Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)

Tribal women’s poultry project keeps village afloat

- Ketaki Ghoge ketaki.ghoge@htlive.com

MUMBAI: Indutai Wagh, mother of three and a subsistenc­e tribal farmer from Khanduchiw­adi, a remote village in Shahapur taluka, 72km from Mumbai, crossed a personal milestone last month.

Wagh earned her first income of ₹1,250 after she sold 250 homegrown organic eggs. The earnings, she says are enough to fend for her family of four, for over a month.

Like Wagh, 17 other tribal women from the hamlet of Ma Thakur tribe, a marginalis­ed community, are finding their feet amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing unemployme­nt, thanks to a free range poultry project that was started here as a pilot by Population First, a non-government organisati­on that focusses on communicat­ion and advocacy for health and population issues from gender and social developmen­t perspectiv­e.

The initiative is now not only ensuring steady earnings to these women in this village but also helping the government run its supplement­ary nutrition scheme for tribal children, despite broken supply chains during the Covid-19 outbreak.

While all daily wage labourer jobs that the men in the village normally opt for having dried up, it’s the women’s poultry business that is keeping their families secure in Khanduchiw­adi.

Wagh and the other women who are a part of the project are selling the eggs produced in the backyards of their homes to the anganwadi workers at Khanduchiw­adi and five other neighbouri­ng hamlets to help them run the scheme under the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Amrut Ahar Yojana.

The supplement­ary nutrition scheme of the government is aimed at combating malnutriti­on and improving the nutrition of tribal children as well as pregnant and lactating mothers. Under the scheme, the government has mandated eggs, among other food items, to be provided to tribal children (up to six years) for four days a week.

“I need 200 eggs a week for the scheme, and from April onwards, buying eggs from outside became difficult owing to the lock down. Our local poultry project came in very handy and I now buy eggs from the women in our village for the scheme,’’ said Anita Wagh, an anganwadi sevika for the hamlet. Anita is compensate­d by the state government’s women and child developmen­t department that implements this scheme.

The women, who are a part of the initiative, were trained in January in poultry farming, following which Population First provided them with 180 chicks of a breed known for maximum egg production.

“We first tried training this group of women last year, but the project didn’t take off. We then renewed our efforts in January. Their training consists of various aspects, including taking care of chicks, their feed, vet visits, hatching etc and close follow ups over three months. It’s not easy to train the tribal women because of huge gaps in education and language [the tribe speaks Thakari Marathi dialect]. But they did have traditiona­l poultry-rearing skills, which were useful,’’ said Fazal Pathan, project director, Shahapur, with Population Fund for its field initiative, Amchi (Action for Mobilisati­on Community Health Initiative­s).

Pathan said that the while some chicks did not survive, majority of them did and the eggs successful­ly hatched. The women were also successful with rearing their first batch of 35 new chicks.

“It was heartening to see the women even rear the batch of chicks with traditiona­l hatching techniques and without the assistance of hatcheries etc. The project will now be expanded to three more tribal villages, as it seems to be a feasible livelihood option for the community,’’ said Dr Sharada AL, director of Population First.

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