Gender and Livestock: Exploring the trends in the dynamics of livestock ownership and care in small scale producer households

GALVmed conducted a study to build a better understanding of the household dynamics at play within livestock-owning small-scale producers (SSPs) households in India, Ethiopia and Tanzania. In particular, the study would afford a clearer focus on the issue of gender and livestock. This was considered necessary since previous GALVmed Monitoring and Evaluation studies (focusing on issues such as vaccine adoption, livestock productivity, etc.) had collected gender disaggregated data, but at a fairly limited level of detail. These wider studies have suggested highly variable trends and patterns in terms of livestock ownership and management between adult males and adult females. It was therefore considered necessary to undertake a one-off specialised gender study. This would provide the opportunity to drill considerably deeper into this topic of gender and household dynamics and to provide GALVmed with a much more detailed picture than is afforded through its standard livestock health related studies.

The results of the study revealed clear and illuminating trends. The widely held generalisation that certain species of livestock are the preserve either of men or of women appears to be a misleading over-simplification. Both genders are active participants in the care of all species and children can also play an important role in the upkeep of household livestock. There are, however, clear trends in the activities undertaken by both men and women and, while these vary somewhat across geographies, they can be broadly described as:

  • For poultry: women perform more labour in the ‘daily chore’ type activities (e.g. feeding, cleaning housing etc.) but the input of men increases substantially for the ‘management and money’ type activities (e.g. buying medicines / vaccines, when to sell / slaughter, what to do with poultry income etc.). This increase in involvement by men does not eclipse that of women in these ‘management and money’ type activities. Rather, it suggests that poultry production is a shared household enterprise, albeit with a higher level of input by women.  
  • For small ruminants: noticeable geographical variations exist, although the general trend of more input by men in the ‘management and money’ categories than in the ‘daily chore’ activities continues. In the Ethiopian and Tanzanian study areas, this input by men eclipses that of women, but, even here, approximately 30 – 60% of households have active input by women in ‘management and money’ activities. Again, as a generalisation it seems fair to consider small ruminant production as a shared SSP household enterprise.
  • For large ruminants:  noticeable country variations exist but the perception that women have very little input or say in cattle (aside from milking) is shown to be largely inaccurate. Again, only in the Tanzanian study area is the role of women in ‘management and money’ activities eclipsed by men. As a generalisation, it seems fair to consider large ruminant production as a shared SSP household enterprise, albeit with a higher level of input by men.

The evidence from this study supports the theory that livestock is best considered as a shared household enterprise rather than a specific male or female SSP undertaking. It also highlights the dangers of collecting disaggregated gender data at a shallow or simplified level (as is often necessarily the case when the focus of the study lies elsewhere on animal health and productivity issues). Please see the full study report.

Challenging gender norms in poultry management

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Necessity is what drove Rahma Joseph to start a chicken business. The mother of four from Iringa in Tanzania, was faced with challenges on how to provide for her family and saw an opportunity in poultry business.

“We started with fourteen chickens that were given to us as a group by Care International. We took turns to take care of the chickens and with time, the flock grew to 100,” says Rahma

After a while, some of the group members dropped out of the programme due to various reasons, but Rahma and the few who were left divided the flock that was left and each went their separate ways to take care of their chickens.  She has since grown her flock to around 200 chickens. She makes decisions around their health e.g., vaccinations and also when to sell them.

It is documented that livestock, and especially small stock is an important entry point for promoting women empowerment in rural areas to enable them to break out of the cycle of poverty. Poultry represents an accessible, and low-investment livestock that may help to secure high-quality food and income, especially for rural women-headed households.  It is therefore not uncommon that the first livestock investment that women like Rahma would go for is poultry.

However, it is also documented that as poultry production intensifies in the small-scale segments, and income increases, the level of women’s involvement in poultry management and decision-making declines. The woman’s role is relegated to labour related activities instead. And yet study after study shows that when women have cash, they will spend it on things that improve the quality of life for their family. That means more money for buying food to improve nutrition, schooling for children, visiting a doctor, or even building a toilet. Empowering women to become active decision makers along the value chain is an integral part of getting them out of cyclical poverty.

Nearby in Chanya village, thirty-six-year-old Helena Kindole proudly shows off her new chicken house. She built the house through profits earned from her small poultry business. She is what is known as a mother-unit, meaning she buys day-old chicks from the hatchery and sells them off at a young age, from six months old to other farmers. She has been able to grow her business and can make decisions such as using the profits to build the chicken house.

Women in rural areas are beginning to think more boldly about opportunities available to them, that can improve their livelihoods, status and influence in their homes, communities, and economies. And poultry production is one such avenue.

In April 2021 GALVmed and animal health company Ceva Santé Animale launched PREVENT (PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow), an initiative that will work with medium-size hatcheries in target countries to annually distribute more than 50 million vaccinated day-old-chicks to small-scale poultry producers. PREVENT seeks to be gender intentional,  primarily through Field Technician intervention. PREVENT plans to diminish and reverse the decline of women’s involvement in poultry management activities.

For women like Rahma and Helena, this will be an opportunity to expand their businesses and continue having even greater ability to make decisions on their businesses.

“I would like to build a larger poultry house in order to increase my poultry production and sell more poultry and increase my profit.” concludes Helena.

