Backyard poultry is an important source of additional income in the rural areas, especially among poor strata of the population. With poultry development taking a quantum leap in the last three decades, backyard poultry has started gaining momentum.
It has been an effective tool for poverty alleviation in the rural sector. The supplement earning through this, increases income of the farmers, thereby enhances rural livelihoods.
Most of the backyard poultry production comprises rearing of indigenous birds with poor production performances. However, the indigenous birds are capable of producing only 30 to 50 eggs per year and meat production is also very less.
To increase the production, it requires to introduce improved varieties of chicken, which can promise better production of meat and eggs.
Introducing ‘Vanaraja’ Birds
Backyard poultry has been very popular in the hilly terrains of Sikkim. It is mostly undertaken by the farm women as an aid for income generation and livelihood security.
To increase the backyard poultry production in the State, ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region, Sikkim Centre, Tadong, has introduced Vanaraja birds. These dual purpose, multi-coloured birds for family poultry production developed at Directorate of Poultry Research, Hyderabad.
These birds thrive well under redistricted feeding and limited management practices followed by the farmers of Sikkim. Vanaraja resembles to the indigenous birds and fetches better price in terms of meat and egg. The faster growth habit and higher egg laying capacity than indigenous birds have made marked improvement in livelihood of the farming community.
Dr. Ravikant Avasthe, Joint Director, Sikkim Centre of ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region says, “The average weight of male bird in 10-15 weeks is about 1.5 to 2.0 kg. Females lay about 130-150 eggs in a laying year. The bird is hardy and has better immunocompetence due to which it successfully adapts under backyard farming system. Due to its multi-coloured plumage, brown eggs and meat taste similarity with indigenous birds, it is well accepted amongst the rural people including tribals across Sikkim.”
The Centre has supplied 35,000 day-old chicks of Vanaraja to 1,500 farmers in all four districts of the State in 2014-15. Simultaneously, it provided hands on training for backyard poultry to ensure their economical and nutritional security.
The best poultry producers within self-help-groups (SHGs) of the adopted villages of Sikkim were identified as the first line beneficiaries. Lepcha, Bhutia, Tamang and Limboo tribals of the State have been covered under the scheme.
“Local market price of Vanaraja egg is Rs 15 and the meat price is Rs 250-350 per kg in Sikkim. By rearing 25 birds, a farmer gets 1,000 to 1,500 eggs annually and at the end of laying period sells around 60 to 80 kg meat. In monetary terms, a farmer earns around Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000 as a subsidiary income from backyard poultry farming. Since inception over 2,700 farmers have received the benefits from this project,” informs Dr. Avasthe.
The Centre has also developed a model village on backyard poultry at Timpyem, East Sikkim district. Around 1,600 birds have been distributed among 35 individual farmers and a SHG, Timpyem Kisan Samridhi Group. Now, Timpyem has become a hub for backyard poultry production with improved birds and the village has become a role model for rural youths and farm women of neighbouring villages and State. As a whole, for adoption of improved backyard poultry as a potential practice for agro-preneurship development leading to sustainable livelihood security. The Centre has made a good impact for improving the livelihood status of farming community of the State through relevant intervention through backyard Vanaraja rearing.
The Centre has further plans to supply day-old chicks of Vanaraja to the farmers along with establishment of model poultry houses in rural areas of Sikkim. “Emphasis would be given to transform the traditional backyard poultry farming to scientific backyard poultry farming,” he claims.
As one third of population is still living below the poverty line in India, this kind of livelihood projects can be implemented in other parts of the country also. The Central and State agencies need to focus more on such micro projects to seriously address poverty alleviation.