Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (8) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Women’s contribution to self-financed small-scale independent broiler farming and their participation in farm extension activities in rural Bangladesh

M S Islam, S Takashi* and K Q Nahar Chhabi**

Department of Bioscience and Food Production Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Interdisciplinary Graduate school of Science and Technology, Shinshu University,
Kami Ina-gun, Minamiminowa Mura 8304, 399-4598 Nagano Prefecture, Japan
* Department of Science of Food Resource Production, Faculty of Agriculture, Shinshu University, Kami Ina-gun, Minamiminowa Mura 8304, 399-4598 Nagano Prefecture, Japan
** Shinshu University, Kami Ina-gun, Minamiminowa Mura 8304, 399-4598 Nagano Prefecture, Japan


In this study, an attempt has been made to have a document on the chronology of developing small-scale broiler farms in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. The impact of women’s participation and their contribution to self-financed small-scale independent broiler farming in rural areas were quantified and assessed. The possibility of women to participate in extension process of broiler farming was also examined. A chronology of the events towards development of small-scale broiler farming in rural areas of Mymensingh district has been established. 


It was found that participation of women in broiler farming increased their empowerment and decision-making in different family aspects. Sharing of women with husband in decision-making increased responsibility, belongingness, sincerity, and efforts of women showing better results in broiler rearing. It appears that increased women’s participation in broiler farming might bring about significant development with a remarkably increased production performance. More emphasis on women to participate in broiler rearing and access to training would upgrade their skill and technical knowledge needed to increase their empowerment in sharing important decision-making affairs. Experienced and trained house wives might be used as extension personnel in the expansion of broiler farming in different areas of Bangladesh. The expansion of self-financed small-scale independent broiler farming in different areas of Bangladesh is suggested to increase employment opportunity, social-economic status, family income, women empowerment and thus enhance the livelihood of rural farmers in Bangladesh.

Key words: Development process, empowerment, expansion, formal, informal, participation in decision


In Bangladesh, commercial poultry farming began in 1980, the growth of this sector has emerged as a potential agro-based industry in the last decade (Das et al 2008). The traditional backyard poultry rearing was a common feature in rural poor households for many years. However, the rural poor are not capable to capture any significant share of the rapidly expanding market of chicken meat (Islam and Jabbar 2005). Now small-scale commercial broiler farming has emerged in different areas of the country to satisfy demand (Das et al 2008). Broiler farming has proved to be a beneficial and potential source of income and employment generation (Raha 2005). The educated and unemployed youth could take part in broiler rearing for employment and income generation. Presently, broiler meat provides the cheapest quality animal protein to millions of low-income people. Growing evidences demonstrated the role of small-scale broiler rearing to enhance food security and promoted gender equality in rural households (Dolberg 2003). The demand for broiler meat in Bangladesh has increased by 10–15% during the past several years, and it is estimated that the rapid growth will be continued by approximately 10% in short to medium term (Dobson and Quader 2005).


In the extension system, the government, NGOs, and donor agencies provide short-term training and finance to the poorest segments in rural areas which in some cases are not sustainable. The support is also inadequate and is available in limited areas of the country. Moreover, all the NGOs do not provide these services (Saleque 2007; Jahan and Rahman 2003). Their programs are mainly to alleviate poverty of poor farmers mainly by rearing a small number of birds. The poorest farmers and their families in the villages with limited capital are not capable to establish and maintain self-financed small-scale independent broiler farms. The only realistic sources are donor funds. On the other hand, upazilla (sub district) livestock offices (ULO) of the government give extension services in rural areas, mainly in disseminating technical know-how to poor farmers by arranging short-term training ,where 70 per cent of the participants are males. Moreover, their service delivery at the rural level is inadequate, ineffective, and infrequent. Such a pattern of financing is not useful for self-financed independent broiler farms in extending their present level of operation.


