A couple’s fight against Newcastle Disease

In Kaptipada village of Mayurbhanj District in Orissa, India lives a hardworking couple. Dashrathi and Fulomani Murmu have dedicated their lives to serving their community by taking care of their livestock. Dashrathi is mainly known within the community as the small animals’ doctor, while Fulomani is the village poultry doctor. Both are trained vaccinators.

The couple’s services are filling a huge gap left by the lack of veterinary service in their community. For a long time, no trained vaccinator has catered to the needs of small ruminants and poultry in their community as the only government employed livestock inspector was vaccinating large animals only. And yet, most families within the community keep small animals and poultry as a source of livelihood.

The couple became vaccinators by chance when GALVmed, in partnership with a local NGO, Bhodal Milk Producers Cooperative Society (BMPCS) introduced a training programme for vaccinators in the control of Newcastle Disease. Fulomani, who was then a member of a self-help group in the village, was invited to the training by Piyush Mishra who runs another local NGO in the area.   While attending the training, Fulomani who had an infant baby was often accompanied by her husband Dashrathi who would take care of the baby while training was in session. The trainer, Dr. Kornel Das spotted Dashrathi’s keen interest in the training course and asked him to join the group.

After completing the training course, the couple went back to serve their community. Initially this was not easy, but after earning the trust of the community members especially when chickens stopped dying, their services become very popular and in demand. These days, they are often called upon by the government’s veterinary department to carry out vaccinations of livestock during scheduled campaigns.

Since starting their vaccination business three years ago, the couple has played a big role in controlling outbreaks of Newcastle Disease in Mayurbhanj district where they serve about 900 families in seven villages. Their work has had a significant impact on the community. Families who used to keep between six and eight chickens are now able to keep between thirty to forty chickens because of vaccinations. This has a multiplier effect in the overall outlook of their lives as their earnings from poultry increase.

On the other hand, the couple has also been able to build a successful business.   From their modest coolers, which they transport using their newly purchased bicycle, they stock a limited supply of the Newcastle Disease vaccine, anthelmintic and some first aid medicines that they can supply to other vaccinators. In total, they earn a monthly income of about 10,000 Indian Rupees (US $158) . With the extra income generated, they have recently started a chick rearing centre and are planning to purchase day old chicks from a nearby government hatchery to rear them for a month before selling them off to villagers for crossbreeding with their village poultry.

Reflecting on their successful venture Fulomani says that it has improved their lives tremendously. “When our child was recently sick with malaria, we were able to pay the 24,000 Indian Rupees (US $380) required by the hospital for treatment, something that we could not afford before we started,” she says.

The couple are grateful for the training they received and are very optimistic about their future. They plan to expand their services to other communities and have plans of buying a motorcycle to do this.  They would like to educate their seven children to become doctors or engineers.

Young Entrepreneurs Trying Intensive Backyard Poultry Farming

Four young guys in a remote Dasokhao village of Ramgadh district near Ranchi were thinking of starting an enterprise with only a small initial investment. They came to know and interact with villagers in the area who have recently started vaccinating their backyard poultry (BYP). A local NGO named SUPPORT with the help of GALVmed is working in the area to establish a system of regular vaccination in BYP against Newcastle Disease (ND). Villagers are also trained to improve poultry housing and nutrition as well as the importance of regular vaccination of their local birds. This has resulted in less mortality and an increasing number of birds in the area.

These four young guys soon realised the potential income that can be generated from backyard poultry keeping. They noticed that nearby national highway restaurants sell local chickens at three times the higher price than broiler chickens. They were considering this new enterprise when a big backyard poultry event was held in the area. GALVmed and its partners from Africa and South Asia gathered in Ranchi in March 2015 to discuss backyard poultry and the control of ND. The delegates also visited some villages in the area including the one the young entrepreneurs were visiting while researching backyard poultry keeping. They decided to start backyard poultry keeping in an intensive system. They have built a house and are keeping many birds inside while providing feed and limited time grazing outside.

They also included a vaccinator, who has recently been trained by SUPPORT, the local NGO, on ND vaccination and other management of backyard poultry, into their team. They built a concrete poultry house surrounded by open area to graze their poultry, and they purchased 70 backyard poultry from the nearby village and started rearing them in the newly built house.

It is common in this area for tribal and non-tribal households to keep backyard poultry. They need chicken for when guests visit. Serving chicken to a guest for dinner or lunch is a matter of pride and honour for the villagers. They are currently unable to fulfil their household demand of local chicken. However, the recent ND vaccination programme has seeded some hope in villagers that bird numbers will increase. Starting a backyard poultry business is a reflection of their hope and faith that backyard poultry keeping can be a lucrative enterprise.

But they will have to find answers to some of the following questions to run this enterprise in a sustainable way.

  • Will this business be competitively cost effective if compared with broiler or layer farming?
  • Will this market and price sustain if many villagers will start similar enterprises?

The rate at which local birds convert feed into meat and egg is slow in comparison to broiler and layer. Now there is a demand for backyard poultry and it is being sold at a higher price in the local market. They will have to find the answers to these questions through time and practice. For now they can rear local birds earn more and learn more over time.