Mali had some 30 million chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and turkeys in 2005, but not enough protein-rich poultry products are consumed locally, according to the government and nutritionists.
In 2006 15% of under-five children were too thin or did not weigh enough for their height group, signs of malnourishment, and two out of five children in the same age group were too short for their age, a sign of chronic malnutrition, according to the Ministry of Health.
Poultry is still seen as a luxury, a source of money rather than protein, nutritionist Rouky Bah Tall told IRIN in Bamako. “Instead of consuming chicken and eggs, families prefer to sell them without knowing how much natural protein they lose out on or how it could improve their family’s nutrition.”
The Poultry Development Project in Mali (PDAM) estimates more than 90% of poultry farming in Mali is unregulated traditional backyard poultry. “Our backyard is a savings account,” one farmer in the Bamako area told IRIN.
While more than 70 million eggs and 21,000 tons of poultry meat are produced annually, residents consume at most only 16 eggs per year and 1.7 grams of poultry every day, according to the director of the Poultry Development Project in Mali, Ibrahim Ayouba Maïga.
Poultry brings in 7.5% of the country’s agriculture income and reaps more profits than either beans, potatoes or corn, Livestock Minister Madeleine Diallo Ba said.
“It is wrongly perceived as a side trade in rural farming when it actually represents a large pool of animal protein… Poultry plays a significant role in social life, with special symbolic importance in cultural festivities and ceremonies,” said Ba.
Nevertheless, nutritionist Tall told IRIN that prejudices against eggs persist, such as the belief that children and expectant mothers will have bad luck if they eat too many eggs.