Self-financed farmers are interested in establishing a farm with their own investment have very little opportunities to get training and technical support. Youth training centers (YTCs) of the government conduct training for a limited number of educated farmers. Again, male participation dominates in this program. Therefore, it is difficult to increase the participation of wives of self-financed farmers in the training. However, for the agricultural extension program (crop), women get the opportunity to participate in training on human nutrition. The degree of contribution of females, route of communication for women, and quantification of women empowerment through broiler farming is not yet known. Poultry husbandry involving a small number of domestic poultry is largely the responsibility of women. However, research on the development of broiler farming in rural areas through women’s participation and in farm extension activities is narrowly focused and has been given little attention. Therefore, the present study was aimed at the documentation of the chronology of various events in the development of small-scale broiler farming. Moreover, the impact of women’s participation and contribution to self-financed small-scale independent broiler farming and their possible role in enhancing farm extension in rural Bangladesh has also been evaluated.


Methodology of the study 

In order to fulfill the objectives of the study, the sadar upazilla (sub district) of Mymensingh district was selected for the concentration of broiler farms in that area. Self-financed small-scale broiler farm owners constituted the population of the present study. Out of 126 broiler farms, 50 farmers who reared at least 300 and not more than 2000 broilers per batch were selected. This study was based primarily on the set of field-level primary data collected from the respondents using structured and pre-tested interview schedules. Information on training systems and extension activities was collected from the officials of the YTCs, district livestock office (DLO), and sadar ULO in the Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. Information was also collected from teachers and project workers of Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), Mymensingh. Some important management aspects and personal characteristics of broiler farmers were also recorded. Data were collected on a memory recall basis for a one-year production cycle. The data were collected during June–September 2008 on a regular basis by the researcher himself.


Outline of the respondents 

Of the sample farms, while 34 per cent were involved in broiler farming as their main occupation, 66 per cent were engaged in broiler farming as their secondary occupation. Therefore, the contribution of broiler production as a major source of employment at the household level cannot be overlooked. Independent small-scale farmers maintain 4–6 batches of broilers in a year. Approximately 58 per cent of the farmers reared five batches per year, whereas 38 per cent reared six batches per year. The relatively fewer number of batches reared per year may be the consequence of farmers’ inability to synchronize the procurement of inputs, particularly when the prices of inputs such as DOCs and feeds were higher. Majority of the respondents (88%) were interested in expanding their broiler farms, whereas only 12 per cent were reluctant in further expansion. Such a tendency of majority of the farmers to expand broiler farms and to extend their broiler business may be related to increase their income and better utilization of family labor. Reluctance of few farmers to increase their present level operation might be attributed to their limited financial capability and poor farm managerial.


Background of poultry development in Mymensingh district 

The first poultry breeding farm in Bangladesh, Eggs and Hens Ltd., was established in 1964 in Gazipur district near Dhaka city, which is about 90 km from Mymensingh district. Since then, they started motivating farmers in their surroundings to rear poultry hybrids. Later, some other breeding farms were also established in Gazipur district. Till date, no large breeding farm has been established in Mymensingh district. In 1968–69, the East Pakistan Agricultural University (presently, Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU)) undertook the first experimental broiler farming. Since then, awareness about broiler production has grown in the locality (Latif 1994).


In several years, some projects of BAU sponsored by foreign donors (Table 1) and a non-government organization named BRAC introduced the cockerel exchange program to upgrade indigenous chicken.

Table 1.  Background of poultry development in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh


Name of organization



East Pakistan Agricultural University, presently Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU)

To start experimental broiler farming


Rural Poultry Development Project of BAU sponsored by Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA)

To upgrade indigenous chicken by cross with exotic cocks


Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC)

To increase the productivity of local varieties by crossing with high yielding variety (HYV) cockerels


Backyard Poultry Development Project (BPDP) sponsored by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

To motivate rural farmers to rear crossbreds


BPDP sponsored by UNICEF

To demonstrate the rearing of broiler hybrids

After 1990, broiler farming increased.

The period of 1980–1990 was a transitional and critical period for the expansion of broiler farming.

Under this program, high yielding exotic cockerels were exchanged with low-producing indigenous cockerels of farmers in rural areas. However, this attempt did not sustain because (a) the village organization members were simply selling high-value HYV cockerels rather than using them for breeding. Insufficient knowledge and lack of confidence with respect to poultry raising were the major reasons for selling HYV instead of using in crossbreeding, (b) limited availability of HYV, (c) higher mortality, and (d) and non-availability of balanced feed.


