From village chickens to maternal and child health: food and nutrition security through an Ecohealth lens

Date and Time

Friday, June 12, 2015 - 13:00 to 14:30

Event type



Jerry Morris Room A, LSHTM, 15-17 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SH


Prof. Robyn Alder, University of Sydney

Speaker bio

Robyn Alders is an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Veterinary Science within the University of Sydney and a Director of the KYEEMA Foundation.  Robyn was born and raised on a grazing property on the Southern Tablelands of NSW, Australia.  For over 20 years, she has worked closely with smallholder farmers, especially village poultry farmers, in sub-Saharan Africa and SE Asia as a veterinarian, researcher and colleague, with an emphasis on the development of sustainable infectious disease control (primarily Newcastle disease prevention) in animals in rural areas in support of food security and poverty alleviation.  Robyn’s current research and development interests include food and nutrition security, One/Eco Health, gender equity and Science Communication.

In January 2011, Robyn was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished to veterinary science as a researcher and educator, to the maintenance of food security in developing countries through livestock management and disease control programs.

In August 2014, Robyn received the Crawford Fund 2014 Medal for continued contributions to international agricultural research and development.  


Village chicken production is practiced by many households in low-income food-deficit countries. Despite low production levels and potentially high losses due to disease, predation and theft, scavenging systems offer the advantage of requiring minimal land, labour and capital inputs. Human undernutrition remains a major public health challenge globally, contributing to over 3 million preventable maternal and child deaths each year. Animal source foods, including poultry (meat and organs) and eggs, can provide high-quality protein and micronutrients throughout the year in bioavailable forms which, even in small quantities, substantially increase the nutrient adequacy of traditional diets based on staple crops. Women are recognised as key players in family poultry production systems and successful engagement with this sector requires gender-sensitive approaches. It has been shown that agricultural interventions which target women are more likely to lead to positive nutritional outcomes. A multi-disciplinary research approach, multi-sectoral involvement within government institutions and the implementation of policies which target smallholder farmers can maximise the potential impact of improvements to family poultry systems on food and nutritional security.