Bangladesh / India / Indigenous Breeds / PIM / Policy / Poultry / Pro-Poor Livestock / Report / South Asia

Backyard poultry keeping and poverty reduction in South Asia: Good practices and good returns

Chicken, dung and farm cart in West Bengal, India

A chicken forages beneath a farm cart in Brahampur (Arwa Village), in West Bengal, India, near drying patties of cow dung that will be used as cooking fuel (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

A South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, a joint initiative of the National Dairy Development Board of India and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has identified and documented a range of good practices along the poultry supply chain in Bangladesh, Bhutan and India. These include interventions related to the provision of inputs, management and improved husbandry practices, health service delivery and the marketing of live birds and eggs.

This paper reviews and draws lessons out of 11 good practices on small‐scale poultry farming, documented by the programme in collaboration with a variety of public and private actors, including national and state governments, non-governmental organizations and private companies. The document attempts to identify gaps—in the current policy and institutional framework in Bangladesh, Bhutan and India—to enable improvements in smallholder poultry rearing.

The economics of South Asia’s backyard and small-scale poultry farming are interesting. Among other matters, we learn from this publication:

‘Returns on a one‐year investment in one single hen in scavenging and semi‐scavenging systems are handsome, averaging about 285 per cent and providing an average annual net income of about US$ 40 in India, that is, about 34 per cent of the national rural poverty threshold. These include eggs laid and consumed/sold, chicks hatched and birds consumed and sold.

‘In backyard production systems, investments in nondescript and indigenous birds, such as the Aseel and the Kadaknath, provide higher returns than investments in exotic ones, because of the high cost of feed for exotic birds (which are not good scavengers) and the lower market price of exotic meat and eggs (which are not preferred by rural consumers). . . .

‘The larger the flock size, the smaller the return on investments and the profit per bird, most likely because of the growing feed and animal health costs, which are minimal, if any, in backyard poultry farming system. In effect, commercial and semi‐commercial poultry enterprises are characterized by high‐volumes and low‐profit margins per bird. The implication is that backyard and small‐scale poultry farms are viable enterprises only as far as the scavenging base is sufficient to feed the birds.

‘Keeping a few exotic birds makes little economic sense because it is more profitable to raise a few nondescript or indigenous birds that can thrive almost on their own. At the same time, when the scavenging base is limited, it is sounder to keep just one or a few local birds rather than a flock of say ten local hens because the cost of additional feed will be higher than the returns from the hens. . . .’

Read the whole publication at the website of the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme.

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