“Chicken dumping”: Motivations and perceptions in shifting poultry production practices
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often implement overseas development aid through intensive small-scale animal agriculture to alleviate food insecurity in low- and middle-income countries. Intensive animal farming can pose unclear outcomes to households engaged in the practice because of the reliance on industrial animal breeds that are reared with antibiotics and raised in higher densities compared to traditional scavenging husbandry systems. As a result, intensive small-scale farming operations that lack proper infrastructure, training, and financial resources could facilitate the spread of antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases. We applied a mixed-methods framework towards analyzing the effectiveness of small-scale broiler chicken farming in northern Ecuador. First, from May 2016 – May 2017, our observational surveys indicated that intensive small-scale poultry farming follows a boom-and-bust cycle that is extremely vulnerable to environmental stressors. Second, in May 2016, we followed a cohort of households enrolled in a poultry development project led by an NGO. We observed a substantial decline in chicken survivorship from Survey period 1 to 2 (mean chicken count decrease from 50 to 35 corresponding to a 70% survivorship) and from Survey period 2 to 3 (mean chicken count decrease from 35 to 20.3 corresponding to a 58% survivorship). Heads of households were self-reporting broiler chicken survivorship substantially higher than our recorded observations during survey period two (46 compared to 35 respectively) and three (44.3 compared to 20.3 respectively). We speculate that if households continue to inaccurately report poultry demographics, then it could perpetuate a negative feedback loop where NGOs continue to conduct the same intervention practices without receiving accurate outcome metrics. Third, we used semi-structured questionnaires to determine that access to financial resources was the major motivation for determining when to farm broiler chickens. Intensive small-scale poultry farming can be unreliable and disease-enhancing, yet also associated with dubious self-reports of success.