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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Title Short film 
Description This film was created by our partners, the International Livestock Research Institute, who worked with us to interview/capture the perspectives of female chicken farmers. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Too soon. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN3JkjAOuc8
Description We have developed a much clearer understanding of the cultural and economic significance of chickens in Ethiopia, and how this has changed through time. By examining ancient and modern chickens from the precisely the same region we have been able to explore the processes by which non-native animals adapt to new environments to the extent that they are able to proliferate and support human communities. We have found that Ethiopian chickens are particularly resilient by comparison to imported Western stock and, for this reason, efforts should be made to preserve the unique landraces that are present in the country. Anthropoligical, iconographic, material culture surveys have demonstrated the rich cultural heritage represented by chicken keeping. However, because it is an activity predominantly associated with women and children, it is not celebrated. To remedy this, we put on two exhibitions to highlight the cultural and economic importance of women's work in general and chicken-keeping in particular.
Exploitation Route As more of our outputs are published, we anticipate that our methodologies will be of interest to others. Indeed, similar approaches have already been adopted by the Liverpool GCRF HORN project (also working in Ethiopia) onto which one of our post-docs (Lebrasseur) is now employed. We are taking forward a number of our findings through our follow-on project. In particular the results that we believe will be of importance to the poultry industry.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN3JkjAOuc8
Description Our research was supported by the National Museum of Ethiopia and, in return, we have deposited the osteological materials that we collected during our study to form a new reference collection of known sex/age chickens for the Museum (it is better than that held by most UK institutions). During the time that we were working in country we were able to provide curatorial training for the Museum's staff (both within the museum and at the International Livestock Research Institute) as well as establishing two exhibitions. The first was a 'women's work' exhibition (featuring paintings of women and chickens by a group of predominantly female Ethiopian artists) which has been installed one of the National Museum of Ethiopia's galleries. This is on permanent public display and is therefore viewed by large numbers of people every day. The second is a cabinet on display at the International Livestock Research Institute. Our anthropological findings were used by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to create a series of short films about the role of women in chicken keeping. The first of these has been made available via youtube with more to follow. Whilst based at ILRI we ran an open day for families and local schools, whereby we used the theme of 'chickens' to offer a range of art-science educational activities based on our findings. These will be rolled out to other educational groups via our follow-on fund.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Causing a Flap: using chicken-based research to transform education, poultry production and human well-being
Amount £73,382 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R003998/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 06/2018
Description Exhibition and Curatorial Training at National Museum of Ethiopia 
Organisation National Museum of Ethiopia
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We provided the museum with a new reference collection of known sex/age chicken skeletons (N=20) that will support zooarchaeological analysis in the future. Our team also offered curatorial training to museum staff - some worked with us to put on exhibitions at the museum itself but also at ILRI.
Collaborator Contribution The National Museum provided facilities for us to undertake the osteological research of a new collection of chickens (n=20 individuals) that we prepared and deposited within the museum. They provided us with gallery space and worked with us to establish a 'women's work' exhibition.
Impact Exhibition at the National Museum of Ethiopia
Start Year 2016
Description International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) 
Organisation International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked closely with ILRI, who were already interested in the role that women can play in the poultry industry. Our researchers provided detailed cultural/anthropological expertise as well as a deep-time perspective on poultry production.
Collaborator Contribution ILRI gave us access and travel to their study sites, as well as introducing us to groups with whom they had previously worked. The collaborated with us on public engagement and have produced short films documenting some of our collaborations. Members from ILRI also participated in our GCRF strategy workshops.
Impact Film - anthropology, development, poultry industry
Start Year 2016
Description Chicken Activity Day, International Livestock Research Institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact On 10th June 2017 we ran a day-long engagement day at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event was a collaboration between our team, ILRI and local school children. Over 50 children attended and we intend to continue collaboration with the teachers in our follow-on fund project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Women's Work exhibition launch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Having made connections with a number of female artisans (including women who capture the relationship between women-chickens in paintings) we developed an exhibition to highlight the significance of 'women's work' in Ethiopia. The exhibition had a formal launch on June 9th 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017