Shahapur villagers find livelihood amid Covid-19 crisis: Tribal women’s poultry project keeps village afloatUpdated: Jul 15, 2020 12:19 IST
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 home-grown 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 First 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.