In 1983, BPDP started rearing hybrid broiler. Many interested farmers started broiler farming with a small flock size. BPDP arranged a 21-day training on crossbred rearing among the interested farmers aiming to develop their technical knowledge. Initially, they faced difficulty in getting a balanced feed and in selling broiler for less demand of broilers in Mymensingh city. For overcoming the problem, BPDP started to produce compounded balanced feed and sold it to farmers at subsidized prices. Simultaneously, farmers used self-made feed by using a technical formula provided by BPDP. Since inception, customers had a misconception on the nutritive value, flavor, and pigments of broiler. Under this situation, BPDP and farm owners had to motivate customers by using posters, loudspeakers, arranging seminars, and using religious leaders. BPDP opened selling centers for extensive advertisement on the nutritive value and attributes of broiler meat. This had an excellent impact on the consumers to accept broiler meat.


The number of broiler farms in Mymenshingh district was 100 in 1990 and it increased to 1254 in September 2008, which is more than 12 times higher than that in 1990. The number of broilers produced shot up from 53,700 in 1990 to 1,198,274 in September 2008 (Table 2).

Table 2.  Growth of commercial broiler in Mymensingh district and sadar upazilla of Mymensingh district (1980–2008)

Name of areas





No. of farms

No. of broilers

No. of farms

No. of broilers

No. of farms

No. of broilers

No. of farms

No. of broilers

Mymensingh district









Sadar Upazilla









Source: DLO 2008

Similarly, in the sadar upazilla of Mymensingh district, the number of broiler farms and the number of broilers were 8 and 4,800, respectively, in 1990, which had increased to 126 and 88,400, respectively, in September 2008. The number of farms and broilers is about 16 and 19 times higher, respectively, with respect to 1990 to 2008. Therefore, the aim of the study was to verify which extension systems have been working for the expansion of broiler farming in the rural areas of Bangladesh since the year 2000.


Extension process of small-scale broiler farms in Mymensingh 

In Bangladesh, different extension systems work according to the target group of farmers.  

In the formal extension system (Figure 1), four types of extension workers are involved in disseminating technical knowledge and raising awareness among farmers: (1) livestock office (district and upazilla), (2) teachers, students, researchers, and project workers at BAU, (3) NGOs, and (4) YTCs established by the government.

Figure 1. Extension process for developing broiler farming by the formal extension system of GO, NGO, and BAU

Organizations from (1) to (3) mainly work with the poor segments; on the other hand, category (4) works mainly with the farmers who are educated and capable of starting broiler farming with their own finance.


Government authorities; DLO, ULO, and YTCs provide formal support to farmers through training, seminars, conversations, and discussions. The first YTC was started in Bangladesh in 1981, while it was started in 1993 in Mymensingh. Therefore, DLO and ULO worked with the farmers before YTC was established in Mymensingh.


ULO disseminates the technical know-how of broiler rearing to farmers by arranging short-term training (mainly 1–3 days) and seminars. Owing to the shortage of technical officials, service delivery at the rural level is inadequate, ineffective, and infrequent. On the other hand, DLO is mainly involved in controlling and monitoring the activities of ULO with their limited technical manpower, and they rarely work with farmers.


Teachers, students, researchers, and project workers at BAU provide help and suggestions to farmers in various aspects of broiler rearing. They extend help to farmers mainly by arranging short-term training, seminars, symposiums, and demonstrations at BAU. In this system, farmers get help through direct conversation and discussion with the workers instead of practical learning. In this arrangement, farmers get some token money after the completion of training and seminars.


NGOs work with farmers by providing small loans to alleviate poverty through poultry rearing. They provide technical suggestion through oral conversation and discussion with farmers by arranging short-term training and seminars.


Officials of the YTC offer a 10-week training program to teach both theoretical and practical aspects of poultry, crop, fish, and dairy farming to limited 60 educated and mostly self-financed farmers per batch in order to develop their technical know-how and skill. This type of training program is organized by YTC by conducting four batches in a year where male participation is dominant. Farmers with at least eight years schooling and an age range of 18 to 35 years are the prerequisites for applying to participate in the selection procedure of YTC training.


