Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (3) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

The role of village poultry in food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation in Chobe District of Botswana

J C Moreki, R Dikeme* and B Poroga*

Department of Animal Production, Ministry of Agriculture, P/Bag 0032, Gaborone,
* Botswana Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, PO Box 1599, Mogoditshane


The poultry industry of Botswana comprises two important production systems: the commercial sector that uses exotic breeds of chickens and improved housing and nutrition (high-input, high-output system); and the village system, which uses mainly indigenous Tswana chickens (low-input, low-output system). A study was conducted in two villages of Chobe district of Botswana and 44 households were involved. The objective of the study was to investigate the roles played by village poultry in food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation. Data were collected using a formal questionnaire and direct observation.


The study showed that chickens accounted for 81.62% of the poultry species reared, while guinea fowl, pigeons and ducks made up the remaining 18.34%. It was found that, in rural areas, most people (especially women) kept chickens mainly for meat and as a source of income. Chickens were sold to meet family needs and the average price per bird was P42.767.87, equivalent to US$6.53. The money from the sale of chickens was used to pay for school fees, transport fees, health services, to buy school requisites (pens, uniforms and books) and groceries (including fruits and vegetables). In addition, some money was used to purchase smallstock (sheep and goats), which could in the future be sold to buy cattle to provide milk and draught power.


These results indicate that village poultry play an important role in family food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation in the rural villages.

Key words: Antiretroviral, BONEPWA+, family consumption, income, nutrition, poverty, Tswana chickens


Poultry have provided nutrition to human beings since their domestication over 8000 years ago. Village poultry are the predominant livestock species in many rural areas (Ahlers et al 2009) of the developing countries including Botswana and comprise mainly local unimproved poultry breeds and few improved strains. Other names for village poultry include rural, backyard, indigenous, scavenging, traditional, local, native or family poultry. As chickens are reared by families in both villages and urban areas, it appears that the term “family poultry” is more appropriate than village poultry which implies that chickens are reared only in the villages which is not the case. In Botswana, village chickens are popularly known as Tswana chickens.


Village chickens play a significant role in poverty alleviation and improvement of family food security (Adongo 2004) in many poor rural households of the developing countries. They provide their owners with economic and nutritional benefits with little or without any inputs (Reta 2009). In Mozambique, Alders et al (2007) reported that village chickens contribute to HIV/AIDS mitigation mainly through improved household food security and income generation. Village poultry provide a source of high quality protein (i.e., meat and eggs) to many rural households (Aganga et al 2000). Eggs in particular, offer an important source of nutrition and are one of the best sources of quality protein. Again, eggs supply various vitamins (e.g., vitamins B6 and B12) and can be stored for a couple of days under village conditions. The most commonly reported nutrient deficiencies in both children and adults are vitamin A and iron deficiencies (Piwoz and Preble 2000), which can be obtained from poultry meat and eggs. Alders et al (2007) contend that because women are the main carers of sick people, chickens can play an important role as they provide additional resources to support people living with HIV/AIDS.


Botswana has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world (Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) 2006). Generally, HIV prevalence is highest in the northern and eastern parts of the country (National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) 2008). In all the districts HIV prevalence is higher in women than men. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has resulted in increased orphans as both parents die from AIDS. As shown in Table 1, Chobe is one of the 10 districts in the country with high HIV prevalence rates. As a result, in 2005 the Swedish International Development Cooperation Aid (SIDA) funded a local poultry program in Botswana through Botswana Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (BONEPWA+) to contribute to equitable reduction of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty (Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART) 2006) among people infected and affected with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable groups.

Table 1.  Ten districts with highest HIV prevalence rates by gender in Botswana


HIV prevalence rate by gender, %


Overall, %















Central Serowe




Central Bobonong




Central Tutume




North East




Ngamiland East








Kgalagadi South




Source: Central Statistics Office (2009)

About one third of the population in Botswana lives below poverty datum line and inequality levels are comparable to Brazil and Columbia (BIDPA 2006). According to Goe (2005), some strategies employed by HIV/AIDS affected households to achieve food security include inter alia raising poultry and selling livestock products. Therefore, a study was conducted in Pandamatenga and Parakarungu in Chobe District in the northern part of Botswana to investigate the roles played by village poultry in food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation.


