Improved chicken rearing for indigenous farmers using farmer field school (FFS) approach

Taveng Leu commune is about 60 km northeast of Banlung provincial town of Ratanakiri province. The road from Banlung to Taveng Leu commune is difficult especially in the rainy season. More than 80% of the total population in the commune is indigenous people (Prov). Agriculture and non-timber forest products are their main sources of food and incomes. Livestock is also another source of livelihoods. Life and Nature project has 4 target villages in the commune. Few Non-Governmental Organizations currently working in the commune, such as Save Cambodia Wildlife (SCW), PLAN International etc.
The Ministry of Environment is the main counterpart of FAO in the implementation of the Life and Nature project in close partnership with aligning institutions to include Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – General Directorate of Agriculture and Forestry Administration; Woman’s Affairs; Rural Development; Water Resources and Meteorology, etc. The objective of the project is to build adaptive capacity of rural communities and reduce their vulnerability to Climate Change through micro watershed management and climate resilient agriculture practices to ensure food security. The project’s on-the-ground efforts will take place within four locations: Lvea Krang commune, Varin District, Siem Reap Province; PoPok Commune, Stoung District, Kampong Thom Province; Ta Veaeng Leu Commune, Ta Veaeng District, Ratanak Kiri Province; and, Kulen Chheung Commune, Kulen District, Preah Vihear Province in four commune micro watersheds that cover a total area of 59455 hectares and has a population of ~9793.

Life and Nature project conducted a climate change vulnerability and impact assessment (VIA) to assess vulnerability and adaptation measures of the community. Capacity building on chicken rearing was raised by the interviewed respondents during the VIA. Chicken raising is commonly applied by the people in the commune, but the result was not so good. No proper care and regular feeding provided, and chicken frequently eaten by other wildlife. Some chickens died when the indigenous farmers cross the Sesan River from the village center to Chamkar. By this reason, Life and Nature project cooperated with the Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA-Ratanakiri) to implement a pilot FFS. Mr. Bunsong, technical official from PDA was the trainer and Mr. Leang Sambath, project extension officer acted as the FFS facilitator. An officer from the district office of agriculture (DOA) also assisted in implementing the FFS. In total, 12 young farmers attended the FFS, from February to April 2016. Eight training sessions organized on breed selection, caring of chicks and chicken, preparation of chicken house, chicken pen/biosafety fence, mobile cage, feeding, vaccination, etc.

The farmers have improved their chicken rearing techniques after attending the farmer field school such as confine big and small chickens separately, provide mixed feed to chicken, get vaccination for their chicken, provide clean water, etc. all of these practices were not applied before the FFS. Detail of changes are elaborated below:

1) Separate small and big chickens: Big chicken normally bit small chickens when feed is provided in the same place. Small chicken cannot eat or having enough feed if they eat together with the big chicken. Making cages to separate the big and small chickens are prepared by the indigenous farmers after they received the training from the project. Currently, they see good growth of the chickens. Mixed feed and clean water are provided regularly – this enables the chickens to grow faster.

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Chicken cage

2) Building biosafety fence and mobile cage: traditionally, they allowed chickens to go anywhere for their food. Now, the farmers make chicken pen or biosafety fence to confine their chicken, the purpose is to prevent chickens from infectious diseases. Photo below shows the chicken house and fence being constructed.

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Chicken house – to be completed

_DSC2008Wild bamboo is available in the community, so the farmers don’t need to spend for the bamboo to make chicken cage, fence, etc. However, the indigenous community needs to make sure that this resource is sustainable for long term use.  In addition, the farmers also build mobile cage to transport their chickens from village center to Chamkar. In Taveng Leu commune, the farmers live in two different places, at the village center during the dry season and in Chamkar during the rainy season. They also move all livestock / poultry together with them from place to place. From village to Chamkar, they need to cross Sesan River, they were difficult to manage a good transport of their chickens while crossing the river. PDA trained them to prepare mobile cage to keep their chickens inside when crossing the river to Chamkar.

3) Mixed feed / feeding: It is different from what they had done before. Now, they prepare feed container from bamboo, and provide mixed and nutritious feed for their chickens. Some farmers used feed from the factory to feed the chicks, the idea is to faster the growth of the chicks when they were young. Actually, it is important for the farmers to be able to make mixed feed by themselves so that they don’t need pay money for buying feed from markets. There are some local feed available in their community such as termite, young leaves of the cassava, etc._DSC1862

4) Building capacity of the village animal health workers: 2 out of 12 FFS members are village animal health workers. It was good for them to refresh what they have learned before through attending the pilot FFS. Additionally, the PDA director will invite them to join another one-month training to be organized by PDA.

Challenges in implementing the FFS

  • We need to further improve the implementation of the FFS approach – this mainly focus on the sharing of knowledge and experience among farmers as well as the field practices that enable the farmers to learn effectively. Class lecturing need to reduced.
  • Definitely, FFS does not need much external incentive support such as materials/equipment needed for the preparation of chicken pens, chicken cage, mobile cage, etc. however, if the project also have this support, all of these materials need to be procured and delivered quickly to the farmers. This enables the farmers to apply the techniques that they have learned very well, and they may be able to see results.
  • Concept of climate change to be integrated into the training curriculum. Some brief about the climate change concept provided by the project extension officer, but not much detail. There should a session on climate change integrated into the training sessions.
  • FFS group leaders should be selected. The group need to be well-organized and structured for the future development.

Lessons learned

  • Organization of the exchange visit to learn from experienced farmers is a good method to motivate farmers to apply new techniques
  • Selection of young farmers – they have high motivation and commitment compared to the old farmers. The young indigenous farmers also can speak Khmer better than the old farmers.
  • Demonstration and regular follow up visit is the key to support farmers to apply new ideas. Trainer and extension officer provided good demonstration to farmers in applying new techniques.
  • Making friend and close relationship with farmers with the key to gain confidence and participation from the farmers. In the indigenous community, women’s participation is limited if trust and confidence is not building up.
  • Training curriculum need to be well-prepared from the beginning of the FFS, training materials should be ready before the training organized. Visual tools like picture, video clip are useful tool for the training while majority of the participants are illiterate.
  • The project extension officer together with FFS trainer should use the FFS record book. Using the record book would enable them to record what happening in each training sessions, and other information related to the follow up visit and advice, incentive support, problems encountered and proposed solution as well as success of FFS compared to its objectives and expected results.

Next actions

  • Provide technical follow up support to the FFS members to help them improving the chicken rearing and provide solution if any problem happened.
  • For the next season, the farmers are interested in FFS on rice, vegetables. Pig and fish raising were also raised by the farmers, but these practices are only suitable for some specific location in the commune.
  • As the project has another component on alternative livelihood, the strengthening and building up on the existing FFS would help.

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