As a complementary to formal extension process, pioneer and successful self-financed farmers emerged as the informal motivator for expanding broiler farming in the last decade of the 1990s (Figure 2).

Figure 2.  Extension process for the expansion of broiler farming by the informal extension system

Since then, pioneer and successful farmers worked as dominant motivating agents. Pioneer and successful farmers extend cordial help, cooperation, and counseling to other farmers in the neighborhood by providing technical support and awareness in broiler rearing. For their close monitoring, frequent and most efficient interaction speeded up the expansion process of broiler farming. Thus, the complimentary informal extension played a major and dominant role in increasing the number of poultry farms from the year 2000. The very rapid growth of broiler farming was evident since 2000.


Under the informal extension process, all farmers started broiler farming with their own finance using homestead land in broiler rearing. Initially, farmers started with small flock, gradually increasing their farm size by providing saved money from broiler farming and other income sources. Farmers used family labor and did not require hired labor for rearing broiler. In the context of severe unemployment problem in Bangladesh, farmers in general use family labor in their small-scale farms. Inspite of limited opportunities for women to get training, their participation in broiler farming is increasing. There has been increased awareness among women on nutritional intake through the agricultural (crop) extension program. They are now gradually involving themselves in income generation through participation in broiler farming. Therefore, in Bangladesh, women’s contribution and their achievements in broiler farming need to be quantified and recognized.


Women’s contribution to broiler farming 

This study highlighted the possibility and significance of increased broiler farming as an important means to utilize female family labor in increasing family income and prosperity. The participation of women in different aspects of daily life in Bangladesh is strongly affected by social, cultural, and religious norms such as seclusion, segregation, and veiling (Purdah) of women in public. These restrictions impose a limititation on the mobility and participation of women in outdoor work. As a result, they are reluctant to work in crop fields. A potentially valuable contribution from the women workforce is thus squandered away. Small-scale broiler farming, however, is usually conducted in the backyards of dwellings, which offers women good working conditions, since most of the farms are established around their homestead. Women are able to work in small-scale broiler farms while maintaining religious and social norms. Table 3 indicates that the working hours of adult males are about four times higher in broiler farming than those of their female counterparts. They are mainly involved in broiler house repairing, inputs purchasing, outputs selling, communicating with buyers, cleaning, etc.

Table 3.  Employment opportunities for family members


Working hours/day

Adult male


Adult female






Source: Field Survey 2008

This study also revealed that the adult female members of the family spend a considerable amount of time each day in broiler rearing. Although women provided less time (about 20% of total labor hours) in comparison with their male partners, they handled most of the critical jobs like continuous monitoring, appropriate timing and amount of feeding, watering, lighting, cleaning, and vaccination, which is critical for the reduction of mortality and excellent production in broiler farming. It is generally accepted that a constant vigilance is needed in the sensitive early period of broilers’ life. Mortality may occur for management, nutrition, and disease. Thus, there is no alternative to provision of more time by women in broiler farms for decreasing mortality and increasing production performance.


The independent sample t-test results presented in Table 4 signify that when husband and wife did not share the decision-making and share in 1-2 and 3-4 decision-making affairs, there is no significant difference among 0.90, 0.83, and 1.0 women working hours.

Table 4.  Relationship among shares in decision-making, women’s working hours, the number of decision-making affairs, and production performance of broiler farming


Number of decision-making affairs

Women’s working hours/day

Mortality, %

Number of respondents

Husband and wife do not share the decisions





Husband and wife

share the decisions













Level of significance





*Significant (P < 0.05); abmeans that values within columns bearing uncommon   superscripts differ significantly

The same result was found among the mortality percentages of 4.20, 5.13, and 3.83. On the other hand, a significant difference (P < 0.05) was found among 0.90, 0.83, and 1.0 with 1.45 women working hours and among 4.20, 5.13, and 3.83 with 3.04 mortality percentage when 0, 1-2, and 3-4 decision-making affairs were compared with 5-6.


