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Cooperatives help rural women reap profits from poultry

Aug 13, 2009

Women in Jharkhand no more go to bigger cities in search of livelihood. Helped by Pradan, a nongovernmental organisation, these rural women in eastern India formed self-help groups to start poultry business. Today they are enjoying improvement in their standards of living.

Gumla, Jharkhand: The rural women of Gumla are scripting a story in self-reliance in their backyards. Not very long ago, they were farm labourers who were forced to migrate to bigger cities in search of work when acres of land in the rain-dependent rice belt remained barren for nearly six months every year.

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It started six years ago with a Rs 12.53 lakh-project, — funded by the state cooperative department and implemented under the supervision of New Delhi-based NGO Pradan — introducing them to poultry activities. It involved rearing of chicks, the American Cobb breed, for sale in markets.

At present, a total of 552 women from the villages of Silam, Rukrum and Ludam are on the roll of the Gumla Grameen Self Supporting Cooperative Society Ltd. formed under the Project Women first pooled the only resources they had — labour and one decimal of land in their tiny huts — and built 57 poultry sheds and one feed godown.

“Under the guidance of Pradan, we learnt how to look after the day-old chicks, feed them, keep the shed clean to prevent outbreak of diseases”

“Earlier, women like us would migrate to Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai to work in the brick kilns there for a living. Our lives took a turn for the better when we took up poultry activities,” said Sumitra Devi and Akli Devi of Rukrum village in Gumla.

“Under the guidance of Pradan, we learnt how to look after the day-old chicks, feed them, keep the shed clean to prevent outbreak of diseases. Self Help Groups (SHG) were formed to help run the business,” said Sarita Devi, president of the cooperative society.

In the first leg, five women from Silam were selected to rear cross-breed Kuroiler. “They did not make much profit because Kuroiler grew slowly,” recalled Sarita. They then picked the American Cobb breed. “The birds grew fast and gained 1.25 gram weight in less than 40 days.”

The day-old American Cobb chicks, procured from Kudu-based Lohardaga Gramin Hatchery run by Lohardaga Gramin Poultry Sahkari Samiti, a registered body, were reared for the markets of Gumla, Lohardaga and Ranchi.

As the women advanced their poultry business, Pradan, backed by the cooperative department, expanded the infrastructure in these villages. It added 100 sheds during 2004-2005; another 100, a poultry feed unit and four feed store godowns during 2005-06; and 60 sheds in 2006 -07. It took a giant leap in 2007-008 when it built 70 sheds and Rs 1.25 crore worth hatchery with a capacity to produce three lakh chicks per month at Kudu in Lohardaga. In 2007-08, it built another 195 sheds.

“As the SHGs began working well, we expanded the project by pumping in more funds, varying between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 47 lakh per annum, for building sheds and to train the women,” said N N Sinha, who monitored the project in the capacity of secretary, state cooperative department.

“Poultry is less time-consuming and pays dividends in less than one-and-half month with feed and medicine provided by the cooperative staff”

“The cooperative has benefited us immensely and changed our lifestyle,” said Akli Devi as her husband Mangal Oraon fed chickens inside the shed. Like every member of the cooperative society, Sumitra and Akli make a profit of Rs 12,000-18,000 from poultry business each year.

Both, residents of Rukrum village, wear silver jewelleries, own black and white TV sets and send their children to a private English-medium school.

“Poultry is less time-consuming and pays dividends in less than one-and-half month with feed and medicine provided by the cooperative staff,” said Mangal Oraon.” “The excreta of chicks is a good fertilizer for paddy,” he added.

The cooperative purchases inputs in bulk from suppliers and takes them to the doorstep of each member. Once the bird attains a weight of 1,250 g, it is lifted by the cooperative society for sale in the market, said Pradan’s state in-charge Satyabrata Acharya.

A similar project involving Cobb chickens was first recommended by the Animal Husbandry Department way back in the 1990s. “But it never took off as the fund was misappropriated by the fodder scam mafia in the erstwhile Bihar,” said Acharya.

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