Abstract for: A Systems Thinking Approach to Understanding the Drivers of Change in Backyard Poultry Farming System

This paper seeks to understand how drivers of change in Ghana’s backyard poultry farming system evolve in a calendar year and examine how different production strategies contribute to farmer households’ income. A system dynamics model, comprising of production, financial, consumption, and epidemiology modules, was developed, validated, and simulated for 52 weeks using a weekly timestep. Results of the loops that matter analysis showed that from the onset of the poultry production, disease prevention at different growth stages of the chicken (especially for day-old chicks) via vaccination is a critical driver of change that has a high but short-lived dominance. Beyond the grower stage, the changes in the unit price of eggs have a relatively higher and longer influence on production dynamics than changes in the unit price of poultry meat. Moreover, the results suggest that a focus on only broiler production is the most profitable strategy compared to production strategies that focus on only layer production or an equal proportion of layers and broilers. The findings of this paper extend the literature on drivers of change in the farming system by stressing the need to assess how these drivers evolve.