The chicken or the egg?

Posted on June 17, 2014

According to Associate Professor Robyn Alders, Principal Research Fellow in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, we can have them both – that is for consumption!

At the invitation of UP’s Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being and the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Prof Alders presented an insightful talk on village poultry, which is the poultry production system commonly found in rural areas and involves indigenous chicken genotypes.

In her address at Onderstepoort Campus early in June, she presented village poultry farming as a viable option for addressing malnutrition in Africa and pointed out that it provides an economic benefit for rural villagers wanting to make a living from village poultry by offering a ’high-benefit cost ratio’. It also provides ‘assets’ to rural women who are more likely to invest their hard-earned income in their children’s education to improve their lives.

In addition to providing in nutritional needs, chickens can also be bartered for other items, or sold to obtain money to pay school fees or buy things like medicine and clothing. They therefore represent a source of cash, basically a ’living bank’, for emergencies and small purchases. Village chickens provide manure that can be used to fertilise home gardens and can play a role in pest control where villagers grow their own crops for household use.

The meat and eggs of village chickens are often the main source of animal protein consumed in rural areas. They provide high-quality proteins and vitamins that are essential to health, growth and general wellbeing. Hence they contribute to a nutritious, balanced diet and are also quick and easy to prepare.

Prof Alders pointed out that with the progress made in relevant research, we can help sustain food supplies and manage veterinary problems associated with village poultry production. This research can go a long way towards controlling diseases like Newcastle disease, which causes considerable financial losses to farmers and drives poultry prices up. This research can also facilitate the implementation of simple changes in the way village poultry is managed so as to enhance nutrition and income generation through the sale of surplus chickens or eggs to improve the living conditions of many rural families.

UP’s Prof Sheryl Hendriks, who helped organise this event together with Dr Langa Simela, added that besides the physical benefits, the sense of accomplishment experienced by people involved in successful poultry and backyard farming also offers valuable mental health benefits. 

- Author Myan Subrayan
Published by Lorraine Makena

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