Village poultry play a vital role in many poor rural households. They provide scarce animal protein (in the form of meat and eggs) and can be sold/bartered to meet essential family needs such as medicine, clothes and school fees. They also provide manure and pest control as well as being used in traditional ceremonies. Village poultry are generally owned and managed by women and children and improving their production can provide the first step out of poverty for the rural poor.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has supported village poultry research in many countries since 1984. This research has had some significant outcomes including: the control of Newcastle disease (ND) using Australian derived live thermotolerant vaccines in a variety of poultry production systems in several countries; description and quantification of the scavenging feed resource base of low input/low output systems; development of gender-sensitive extension materials and methodologies suitable for use in remote rural areas in Asia and Africa; and the development and registration of a new duck plague vaccine in Vietnam.
The thermotolerant ND I-2 vaccine remains viable for periods away from the cold chain, can be administered by various routes and induces an acceptable level of protection under village conditions. The vaccine master seed, together with the ND Laboratory Manual, is made available without cost by ACIAR.
In developing countries where ND is endemic, outbreaks regularly result in high mortalities and in countries where it is not endemic, sporadic outbreaks make vaccination advisable. The implementation of an effective ND control programme in countries in Africa and Asia has resulted in increased chicken numbers, increased household purchasing power, increased home consumption of chicken products and increased decision-making power for women.
However, sustainable programmes for the control of ND in village chickens have been difficult to achieve, often due to limited appreciation by official agencies of the benefits of village poultry. Experience has shown that a sustainable ND control programme is composed of five essential components: a) an appropriate vaccine and vaccine technology; b) effective extension materials and methodologies that target veterinary and extension staff, community vaccinators and farmers; c) simple evaluation and monitoring systems; d) economic sustainability based on the commercialisation of the vaccine and vaccination services and the marketing of surplus chickens and eggs; and e) support and coordination by relevant government agencies for the promotion of vaccination programmes.
Details of ND control in village poultry are provided on the ACIAR website, www.aciar.gov.au and by the Australian Agency for International Development www.ausaid.gov.au.