Family poultry systems on the southern pacific coast of Guatemala: livelihoods, ethnoveterinary medicine and Healthcare decision making
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Small-scale poultry rearing provides a livelihood for many households globally, and is a means for women to contribute to household income while raising children. This is an ethnographic case study of smallholder Guatemalan fisher-farmers of two villages in which ethnic Ladino residents are increasingly reliant on raising birds. Smallholders are relying on human over-the-counter (OTC), human antibiotics to treat their poultry. Widespread use of antibiotics is of concern due to the formation of resistant bacterial strains, which render life-saving antimicrobials ineffective. The aim of this research is to understand why smallholder farmers decide to implement human OTC antibiotics into their poultry treatment practices. This research incorporates the theory and methodology of Ethnographic Decision Modeling (EDM) to understand treatment-seeking behaviors. Data comes from direct and participant observation of all families in both villages, as well as from in-depth informal ethnographic interviews with key consultants, semi-structured and structured interviews with village poultry raisers and structured surveys. I found that women are the primary caretakers of poultry in the villages and that poultry provide a source of extra income for women when needed, and an important source of nutrients for the household. In addition, the consumption of poultry has high sociocultural value for celebrations and holidays. The greatest constraints on family poultry systems in the villages are reoccurring diseases that devastate flocks and that have been increasing in frequency over time. Results indicate that access and affordability in opportunity costs are the barriers to seeking professional veterinary care and medicines for poultry. This research also revealed that ethnoveterinary knowledge remains important in RNUMM and that there may be effective, and locally available ethnopharmacological treatments for poultry illness. Taking into consideration the socio-cultural context of poultry rearing in RNUMM, I suggest village vaccination campaigns, together with education campaigns on effective and locally available ethnopharmacological treatments, that are lead by women as a means to decrease loss of poultry flocks to disease and thus, assure livelihood and food security for poultry rearing households.