Department of Animal Science, University of Zimbabwe,
P O Box MP167, Mt. Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
E- mail address: Kusina@ansci.uz.zw
Poultry production is widespread in Zimbabwe, comprising large-scale, small-scale commercial and extensive poultry production units. Large-scale systems are characterised by huge investments, intensive management and a high degree of mechanisation and specialisation. These systems, because of the nature of the inputs required, are confined to a few wealthy companies or individuals. Small-scale systems are found in both peri-urban and communal areas. Exotic or improved breeds are used in commercial poultry production systems. Extensive systems are found mainly in the communal areas, with almost every household owning some chickens. These systems are dominated by poultry breeds that are not classified into specific breeds, but are possibly crosses of imported and indigenous breeds or indigenous breeds depending on the area and mainly scavenge for their daily nutrient requirements. In Zimbabwe, village chickens are estimated to be between 15 and 30 million. The estimate is based on about one million communal farmers, with an average of 20 birds/flock. Village chicken production has withstood the test of time and is often described as a low input-low output production system. This makes it a very sustainable system for the resource poor, communal area farmers. Needless to say, because of this attitude, very little attention has been paid to this industry in terms of research and development, training and marketing, resulting in the lack of information on the status of poultry production in the communal areas. This lack of attention has led to many constraints in terms of improving productivity of village chickens, not only in Zimbabwe, but also in other African and developing countries. Despite the lack of attention and constraints, there is potential to increase village poultry production. Village chickens or indigenous chickens (where they still exist), are an important reservoir of germplasm that may be used in the future to improve hybrid birds to better adapt to the environments where they are kept. Village chickens are also relatively cheap to purchase, feed and house. In addition, they are an ideal source of high quality protein (both meat and eggs), income and manure fertiliser for economically disadvantage people, the majority of whom live in the rural areas of Zimbabwe and Africa. The constraints and potential to improving village and small-scale chicken production will be reviewed in this paper.
Key words: village poultry, production, constraints, protein, income