Going Places: Empowering Women, Enhancing Heritage and Increasing Chicken Production in Ethiopia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Archaeology


Our anthropological research in Ethiopia made us familiar with a well-known Amharic proverb: "Women and chickens rise early in the morning, but they have nowhere to go". This project aims to help address this widespread issue of female socio-economic immobility. Through collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the National Museum of Ethiopia and the Africa Programme, this project will conduct female-centred cultural/scientific research into chicken husbandry, past and present, to support Ethiopia's future economic/heritage development.

By kick-starting a new Arts/Humanities-Science collaboration and Past-Present comparison we will demonstrate how such approaches can generate vital data to contextualise and inform decision-making, and engage and educate stakeholders. To achieve these aims within the 8-month period, we will use our proven Large Grant approach to research the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia and meet six connected objectives (O) using the following linked methods (M).

O1) To empower women and ensure their centrality in the development of Ethiopia's poultry industry. M1) Work in collaboration with ILRI to conduct interdisciplinary gender survey and anthropological research to capture lived experiences of chicken husbandry in target regions and then co-produce (with ILRI, Africa Programme and local communities) bi-lingual female-focused educational materials.

O2) Facilitate Ethiopia's heritage development M2) Use the chicken's cultural history and collaboration with British Museum's Africa Programme to develop educational materials for museum staff and visitors.

O3) Survey and record the material cultures of chicken husbandry M3) Material cultures of modern husbandry will be recorded during anthropological fieldwork, whilst collections held in Ethiopian and UK museums will be surveyed to develop linked Ethiopian-UK educational materials (O2).

O4) Survey, analyse and record local Ethiopian chicken breeds M4) Modern chicken specimens (~100 individuals) collected during fieldwork (M1) will be subject to full osteometric/geometric morphometric, genetic and stable isotope analysis to inform on breed resilience/management. Results will be compared with the ancient data (O5).

O5) Undertake a deep-time analysis of Ethiopian chicken breed/husbandry M5) Working with the National Museum of Ethiopia, the introduction, diversity, development and management of ancient Ethiopian chickens will be explored through full analysis (cf M4) of archaeological specimens.

O6) Generate strong collaboratively produced outputs that move forward scholarship and feed into policy M6) Two residential Research Network meetings will be held to bring the team together: the first will take place in Nov 2016 (School of Advanced Studies, London), the second Feb 2017 (ILRI, Ethiopia). At the final conference (June 2017, National Museum Ethiopia) we will launch our education materials, present the project's academic results (for publication) and recommendations as a white paper that will explore implications for policy makers (World Bank and UN FAO).

Planned Impact

The utilisation of Arts and Humanities research to deliver scientific, economic, social and heritage impact is at the heart of this project. The entire 'Going Places' team is committed to ensuring that maximum benefits are generated for the five non-academic groups with whom we will engage:

1) Ethiopian livestock developers. By working collaboratively with ILRI we will provide cultural context and deep-time information concerning chicken genetics, resilience, disease and husbandry to ensure that their considerable efforts to improve productivity are effective and in the best interests of our second user group: women.

2) Ethiopian female chicken farmers. Because chickens are small and stay close to home they are considered 'women's animals' (men raise cattle and goats) and women are allowed to control the money they derive from their sale, which they are likely to spend in ways that fight poverty (e.g. on education, health and nutrition). If women are successful at raising animals, they can build up their stocks and may be able to get a loan and become independent. To achieve larger stocking densities, however, they need to learn about chicken hygiene and feeding. It is also important for women (and livestock researchers) to realise that, repeatedly and throughout time/space, wherever female-produced domestic products have become industrialised, the power and finances have shifted into the hands of men, resulting in the marginalisation of women - we need to be proactive to ensure this does not happen as Ethiopia's chicken industry intensifies. We will use the results of the anthropologically informed questionnaires and work closely with the ILRI to create educational resources to disseminate the messages concerning hygiene/feeding requirements and the necessity of keeping women in charge of production. The socio-economic significance of chicken and their association with women are themes that will also be developed in relation to our third user group: heritage professionals.

3) Ethiopian museum curators. The development of Ethiopia's cultural heritage is a priority of the country's government because it has implications for tourism and economic development. Through collaboration with the British Museum's Africa Programme, the Going Places project will facilitate the development of digital and educational resources focused on the National Museum of Ethiopia using the relationship between women and chickens as the starting point.

4) Policy makers and development agencies. The importance of Arts and Humanities research to enhance scientific analyses and overseas economic development is not widely recognised. In June 2017 we will invite our contacts from the World Bank and other development agencies to attend the meeting at which our team will present our results and recommendations. We will also use the opportunity to launch and showcase our heritage educational activities and, by so doing, demonstrate how they can make complex scientific and economic data palatable and engaging

5) Members of the Ethiopian/UK public. Chickens are exceptionally important within Ethiopian culture and there is an increase in chicken-keeping in the UK. Understanding the origins and spread of the species and how human-chicken relationships have changed through time are subjects that, as our Large Grant has shown, generate considerable public interest. We will use our website and partnership with Practical Poultry, the UK's best-selling monthly magazine devoted to poultry keeping (current readership 17k) as key mechanisms for disseminating our results.


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