Peace, health or fortune?: Preferences for chicken traits in rural Benin
Fifty-four percent of Benin's population in rural areas keep indigenous chickens for subsistence livelihoods. Despite the potential to alleviate poverty by improving indigenous chicken breeds, smallholders' participation in the implementation of breeding programmes is weak. Participation could be improved with greater understanding of the many functions of chickens to smallholders. The objectives of this study are (1) to evaluate chicken traits including market and non-market values, and (2) to assess factors that influence the conservation of indigenous breeds. Choice modelling, a multi-attribute preference elicitation technique, was applied across 300 households in two districts in Benin. The results revealed that many of the preferred traits are expressed in indigenous chickens, whose conservation should be supported through village chicken breeding programmes and that preferences differed greatly between farmers in the two districts. However, from an economic point of view, the aim of conserving culturally significant and disease resistant indigenous breeds is contrary to the objective of increasing chicken productivity. A preference for white plumage, most common among exotic breeds, could further hinder conservation of indigenous breeds, which are mostly brown or black. The lack of knowledge about chicken characterization and flock management were identified as further severe constraints to village conservation programmes.
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