TIMOTHY N.P. GONDWE, CLEMENS WOLLNY
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Animal Breeding and Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany
A twelve months monitoring study was conducted on household flocks of scavenging chickens in 27 villages in central Malawi. The objective was to identify and value functions and losses that involved physical migration of growing and adult chickens out of household flocks. Household flock dynamics and their causes were recorded during the weekly visits on farmer households. Annual flock values were quantitatively determined from information of monthly flock sizes and outputs, their live weights and farm-gate prices.
Primary functions of chickens were in that order of importance: household consumption (28% of overall offtake), consumption in ceremonies (14%), goods for sale (9.4%), exchange of breeding stock (4.0%) and gifts (1.0%). Those offered for consumption in ceremonies, 44% were in funerals and 22% in weddings. Chickens are more commonly utilised in social functions than other livestock. Chicken play an important role for households in fulfilling their social responsibility to the community. Losses from diseases, predation and theft accounted for 43.9% of flock offtake. Birds provided for breeding were on average 20 weeks old while those offered to ceremonies were 29 weeks old. Based on their previous weeks' live weights, chickens lost through diseases (835 g) and predation (921 g) had significantly (p < 0.05) lower live weights than those utilised (>1100 g).
Annualised values were MK958 (1US$ = MK85.00) for home consumption, MK636 for ceremonies, MK403 for sales, MK66 for breeding and MK43 for gifts per household flock (average flock size of 12.9, SD 8.4). Per each flock, losses due to diseases and predation were valued at MK567 and MK420, respectively.
The study has determined and valued household and social functions of local chickens in rural communities. Value of losses due to diseases and predation is also of great importance, signalling health and management constraints. These values provide information for the design of breeding goals and justifying appropriate community based breeding and management programs to improve village chicken production.
Keywords: Community based production system, economic and social functions, flock migration, values of local chicken