According to Guye (2002b), one of the greatest advantages of these vaccines is paradoxically that not all vaccinated birds are protected (although the overall level of protection is high). This gives enough time to FP-keeping farmers to upgrade their skills in overall poultry management gradually, especially as other constraints may arise after the control of ND (e.g. other diseases, feeding, housing, marketing, etc.).


ACIAR ( has supported projects in the production and delivery of vaccines suitable for use in village chicken poultry systems. These do not require continuous refrigeration and give optimal effect when administrated as eye drops, but can also be given as a food additive to animals that cannot be caught. The NDV4-HR vaccine was successfully tested in Asia and Africa and is now produced commercially. The other vaccine (I-2) developed later is free of commercial ownership. It is available at no cost to countries that wish to produce their own vaccine. The simple techniques required for producing and testing the vaccine can be learnt in short workshops. It is now being produced in Vietnam, while it is currently being tested in several African countries. For more information about these heat-resistant vaccines contact Dr John W. Copland at


The outcome of these efforts shows the relevance of R&D interventions to optimise low-input/low-output FP husbandry systems, which have been a traditional and integrated component of rural, many peri-urban and some urban households or small farms, and are likely to continue as such in the foreseeable future. In addition, it is demonstrated the potential and the importance of networking and disseminating information, for example, by publishing newsletters and organizing conferences or symposia or workshops.




Despite efforts to develop intensive poultry production, FP are still important in LIFDCs of Africa, Asia, the Near East, Latin America, Europe and the South Pacific. FP are a valuable asset to local populations as they contribute significantly to food security and poverty alleviation, especially in disadvantaged groups and less-favoured areas. Additionally, FP constitute an appropriate tool for promoting gender equality. Unfortunately, the FP sub-sector is facing various constraints. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that all people interested or involved in the FP sub-sector are not provided with comprehensive and objective information about all aspects of different FP production systems. Yet, wide dissemination of views, experiences and results is essential for sustainable FP development, which should be backed by well-designed research. Relevant information materials should start with the existing knowledge base and practices of the target audience. These information materials should be integrated into the existing local channels of information dissemination.


Exposure to information can be seen as a behavioural indicator of people’s disposition

     to accept new ideas and practices (for FP-keeping farmers),

     to explore new research themes (for researchers, scientists, etc.),

     to give new messages and advice to FP-keeping farmers (for extension workers, technicians, poultry or livestock advisers, etc.),

     to implement new policies (for planners, policy makers, etc.) and

     to launch new FP development interventions/projects (for governments, non-governmental organizations, international agencies and donors).

The INFPD, through its trilingual (English, French and Spanish) newsletter, has been contributing to disseminate information relating to all aspects of FP R&D.


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Received 3 Februay 2002; Accepted 20 February 2003

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