Laying Foundations

Poultry Farming and Promoting Employment for Women
Keeping poultry is a feature of virtually all households in the rural regions of Afghanistan. Traditionally it is the job of the women to look after any birds that have the run of the yard. But indigenous breeds lay relatively few eggs. It is generally only in the summer months that families can sell a few eggs at market; in winter, egg production is not usually sufficient to meet even the needs of the owners. In 2010, this situation gave rise to the idea of improving poultry production in the provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan.

In collaboration with the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan (DCA), the German Government supported 600 women from 30 villages across the three provinces. The women were given 12,000 laying hen chicks, as well as feed for the birds. Many chicks died, however, and it soon became clear that veterinary care was required if poultry breeding was to grow on a sustainable basis. To this end, the project partners trained 30 vets as trainers who would then pass on their expertise in hen husbandry and veterinary care. Equipped with training materials, vaccines and medicines, the veterinaries then provided training for women in the village.

One such village is Sarqruk in the district of Kalafgan, where 20 women formed a group determined to raise egg production significantly. From one of the vets, the head of the women’s group learned how to keep her hens healthy. She now serves as a grassroots veterinarian. Using the well-illustrated teaching materials, she has explained the fundamentals of hen husbandry, even to the women who can’t read or write. The project partners provided the grassroots vet with medicines, vaccines and a gas-powered incubator for rearing chicks. The women are now in a position to vaccinate their chicks and hens and to take immediate action at the first signs of disease. The starter pack for their poultry farming included chicken wire, a drinking trough, a feeder, egg cartons, 100 kilograms of lay feed and 20 chicks. The nearby feed mill established by the project is an additional bonus. It provides the women with a cheap supply of feed for their birds. When asked how the group became so involved in hen farming, the women speak with one voice: ‘Our husbands all work in Iran and only send money occasionally. We have to ensure the survival of our families alone and keeping chickens seems to us a great opportunity.’

The women succeeded in increasing poultry numbers. Each of them had approximately five hens at the outset. Today they have around 20 laying hens and 10 chicks. Only a few of them keep broilers for meat, since eggs are more important to them: ‘We now eat egg dishes once a week and kill a hen for meat once every three months at most.’ But there is more good news: whereas the laying hens previously laid 2 to 5 eggs per day and none at all in winter, now they lay between 10 and 20 eggs daily. The women can sell each egg for between five and seven Afghanis, which adds up to a monthly income of between 1,500 and 2,000 Afghanis, approximately EUR 20 - 27. ‘I now have my own money for soap, clothing and school materials. My husband always used to complain when I asked him to bring something back, but now I can buy it myself,’ says one delighted mother from the women’s group.

The women’s business is still not entirely secure, however. So far they have received vaccines for the chickens free of charge. In future they will have to buy these from the vets. That represents another major obstacle for the group. Additionally, losses result from theft, cold weather, and shortages of feed in winter. It will be some time yet before a sustainable value chain for poultry farming can be developed. But the women have already laid the foundations.

We have to ensure the survival of our families alone and keeping chickens seems to us a great opportunity.
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