I knew Patricia J. Vondal when I was a graduate student. Her doctoral studies were at Rutgers University. She did fascinating dissertation research in Indonesia on the human ecology of traditional duck farming.

Entrepreneurship in an Indonesian Duck Egg Industry: A Case of Successful Rural Development. 1984. Rutgers the State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick

Research examined the social, economic, and ecological factors underlying the success of a rural duck egg industry centered in the flood plain region of North Hulu Sungai Regency in South Kalimantan (Indonesia)… Family run duck farms which specialize in non-fertile egg production for urban markets are part of a horizontally integrated regional industry which also includes specialists in fertile egg production, egg hatching, duckling rearing, feed supply, and marketing. All duck farms are supported by extensive trade and transportation networks which are run by local entrepreneurs… Specific innovations in duck feed and flock management have been developed by local farmers to overcome problems resulting from the increasing population in the Hulu Sungai region and from the seasonal availability of feed resources, the latter due to the annual flooding of rivers and swamps… These findings emphasize the importance of local innovators and entrepreneurs in fostering rural development.

The ecological and cultural interrelationships of the farmers and their fowl were complex and efficient. Understanding the cultural relationships is important to understanding the disease ecology or epidemiological relationships of human influenza.

See this recent article

Age-old duck farming practice spreads bird flu, virus rages in southern Vietnam
By Margie Mason, ASSOCIATED PRESS, January 24, 2007

About 1,400 Pekin ducks waddle inside four long cages within the vessel that serves as a taxi for thousands of waterfowl ferried to feed on leftover grains in newly harvested rice fields across Vietnam’s southern Mekong Delta. It’s an age-old practice that has always benefited the area’s duck farmers and crops. Now, it’s been outlawed for helping fan bird flu across eight provinces in one month….

Hanh loads his flock onto boats three or four times a year and travels to vacant fields littered with grains of rice left amid the dry stubble of recently cut stalks. For a small fee, the ducks forage a month and a half before going home, ridding the fields of unwanted pests and saving Hanh about $1,500 in feed costs….

International experts say it might not be necessary to stop the Mekong practice that has worked so well for generations, as long as the ducks are closely monitored and vaccinated against the H5N1 virus.

“It’s a nice little ecosystem, a good farming practice, but because of its risk with respect to (avian influenza), then it does have to be reviewed ..,” says Dr. Jeff Gilbert, an animal health expert at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Hanoi.

Vietnam had been hailed a success story for beating back the virus that began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003. A nationwide mass poultry vaccination program, coupled with strong political will, brought the virus under control after it killed 42 people here. No poultry outbreaks were reported in 2006….

Please read the entire story

Synopsis of influenza and ducks, pigs, people

Prior posts
| Resources to Understand Epidemiology & Disease Ecology |

| Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective |

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