Animal Breeding / Animal Diseases / Animal Health / BecA / Biodiversity / Chickens / Disease Control / East Africa / Event / Genetics / ILRI / Indigenous Breeds / Kenya / Poultry / Vaccines / Women

Small livestock, big impact

Nairobi visit by WB VP Rachel Kyte: Presenters Lydia Wamalwa (CIP) and Sheila Ommeh (ILRI-BecA)

Kenyan geneticist and new PhD Sheila Ommeh (right) works at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub (BecA Hub) and ILRI’s animal health laboratories in Nairobi, Kenya, studying Africa’s native chicken breeds (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

‘Sheila Ommeh, a poultry geneticist at the International Livestock Research Centre in Nairobi, hopes to introduce a disease-resistant chicken that can be easily reared by women farmers.

‘The humble chicken may be a small bird but it could play a big role in reducing rural poverty in Africa, particularly among women farmers. . . .

‘Ommeh knows a thing or two about chickens, having grown up on the slopes of Mount Elgon in western Kenya where most homes rely on poultry flocks for food and income.

‘Her mother, aunts and grandmothers all kept chickens and the birds even paid for some of her schooling.

‘Three quarters of rural households in Kenya rear poultry, which is a cheap source of good protein. These smallholders are mostly women.

‘But Ommeh has seen first-hand how virulent diseases like Newcastle and Gomboro can wipe out flocks and destroy families’ livelihoods, increasing hunger and forcing parents to pull their children out of school because they can’t afford to pay for it. . . .

‘Although women produce most of the food consumed in Africa, only one in four agricultural researchers are female and even fewer hold leadership positions in African agricultural research institutions.

‘One organisation trying to close this gap is African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), which is helping women like Ommeh build their technical and leadership skills. . . .

‘Ommeh, who holds a PhD in chicken genetics, firmly believes that the answers to Africa’s problems lie within Africa.

In my view … it’s about time Africa looked for solutions in Africa for Africa,” she told TrustLaw, during a trip to London to address a group of British MPs about empowering African women scientists.

‘. . . The 34-year-old scientist believes it should be possible to produce a disease-resistant breed that weighs around 4 kilogrammes and produces 250 eggs a year – about three times the weight and yield of indigenous chickens. . . .

Chicken is a small livestock but I believe it has the capacity to have a big impact.”. . .’

Read the whole article at TrustLaw: Designer chicken could help empower Africa’s rural women, 07 Mar 2012.

One thought on “Small livestock, big impact

  1. Go Sheila!!
    You are a remarkable young woman and are putting ILRI on the global map. Congratulations and I believe, you will go far! Very Far!

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