Survey Shows How Poultry Contribute to Rural Economy

BANGLADESH - A recent survey showed that three-quarters of rural households keep some poultry - on average, 7 birds - and that these contribute substantially to each family's income, helping to alleviate poverty.
calendar icon 6 October 2008
clock icon 5 minute read

Detailed accounts of rural non-land capital at household level are rare in contemporary researches. The Daily Star reports that this leaves little scope to analyse the livelihoods of the rural people and understand the dynamics of rural economy. In a Brac-backed survey of households in repeated samples, we came up with some tentative estimates of such capital endowments and changes thereof.

Rural households now have, on average, non-land capital worth $635. This is 27 per cent up from $500 in 2000 and implies that sample households could increase capital over time. A decomposition of the constituents of capital tends to reveal the following facts.

Non-agricultural capital (business, transport) now accounts for about 60 per cent of the total capital ownership, and agricultural capital claims the rest. This compares with roughly 70 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, in 2000. This implies that between the two periods, the share of non-agricultural capital went down while that of agricultural capital went up. The decline in non-agricultural capital could be attributed to a decline in business capital: from 57 per cent of total capital in 2000 to 49 per cent in 2008.

The researchers suggest that there should be more research into the effects of various anti-corruption drives taken by the government recently and a shift of capital from low profitable business activities to other high profitable ventures. Accumulation of agricultural capital increased over time: from 32 per cent of total capital to 2000 to 42 per cent in 2008. Again, the pertinent reason could be increased profitability of agriculture and inflow of capital in that direction.

The most serious setback was seen by industry equipment capital. It fell drastically over time, indicating rural 'de-industrialisation'. Among agricultural capital, livestock and poultry capital increased from 28 per cent of total capital to 38 per cent of total capital. This signifies a significant emphasis of rural livelihoods on livestock and poultry.

More than four-fifths of rural households continue to bank on this capital for generating income and, more importantly, most of the rural women are engaged in these activities. By and large, it seems that the poor segment of the rural population also gained capital, possibly through remittances or credit from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Livestock and poultry affect rural livelihoods, especially of the poor. One half of the total households have cattle; one-third have goat/sheep, and more than three-quarters have poultry. An average rural household now has three cows/buffalos and 7 poultry. Both are increasing over time, and there are significant rises in the number of goats and sheep due to special programs floated by the previous government.

The average value of livestock and poultry population per household is estimated to be $154 compared to $100 in 2000. Income generated from the capital accounted for $76 and $51, respectively. The very poor and poor segments doubled their capital of livestock and poultry and also nearly doubled their income from the possession of such assets.

In the absence of natural disasters and disease, it is predicted that the return from such assets averages 50 per cent. Even with a hefty interest rate of 30 per cent, a household finds such capital very valuable.

The policy implication is that the government or NGOs need to expand credit on this count for two main reasons. First, livestock and poultry account for about half of the income of the very poor (owning up to 0.2 hectares) and poor households (owning 0.21-0.40 hectares). This must be supplemented by regular extension services needed to keep the capital generated income.

Second, as mostly women are engaged in these income-earning activities, we feel that these activities should be considered as a means to empowering them. And finally, the policy implication is to organise these tiny milk and egg producers under the umbrella of producer's co-operatives so that they can reap a fair return.

The message is that livestock/poultry constitute an important source of capital for generating rural income. The very poor and poor segments of the rural society heavily bank on these assets for generating income. In fact, almost half of the income from these activities is due to involvement of women, who work at home.

Taking all household income together, the contribution of women in income-earning opportunities come close to 40 per cent, mostly from livestock/poultry rearing, fruit and vegetables.

Home-based activities are assuming growing importance in poverty alleviation. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked when developing policies to reduce poverty. For a policy to be successful, the rural poor need credit, support and commitment from the government.

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