Ethiopia, known for having the largest livestock population in Africa, has 55 million chickens. There is an increasing demand for livestock products in the country including meat, milk and egg, which calls for expansion of production. Expanding poultry production is easier than other livestock productions as it demands little startup capital and chickens grow more quickly than most of farm animals.
It is obvious that in a developing economy like Ethiopia, more productive and dynamic poultry sector could improve the livelihood of women, who are the principal owners of those businesses.
Poultry facility is a great opportunity to improve nutrition and income serving as response to food insecurity and supporting the country’s ongoing fight to prevent childhood stunting.
Poultry Research Facility, which was inaugurated on the 26th of April to boost poultry production and improve incomes and nutrition condition, conducts researches on genetic diversity of poultry to improve the nutrition and incomes of the Ethiopian farmers with unique opportunities to use advanced genetic technologies to understand, monitor and strengthen the resilience and productivity of chickens in a sustainable manner.
Selected chickens most suitable to various environments in Ethiopia will then be supplied to the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research for breeding.
Gebregziabher Gebreyohanse (PhD), State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Ministry said on the occasion that poultry research facility represents an important step in enhancing the fruitful collaboration between research institutions in Ethiopia and have brought many positive benefits for the scientific community and importantly for farmers, he added.
For instance, the selective breeding of Horo Chicken in Debrezeit Research Center by scientists from International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Ethiopian Poultry Research helped more than double their productivity. “This facility provides a unique space for men and women poultry farmers to adopt new technologies and improve productivity,” he indicated.
He stressed that the facility also displays the first DNA sequencing undertaken on one of Ethiopia’s indigenous birds.
Genetic code of indigenous chicken will significantly improve understanding of genetic diversity to the benefit of the country, he added. This knowledge will provide a unique opportunity to understand, monitor and strengthen the resilience and productivity of these chickens in sustainable manner, he further added.
Smart genetic breeding is a key in utilizing the potential of vast indigenous genetic diversity in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian livestock master plan identified huge untapped potential in the poultry sector. By introducing genetics feed and health services, it is planned to increase poultry and egg production by approximately 100 and 800% respectively over the next five years, he mentioned.
Adequate supply of nutritious and affordable protein meat and egg will help children to improve their physical growth, micro nutrient status and cognitive performance, as to him.
“We have made huge progress in malnutrition in recent years and increased chicken and egg consumption to play a crucial role in eliminating childhood stunting.”
The rapidly expanding poultry sector has the potential to strengthen the empowerment of women who are heavily involved in the businesses, said International Livestock Research Institute Director General, Jimmy Smith.
According to him, poultry meat and egg directly provide essential nutrients, particularly for infants. Poultry filter also fertilizes soil, increases crop productivity and indirectly helps to improve the wellbeing of households.
It is indicated that poultry research institutes aim to help millions of people across Africa and Asia to secure better lives through livestock.
ILRI has been working to improve poultry production, set up marketing system, strengthen value chains and reduce climate change shocks.
The facility is part of the effort to develop productive and resilient poultry for the part of the world where demand for livestock products is rising rapidly and climate change is undermining agricultural productivity, he added.
Of all livestock, poultry production can be easily scaled up to meet household nutrition needs in a far more affordable and sustainable manner, Smith concluded.
BY TSEGAYE TILAHUN