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.

All female poultry vaccinators in Ethiopia

An all-female vaccinator group is tackling a deadly poultry disease in Ethiopia.

The Newcastle Disease vaccine project in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia started in January 2017. Its objective was to introduce and implement a Newcastle Disease vaccination and general poultry health and management programme.

In 30 districts in Tigray through female village vaccinators, with the goal to reach 150,000 households, the project aims to empower women whose minimum education qualification is Grade 10 who are categorised as landless women.

(Video by Pius Sawa, WRENmedia consultant, for GALVmed.)

Newcastle Disease vaccination in India creates new job opportunities as well as saving poultry

Newcastle Disease (ND) vaccinators in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha state in India can today look towards bright prospects. The demand for their services has not only spawned new employment opportunities within their locales, but has also helped farmers protect their poultry flocks which would routinely be ravaged by Newcastle Disease outbreaks. In addition, the chance to become a poultry vaccinator and the income that comes along with it has empowered rural women, who can now use their hard earned money to invest in a better future for their families. Access to ND vaccination training in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha has been facilitated by the Bhodal Milk Producers Co-operative Society (BMPCS), a local NGO, and Heifer International in partnership with non-profit Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed).

Thirty-seven-year-old, Govardhan Naik from Suryapada always wanted to set up his own business. A university graduate, he first heard of an opportunity to be an ND vaccinator through a friend. After a four day training course that covered vaccination and first aid, he ventured into the field as a trained vaccinator. This was about four years ago.

Govardhan gets his supplies of the ND vaccine from a market at a nearby town, Kosta. He has also procured a refrigerator to store the vaccines and a motorcycle to help him reach the farmers. He serves around 400 households vaccinating close to 5,000 chickens every month. Providing additional services such as deworming and first aid, Govardhan brings home a net income averaging INR 8,000 (US $ 122) monthly, which has positively contributed to the economic well-being of his family.

His work as a vaccinator has brought him recognition from the locals and several of his friends have now shown an interest in the occupation, with one of them now an active vaccinator. “I will continue as a vaccinator even after this current project ends,” he says, referring to the ongoing GALVmed sponsored initiative, much to the relief of numerous households who are grateful for his services and want him to continue.

The effects of the poultry vaccinators’ work on the local economy are visible. When Govardhan first began vaccinating, an average village consisting of about 20 households would have a maximum of 70-80 chickens. After the first year of vaccination, the number skyrocketed to over 1,000. Farmers’ earnings from poultry rearing increased.

“If you work as a vaccinator, you can have an independent enterprise,” he adds.

A vial of the ND vaccine costs between INR 75 (US $1.16) and INR 100 (US $1.55). One vial can vaccinate up to 100 chickens. A vaccinator can charge INR 2 (US $ 0.03) per vaccination. There is also additional income derived from services such as deworming and first aid. For example, Govardhan earns another INR 3,000 or (US $46) from these additional services.

The involvement of women as vaccinators has also contributed to their economic empowerment and participation in decision making within the family unit and their communities. Mamata Mandal, 42, from Tikayatpur village in Ras Gobindpur block, is one such vaccinator. Mamata first got to know about vaccination from Anup Behra, the team leader of Unnayana, a local NGO. Coming from a family that has traditionally reared poultry and having witnessed high mortality of the birds, she readily took up the occupation.

Mamata procures her supplies from a small shop, about 7 km away from her village. Carrying a cool box to store the vaccines, she serves around 250 households in a 3km radius and vaccinates around 5,000 birds. Her services get her an income of INR 3,000 (US $ 46) every month. “With this income I can school my children and buy agricultural inputs for the farm,” she says.

BMPCS started the programme with just 7,500 families in 2011. By December 2016, the NGO had already reached more than 175,000 households. Today BMPCS supports more than 320 vaccinators in the project area.

Heifer International’s project was launched in September 2015. By May 2017, they had served as many as 62,316 households. Today, Heifer International supports more than 218 active vaccinators in the field.

Newcastle disease vaccination has helped turn around the lives of many individuals in Mayurbhanj. The vaccinators stand at the frontlines in the fight against the deadly poultry disease and their services are benefitting many smallholder farmers. And with a stable demand for their services, the vaccinators can hope for a better future.

Written by: Deepak Bhadana and edited by Prasenjit De of Alternatives for GALVmed