Investigating the contribution of chickens to food and nutrition security:

Nkuku4U in Tanzania and Zambia enters its 4th year.

KYEEMA supports the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research-funded program in Tanzania and Zambia which is implemented by the University of Sydney and aims to strengthen food and nutrition security through family poultry and crop integration.  KYEEMA Board director and founding member, Associate Professor Robyn Alders AO, is the project leader.

The 7th project coordination committee meeting was held in May in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Project staff are committed, relationships are solidly grounded, activities implemented have ongoing and considerable dedication from the leadership at all levels and initial results from the field are promising. This has been achieved, despite the challenges in projects of this nature, as collaborator Professor Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College explains:

“Projects of this nature in Africa are notoriously difficult to go beyond rhetoric to real impact. Seemingly, the bigger the project the more diluted the effect. This is not surprising given the very real problems project staff and communities face, particularly women.”

The project continues to show how important chickens for many rural African households, and how sustainable and simple village poultry systems are – with a low ecological footprint and with the potential for low-cost interventions, like Newcastle disease vaccination, to improve production.

There has been a genuine concern amongst some research groups that contact with poultry manure may contribute to diarrhoea, enteropathy and restricted growth in children – common problems in many rural communities. Investigations on this project suggest otherwise. Veterinarian and PhD candidate Dr Julia de Bruyn from the University of Sydney explains her research findings to date:

“Current findings suggest a positive association between chicken ownership and improved growth, even when poultry are kept within human dwellings, and no increased risk of diarrhoea amongst children. Ongoing research is exploring the contributions of chickens in times of rainfall variability.”

A snapshot of Dr de Bruyn’s research poster, presented at the inaugural Planetary Health / GeoHealth Annual Meeting in April 2017, which explains her data collection methods.

Participants at the first of two project coordinating committee meetings for 2017, with representatives from across sectors and countries. Photo credit: University of Sydney.

Other researchers on the project, from Tanzania and the UK, are looking into the prevalence of the poultry-associated bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter  which are common causes of diarrhoea in humans globally, but about which little is known in rural extensive poultry systems. Findings to date suggest the bacteria are present but at a low prevalence, suggesting the risk from family poultry may be low compared to imported poultry products. The next stage is to link the source to disease incidence.

Qualitative research into rural nutrition on the project has found the potential for wild foods to complement the small-scale poultry system, with similar low levels of agricultural input and technology. KYEEMA’s social anthropology consultant, Dr Brigitte Bagnol explains the value of qualitative methods within the project’s mixed methods approach:

“Qualitative methods are flexible and allow participants to share information on a wide range of topics and to understand the ‘why, when, where, with whom’ etc. They also allow complex ideas relating to a specific topic to be more quickly grasped. They enable in-depth information about people’s practices, attitudes and knowledge to be gathered.”

We look forward to supporting this project until its completion in December 2018 and sharing information about impact for communities in Tanzania and Zambia.

For more information visit or to read papers from our KYEEMA associates on the project visit: