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Increasing egg availability through smallholder business models in East Africa and India

1 INTRODUCTION

Eaten since the beginning of time, eaten almost everywhere in the world, relatively easy to obtain, adaptable to many different types of cooking techniques and an affordable source of highly digestible protein, the egg offers a high potential to improve maternal and child nutrition. In a recent study, all nine essential amino acids were significantly lower in stunted children compared with non‐stunted Malawian children (Semba et al., 2016). This finding is important because it suggests that stunted children are not receiving sufficient quality protein from their diets. Studies promoting egg consumption for women and children as part of broader dietary improvements in low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs) show that child growth indicators are significantly improved in the intervention group compared with control (Iannotti et al., 2017; Iannotti, Lutter, Bunn, & Stewart, 2014). Despite the apparent benefits of eggs, their availability and consumption in these countries, especially in Sub‐Saharan Africa and Asia, is low (Iannotti et al., 2014).

In LMICs, extensively raised chicken or village poultry (flock size of less than 50) contribute to most of the poultry population and are owned by most rural households (Alders & Pym, 2009; Gilbert et al., 2015). Despite low productivity levels (30 to 80 eggs per bird per year), such backyard production systems have been beneficial as they provide supplemental income and insurance to vulnerable groups of society through the sale of eggs and birds using almost negligible inputs (Wong et al., 2017). However, several critical barriers to production need to be addressed to improve and maximize their contribution to food and nutrition security. These include high losses due to disease and predation, high and volatile feed prices, inadequate nutrition, housing, access to affordable vaccines and medicines, veterinary services, and flock management practices (Wong et al., 2017)—all of which are elements of an intensive production system. Intensive poultry systems have a minimum flock size of 100 birds, operate as commercial farms with much higher productivity levels ranging from 200 to 340 eggs per bird per year (Chatterjee & Rajkumar, 2015; Pym, Guerne Bleich, & Hoffmann, 2006). In rural areas, intensifying production through aggregation of smallholders as contract farmers or through cooperatives are known to improve productivity for several foods such as cereals, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and chicken meat (Prowse, 2012). However, published literature for egg production models is sparse. We, therefore, conducted a value chain assessment in three countries in East Africa and India to explore organizations that address the constraints in egg production and analysed their approaches that resulted in identifying five business models that are viable and sustainable. In this paper, we describe these five archetypes all of which involve smallholder farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, and India.

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