 Written by Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed Senior Communications Manager

The challenges facing women small-scale producers and how we can help

The International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias, for there is still work to do to achieve a gender-equal, diverse and inclusive world.

Women have tremendous importance in the agriculture and livestock sector as they form about half of the agricultural workforce and are agents of change and resilience builders. However, despite women’s key role in agriculture, there are still many challenges and biases that we need to overcome to enable to fully benefit from their contribution.

At GALVmed, we believe in inclusivity, and we have reflected upon the challenges that women small-scale producers face in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) as we do our part in contributing to women’s empowerment through projects and initiatives.

This blog was written as part of the International Women’s Day 2022 campaign.

Strengthening Access to Livestock Health Products by Small scale Producers in Ghana

In rural areas of Ghana where over the majority of small-scale livestock producers rely on small agrovet shops for livestock health inputs, supply is not always guaranteed as agrovet stores routinely ran out of stock leaving farmers struggling to gain access to critical health inputs that could save their livestock from diseases. GALVmed is working with leading last-mile veterinary delivery company, Tribecovet, to bridge current gaps in access and availability of vital livestock health products by small-scale livestock producers.

Poultry vaccination pays off for Indian farmers as demand increases

Access to a vaccine for Newcastle Disease (ND) has transformed the lives of communities in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha state.

Local inhabitants, who have traditionally bred poultry, would often experience the death of their flock during an outbreak of ND. The deadly disease has been known to kill entire flocks when an outbreak occurs.

A vaccine against ND was introduced in this district with the help of the Bhodal Milk Producers Cooperative Society (BMPCS), an Odisha based NGO, which in turn was supported by the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed). The vaccine has played a key role in saving the birds and has contributed to increased income and intake of protein in families.

Forty-six-year-old Jitray Marandi from Pandupal village is a farmer. He also rears livestock and gathers Mahua flowers, which are not only a food item for the locals but are also used for brewing country spirit, locally called Mahuli.  He first heard of the vaccine about two years ago from Govardhan Naik, the local vaccinator and rural health worker. Having witnessed the death of his chickens year after year, he was keen to try anything that would stop the outbreaks.

Marandi’s decision to try the new vaccine paid off.  His chickens went almost unscathed after administering the vaccine. Over the past year his flock has grown to an impressive 100 chickens. Out of the 100, his family consumed thirty, while another thirty have been sold off providing much needed income. “I will use forty birds for breeding over the next year,” he said.

Poultry are very important to these communities who have reared them for generations, and are still rearing them. Not only are they a regular fixture in their diet, but they are also a means of income. Moreover, the chickens are also used as offerings in important religious rituals. It is not uncommon to see visitors bringing their own chickens and presenting them to the hosts as gifts.

“My family has traditionally kept poultry, but they were always very few. The Ranikhet disease [local name for ND] wouldn’t allow the flock to grow,” says 60-year-old farmer, Gopal Hembram.

Before the arrival of the vaccine for ND, they had no idea that their poultry could be protected medically.

“We only got to know of this from Govardhan and the awareness videos we were shown,” Mr Hembram said.

Since the introduction of the vaccine two years ago there has been no major outbreak. The flock size has increased from between a paltry two to six to 60.

Adoption of the vaccine has also been very good, as the selling price of a single chicken is enough to cover the cost of vaccinating the entire flock. The money is used to meet various family needs including funding the education of their children and buying crucial agricultural inputs for their fields.

The farmers get their chickens vaccinated four times a year, paying  eight Indian Rupees (or less than 13 US cents) per bird annually. The chickens are also primed for vaccination by deworming for which they pay another eight Indian Rupees annually. Once a chicken is grown, it can be sold for a maximum of 600 Indian Rupees (US $ 9). This is a significant economic investment for the farmers.

Speaking in the local Santhal dialect, Gopal’s wife Chhita (50) observes: “If you take care of your poultry, give them proper food and management, the chickens will take care of you.” She also advises others to vaccinate their birds.

When the project was launched, BMPCS facilitated a discussion among stakeholders and helped them to take a bold decision to charge the farmers a basic fee, instead of handing out the vaccines for free. Initially the sales from the retail shops were low, but later the sales grew considerably. The decision has yielded good results as the farmers soon understood the benefits of vaccination.

The farmers are keen to continue with vaccination even if the current project ends. This essentially points to the development of a sustainable market for ND vaccine in the district.

This has also motivated several young people like Sukanti (17) to aspire to be vaccinators. “I have just finished school. I think I can be a good vaccinator and earn well,” she says. She is from a farming family with backyard poultry and hence has understood the importance of ND vaccination.

Piyush Mishra, Programme Manager, BMPCS, notes: “If Sukanti and a few more girls take up vaccination, they can serve neighbouring villages and teach the villagers techniques for housing and feeding poultry as well.”

Improved income and nutrition of backyard poultry farmers have helped a large number of the population in an otherwise stressed farming situation. The region, like most other regions in India, has seen successive seasons of drought. Vaccinations against ND has boosted their poultry rearing and the vaccine now has a sustained demand in the local market place.

By Deepak Bhadana and edited by Prasenjit De of Alternatives on behalf of GALVmed.