Materials and methods 

The study was conducted in Pandamatenga and Parakarungu in the Chobe District of Botswana. Data were collected through direct observation and interviews using a structured questionnaire. The questionnaire was administered to 44 households (21 in Pandamatenga and 23 in Parakarungu) randomly selected across the villages. Secondary sources of data were also reviewed.


Results and discussion 

Gender, age and marital status of respondents


Thirty-two (72.73%) respondents were females while 12 (27.27%) were males. Table 2 shows that the majority (22.73%) of the respondents were aged >60 years followed by 21-30 and 41-50, respectively. Only two respondents (4.55%) were aged 15 to 20 years. In addition, 24 (54.55%) respondents were single, 12 (27.27%) married, seven (15.91%) widowed while only one (2.27%) respondent was divorced. The fact that the majority of the households are single headed indicates that the rearing of village poultry is appropriate and affordable as it does not need a lot of capital, requires little space and needs less labour compared to other livestock. Unlike smallstock and cattle, village poultry can be cared for by both sick and/or elderly people as they do not require herding.

Table 2.  Respondents’ age, responses and percent response

Age, years

No. of respondents























Livestock rearing


Forty-three (97.73%) respondents kept poultry alone and/or together with other livestock and one respondent did not rear any livestock. For instance, 20 (45.45%) respondents reared chickens only; seven (15.91%) chickens, goats and cattle; five (11.36%) chickens and goats; five (11.36%) chickens and cattle; one (2.27%) chickens, pigeons and ducks; one (2.27%) chickens, guinea fowl and cattle; one (2.27%) chickens, goats and donkey; one (2.27%) chickens, cattle and donkeys; one (2.27%) chickens, pigeons, cattle and goats; and one (2.27%) chickens, pigeons, cattle, goats and donkeys. It is clear chickens predominated. These results suggest that chickens are important suppliers of nutrition in the villages and thus play an important role in food security. In this study, only four species of poultry were reared including chickens (81.62%), pigeons (14.98%), guinea fowl (3.22%) and ducks (0.18%).


Decision-making, ownership and multiple roles of village poultry


Table 3 shows that 24 (54.55%) households were headed by females, 19 (43.18%) by males, whereas only one household was headed by a child. In order of importance village poultry were owned by women (81.82%), men (13.64%), and others, i.e., family or reared on behalf of a relative (4.55%). This shows that women have a more active interest in poultry ownership than men, indicating that they are likely to be the main carers of birds. This also suggests that village chickens have more bearing on the lives of women than men. These results are consistent with Moreki (2003). In disagreement with the current results Oladele and Monkhei (2008) in Botswana found no significant differences between males and females in terms of ownership of chickens. The differences may be attributable to the fact that the previous study focused on small-scale commercial chicken production as opposed to village poultry.

Table 3.  Responses on head of households


No. of responses

% responses













In the current study, village poultry were reared for five main reasons: family consumption (75%), source of income (75%), prestige (11.36%), traditional ceremonies (6.82%), and for barter (6.82%). In a similar study Moreki (1997) reported higher and lower values for family consumption (95%) and source of income (62%) aspects, respectively. In disagreement with current results Muhiye (2007) in Ethiopia reported the main objectives of chicken production to be sale (44%), replacement (34%) and consumption (20%). The average price of an adult bird was P42.767.87, equivalent to US$6.53. Twenty-five (56.82%) respondents said they used manure in their gardens to grow vegetables and fruits, 15 (34.09%) discarded it while four (9.09%) respondents did not indicate what they used it for. The majority of rearers that did not use manure to grow vegetables did not provide shelter to their birds, thus making manure collection difficult because birds slept on different spots at different times.


Usually, ownership affects decision-making and management of chickens. According to the respondents, the decision to sell chickens rested mainly with women (70.45%) followed by families (13.64%) and husbands (6.82%). This finding is in agreement with the previous study of Bagnol (2009) in Mozambique who reported that the decisions related to chicken raising activities vary widely according to women’s and men’s access to resources, their level of education, social class and wealth, age, religion, and cultural and socio-economic factors. The author states that in Dodoma district in Tanzania, most of the decisions about the household chicken enterprise is done by women, such as selling from home or in the local market. The women can usually slaughter a chicken for a guest or family consumption without necessarily consulting husbands. In the current study, wives are likely to consult with their spouses on how the money from sale of birds should be used as consultation is entrenched in the Setswana (local) culture.


