Chickens 4 Change – how do chickens change lives?

Why a small flock of local breed village chickens is so important to a household in a resource-poor community. This is the inspirational story of how Kyeema Foundation came to be and what Chickens4Change means.

You have probably never thought about how integral the humble chicken is to the health and income of resource-poor households. In many parts of the world, owning healthy livestock can provide people with a better quality of life and help entire communities to work their way out of poverty.

Village chickens (and poultry more broadly) are owned and managed mostly by women and children at household level, and as such are important for the livelihoods of families in places where good quality protein and micronutrient sources are hard to come by.

Did you know? Village chickens, also known as indigenous chickens, or rural poultry more broadly, are terms used to describe local breed chickens kept by smallholders in the communities we work. They are usually small flocks of free roaming birds during the day and housed at night. Similarly in Australia our ‘backyard chickens’ also contribute to our wellness and food security. 

By putting financial resources in the hands of mothers, the versatile village chicken empowers women as decision-makers within the household. This in turn usually leads to improved outcomes in child education and nutrition, which is critical in countries where childhood stunting rates are as high as 49.5%.

Not only do chickens provide vital nutrition through their meat and eggs, surpluses can be traded to provide extra income or resources to pay for medicine or school fees. Additionally, they are often used to fulfil social obligations (such as welcome gifts or as a method of payment for labour around the household or farm), provide soil-enriching manure, are active pest controllers and used in many traditional ceremonies (such as the use of feathers in traditional costume).

While you may never have heard of Newcastle disease (ND), it has been known to wreak havoc in chickens and for the people who rely on them to survive and thrive. The disease has a negative impact on food and nutrition security across both Africa and Asia. Occurring frequently, outbreaks kill between 50 to 100 % of the flock in an area.

Enter dedicated Australian scientists! The late Emeritus Professor Peter Spradbrow AM (a founding member of Kyeema) and his team at the University of Queensland received worldwide praise for their efforts in the development an affordable, thermotolerant vaccine for the control of ND in village chickens.

Funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Australian Aid program, the research and vaccine have paved the way for a small, dedicated team of animal health professionals from Kyeema to improve the health of village chickens. The vaccine significantly decreases the mortality rate in a vaccinated flock, which means very few chickens die when an outbreak comes through an area (compared to 50-100% mortality of unvaccinated flocks). This particularly benefits vulnerable households, who can keep and even grow their flock as a result and use the chickens as a way to support their household requirements.  

Implementation of vaccination programs through the training of men and women community vaccinators has meant deaths of chickens from ND can be significantly reduced. Improved poultry farming practices continue to be supported through our work thanks to Australian Aid through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and private donors from the Australian community.

Chickens4Change

is a true local solution for achieving several of the

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the communities where we work.

Learning with children at home?

Join Dr Robyn Alders of Kyeema as she takes you on the Newcastle disease journey with farmers in TanzaniaWatch 5 minute video

Subscribe to our e-news – see how our work supports outcomes for coral reef restoration in PNG – Watch 1.5 minute video

Print this Chickens4Change Factsheet – perhaps a learning content for a primary school report or presentation task? Recommend for Years 5-7.

Like and follow us @kyeemadawn on social media for a #chickensoftheworld educational series.