The results reveal that the working hours of women in broiler farming increased with the increasing participation of women in decision-making. However, women involvement and sharing in 5-6 decision-making affairs significantly decreased broiler mortality in the farms. Thus, women’s working hours is one of the most crucial factors that reduce mortality. However, there was a tendency of increased participation of women following their involvement in decisions, and a satisfactory impact (decreased mortality) was only obtained in women involved in 5-6 decision-making affairs and participating in the decision-making of business issues as an important event (Table 5).

Table 5. Women’s participation in decision-making by decision-making affairs

Decision-making affairs

Number of 5–6 decision affairs
(n = 20)

Number of 0–4 decision affairs
(n = 30)

Education of children

18 (90.0)

1 (3.33)

Household expenditure

20 (100)

3 (10.0)

Marriage of son/daughter

20 (100)

6 (20.0)

Family planning method

20 (100)

20 (66.7)

Business issue

17 (85.0)

2 (6.67)

House repairing

20 (100)

8 (26.7)

Figures in parenthesis indicate percentage

The result imply that the husbands in the group have passed on their broiler farming skill and knowledge obtained in the extension program to their wives which improved skill and knowledge of wives with a consequent reduction of broiler mortality. Thus, it can be said that these facts could be utilized in the further extension of small-scale broiler farming in other women groups.


For women’s participation in the extension process, first, we should consider the considerable extent of shared decision-making between husband and wife and the working hours of women in broiler farming. As participation in the decision-making role of women regarding family issues is an important indicator of their empowerment, women belong to 0-4 decision-making may further be increased to the targeted level of 5-6 decision groups through increased shared decision-making between husband and wife for participation in the extension process. It may be assumed that women belonging to 0-4 decision-making groups have less technical knowledge and less empowerment than those belonging to the targeted groups of 5-6. This could be because the husbands did not pass on the skill and knowledge to their wives well. Therefore, in this regard, since husbands can play a dominant role in the improvement of wive’s skill and knowledge, a mutual understanding and shared decision-making between husband and wife to a considerable extent are necessary to ensure the efficient utilization of women’s labor, skill, knowledge, and experience in broiler farming. If creating such an atmosphere, knowledge transfer can be done well from husband to wife.


The second step may be considered when women of 5-6 groups participate in short-term formal training organized by different extension agents. This implies imparting training to women to take up broiler activity and giving them the required confidence to successfully rear broilers. The institutional short-term training program may be more effective rather than long-term training as strong social, religious, and cultural taboos exist concerning the contact between males and females on one hand, inconvenience with respect to their day-to-day household obligations, time barriers, and the distance that they are to cover on the other hand. Therefore, a feasible approach is to bring the training course to where the extension officers are women, since women extension workers can be more effective in communicating with women. Extension workers may also arrange small group meetings for women who live in a cluster of neighboring households, in the compound of one of the households. Successful and skilled women developed through increased involvement in decision and training might replace formal extension agents in the further dissemination of technical know-how through homestead gathering. Therefore, through the collaborative process, women may play the role of valuable extension agents by disseminating their most effective practical knowledge, views, experiences, results obtained, and feedback information to other neighboring women (Figure 3).

Figure 3.  Conceptual mechanism of the informal extension system of independent broiler rearing through women’s participation

It is obvious that the best learning is based on experience and it is highly relevant to needs. Such activities may increase awareness of women about their participating in broiler farming, which will subsequently result in their empowerment and encourage them to take part more actively in decision-making.


Such a changed position of women in the society possibly increased their belongingness and dignity. As a result, women may have participated in broiler farming more sincerely leading to the better performance of small-scale broiler farms. Participation in extension activities depends on skill, knowledge, experience, and personal willingness. In this study, it was found that increased and wholehearted participation of women in family decisions increased their empowerment, belongingness, experience, responsibility, and confidence. They may be specially suitable and useful in the expansion of technical knowledge of small-scale broiler farming among the neighboring women as well as in other farms.





The authors are grateful to Dr. M A R Howlider, Professor, Department of Poultry Science, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh, for providing valuable information.



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Received 25 April 2010; Accepted 3 June 2010; Published 1 August 2010

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