Birol and many coauthors presented a paper a year ago on the place of poultry in African livelihoods. More specifically, they are "Investigating the Role of Poultry in Livelihoods and the Impact of HPAI on Livelihoods Outcomes in Africa: Evidence from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria." That is, what would happen to Africans who raise chickens if their flocks were hit by a Highly Pathogenic bird flu?
Most policies that deal with bird flu focus on the supply side problem (replacing the value of lost birds). "According to the records of the World Bank-funded Avian Influenza Control Program, between February 2007 and January 2008, N623,077,880 (US$4,215,683) has been paid to compensate farmers whose birds were culled." They point that there is also a demand side: less demand for the remaining birds whether or not HPAI actually happens when people are afraid it might happen. Even households with no sick birds lost more than two-thirds of their poultry income from the first outbreak in 2006. 75% of poultry farmers either bought no new birds or left the industry,
HPAI is "endemic" in Nigeria, and with Ghana on the migratory route, it has also had three outbreaks. However, because they find that poor people in Nigeria use a variety of livelihoods strategies, even a bad outbreak of HPAI won't affect them much in their total portfolio. Among their policy recommendations is to help increase livelihood strategy diversity - give people more opportunities to earn money.
However, I would point out that one of the reasons they pursue diverse livelihoods strategies is because of the risk involved in trusting in any one activity. They are unable to access better (more productive, more efficient, more remunerative) production strategies because something like HPAI would wipe them out. This keeps average incomes lower and perpetuates poverty and low mobility. Steps to reduce the uncertainty of any activity they already use would make it more attractive and reduce their loss aversion.
I was surprised at the Jimeta modern market this Saturday. I went to the corner where the broiler chickens are and spoke to a poultry seller. I asked him for seven of his nine chickens so my family would be able to get some food storage together. He refused to sell me more than one. It took some time and discussion before he realized that I was not trying to buy his one broiler for only N700 ("No, I want 7") and for me to realize that he would only sell me one for N1120. This being the first time I had ventured out to buy my own chicken, I don't know how much of a pattern this is. Had my Hausa or his English been better, I might have made some headway in understanding what was going on.
In Nigeria, a little more than 1/3 of rural households raise poultry while 6% of urban households do. In either case, the flocks of the poorest quintile are about 16 birds and the richest 19, and they earn about 5% of their income from them. Of the four countries studied, Nigeria has the lowest participation rate, though the highest flock size and income share, suggesting that events have pushed out the smallest poultry farmers. The poorest quintile of Nigerian poultry farmers earn 15% of their income from poultry while the richest earn only 0.25% from poultry. Additionally, much of the poultry farming is done by women and children - in the children's case, they may own one or two chickens themselves in order to pay for school supplies.