Poultry and egg consumption


Thirty (68.18%) respondents said they slaughtered birds for consumption, 10 (22.73%) said they never slaughtered chickens for consumption (relish), whereas four (9.09%) respondents did not give responses. However, it is unlikely that chickens were never slaughtered for consumption as claimed by 22.73% of the respondents. These results indicate that chickens are an important source of protein to the rural families. Table 4 shows that 20 (45.45%) respondents slaughtered chickens only when they needed relish. The consumption and sale of chickens by rearers is likely to be high at the end of harvest season and when schools reopen, as well as, during the festive seasons. In addition, outbreaks of Newcastle disease that occur from August to December are likely to  contribute to increased consumption of chicken meat as rearers fear heavy losses that the disease might cause.


The majority of rearers (52.27%) said they did not consume or sell eggs but instead used them for breeding (hatching), especially during cooler months of the year. Only 18 (40.91%) rearers said they consumed eggs while three rearers (6.82%) did not indicate what they did with the eggs. However, egg consumption by rearers was likely to increase in summer and during rainy seasons when most eggs spoil resulting in poor hatchability due to a combination of high ambient temperature and high relative humidity. In addition, predation rates and parasite infestations are high in summer resulting in low productivity of village chickens.

Table 4.  Time when birds are slaughtered for consumption



% Response

When visited



Need for relish



When visited and for relish



Relish and traditional rituals



No answer given






HIV/AIDS and nutrition


Twenty-eight (63.64%) respondents said they were infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS supporting that Chobe district is one of the districts with high HIV prevalence rates in Botswana (Central Statistics Ofiice 2009). During the interviews some respondents, especially in Pandamatenga voluntarily revealed their HIV status. The majority of respondents (54.55%) said that village poultry do play an important role in food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation mainly through meat and egg consumption and occasional sale of live birds, whereas the remainder (44.45%) could not correlate village poultry with HIV/AIDS. This finding is consistent with Alders et al (2007) who reported that village poultry play a significant role in HIV/AIDS mitigation through improved household food security and income generation. Additionally, Ahlers et al (2009) argued that village poultry play an important role in households where there is a lack of able-bodied workers, such as those affected by HIV/AIDS or which have a disabled family member.


Only nine (20.45%) respondents said they were members of support groups, 27 (61.36%) were not, whereas eight (18.18%) gave no responses. Out of the nine respondents that participated in support groups, only one respondent said she joined the support group to render counselling services to HIV/AIDS infected and affected individuals while the remainder gave no reasons for their participation. This implies that there is an urgent need by BONEPWA+ to educate support group members of their roles. Some reasons given by the respondents that did not participate in support groups included (a) they already had commitments, (b) they knew nothing about support groups (c) there were no home-based care centres in their vicinity, (d) they were in poor health, (e) support group members were uncooperative, (f) they were denied participation, (g) they saw no benefit in joining support groups and (h) they were not elected to serve in the support groups.


The majority of respondents (54.55%) had knowledge that HIV/AIDS lowers the body’s immune system and that nutrition enhances the immune system. The rearers said that village poultry through the provision of eggs and meat can improve nutrition of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Again, the respondents said that some chickens could be slaughtered for home consumption or sold to buy groceries including vegetables and fruits which supply minerals and vitamins. Furthermore, chickens can be sold to pay for clothing, medication, school requisites, as well as, transport fees to enable the sick persons to get to medical facilities for treatment, e.g., antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. The contribution of chickens for family consumption by vulnerable family members is empowering. In agreement with BONEPWA+ (2009) and Moreki (2003), some rearers mentioned that village chickens could be sold to purchase smallstock (sheep and goats), which contribute milk, meat and skins. Manure from chickens can be used to fertilize gardens to ensure constant supply of vegetables and fruits to the families or sold to generate extra income. Again, surplus garden produce can also be sold to generate extra income for rural families.




The provision of funds by SIDA to enable execution of poultry studies is gratefully acknowledged. Also, the Director of Animal Production is sincerely acknowledged for supporting this study. Many thanks to Ms. O. Phuthe and Ms. L. Monare for their role in data collection and Mrs. B. Batungamile for data entry.



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Received 1 February 2010; Accepted 2 February 2010; Published 1 March 2010

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