Rural Malkangiri raise cattle while the sun shines

ODICHA“Fearing an outbreak of infectious diseases, we used to sell off our desi (countryside) chicken before the rains. Merchants took advantage, paying less than usual. However, this year was different. storage facility, I was able to vaccinate all my poultry before the monsoon. Only five or six birds from my flock of 50 died,” Anil Kirsani of Pulapally Colony in Mathili Block told 101Reporters.

Over the years, herding has served as a backup to deal with financial emergencies in the Malkangiri tribal belt. “However, high mortality rates have always been a problem for small-scale farmers,” said Ranjita Pujari, the Mecca panchayat sarpanch in Mathili.

Narsingh Pula from Siripeta village said his poultry started sneezing and coughing last monsoon, in addition to wringing their necks. They became paralyzed and died within days. Veterinary officials have declared it to be a case of Ranikhet (New Castle disease).

In fact, Ranikhet and Fowlpox wiped out the entire herd in Siripeta, Panighata and Banktiguda villages in Khairput bloc last year. According to Binayak Mishra, Livestock Coordinator of Somks District, a regional NGO that has promoted better husbandry practices, goats and cattle have succumbed to plague of babies, goat pox, hemorrhagic septicemia and to diseases of the black district.

Tribal income thus suffered a massive setback in the district, where more than 58% of the population struggled with poverty, according to the Niti Aayog National Multidimensional Poverty Index for 2021. Although vaccines were the only way to to save their poultry, farmers had to travel 80 km to the district headquarters to buy them from unregistered agents for Rs 50-60 per bird and Rs 100-120 per goat.

A bullet in the arm

Mathili and Khairput blocks got their solar-powered vaccine coolers in January 2022 as part of the Odisha government’s two-year pilot project to help local farmers combat livestock mortality. Costing Rs 1,06,000, it includes solar panels, a refrigerator, a small cooler to bring vaccines to clients and other essential inputs/supplies.

Each refrigerator can store up to 100 liters of different vaccines. In the event of a power failure, they can maintain cooling for 24-30 hours. These functions are of utmost importance as irregular power supply and lack of cold storage facilities hamper the effectiveness of vaccines in remote settlements, said Tushar Mishra, Khairput block veterinarian.

The availability of vaccines and its decentralization have become a boon to farmers in the region, where income from rain-fed agriculture has declined significantly due to climate change. “The cold store has encouraged farmers to develop their livestock,” noted Malkangiri District Agriculture Chief Nandagiri Ramakrishna Hayagreeva. It also curbed the distress sale of livestock.

The Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services first trained two farmers running large animal husbandry companies on how to keep farm animals healthy. The solar panels and refrigerator were installed in their homes, from where vials of vaccines were provided to another 40 tribal youths, who were trained by the department in January. These para-veterinarians earn their living by selling vaccines, but must bear their own travel expenses to reach remote villages.

Under the agreement, the department purchases cold storage units and hands them over permanently to selected farmers, who must commit to using them only for the supply of vaccines to local farmers and paravets. A local NGO will also regularly monitor the proper functioning of the system. The recipient farmer is responsible for the safety of the device. The equipment comes with a one-year warranty, after which farmers have to pay Rs 2,000 per year to get services from the manufacturer.

In Khairput block, the cold store is located in the house of Madhu Bhumia of Pushpali settlement. “Farming is gradually becoming unprofitable. I am supplementing my family’s income by selling vaccines provided by the department. In the last three months, I have saved about Rs. 8,000,” beamed Bhumia.

Farmers in 10 nearby villages rely on Bhumia for vaccines. He earns between Rs 1,400 and 2,000 per month providing vaccines for 700 to 1,000 birds at a subsidized rate of Rs 2 per bird. Similarly, he provides vaccines for 250-300 goats at Rs.5 per animal, adding Rs.1,250-1,500 to his income each month.

He also sells 150-200 vials of vaccines to other para-vets at Rs 10 each to earn Rs 1,500-2,000. The para-vets, in turn, supply vaccines to other rural areas. Each of them earns a monthly income of Rs 3,000 to 5,000 by serving 100 to 120 farmers.

“Access to vaccines is now easier. The demand is also increasing,” said Lachuram Chalan, where the Mathili block cold room is located in Makkah village.

“We intend to establish a cadre of para-vets at the community level,” Uday Kumar Kalyanapu, livestock and fisheries manager, Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), told 101Reporters.

Meanwhile, Malkangiri District Collector Vishal Singh said routine vaccinations would not be enough in the long run to maintain the benefits of small-scale animal husbandry. “It is important to support community disease management,” he advised.

A mix of everything

Dr. Bikash Chandra Sardar, Malkangiri district nodal officer and master trainer on better livestock management at the livestock department, said that farmers were getting financial assistance to raise exotic and mixed-breed animals, but such help was less common for natives.

“Selecting the right breed that can adapt to the local agroecosystem is essential. Local breeds have high procreation rates and are resilient. They require little investment, but offer excellent yields,” Sardar told 101Reporters. He added that improving feed quality and selective breeding would maximize the genetic potential of various native breeds.

“Farmers are eager to get into backyard poultry farming, but the shortage of native chicks poses a challenge. Government should help establish livestock farms in remote areas to ensure supply at reasonable rates,” said Balaram Kansari from Ambuguda village of Mathili.

Beyond vaccinations, experts suggest using proven local concoctions to keep poultry healthy. “These practices should be documented and widely disseminated. Local paravets can learn traditional herbal techniques to stimulate antibody production,” suggested Dr. Sunil Kumar Dash, animal husbandry expert at WASSAN.

Balaram Sahu, a veterinarian and recipient of the Department of Science and Technology’s national award for promoting organic and cost-effective methods for sustainable agriculture and livestock management, said local communities use a variety of grasses, roots , leaves and oils. to improve the health and immunity of their livestock. “We should not reject these low cost herbal healing practices.”

In summer, poultry farmer Budra Dumali from Khatiguda adds turmeric powder and aloe vera juice to the birds’ water bowls to protect them from heatstroke. “The aloe vera juice lowers their body temperature and the turmeric promotes growth,” Dumali explained.

Kamala Beta from Makkah said she applied a paste of neem and turmeric to the skin of fowlpox-stricken poultry. Her other tip was to add lemon and amla juice to the water in the summer, which she said worked as a stress reliever.

“We add dried Chiretta leaves to the chicken feed once a month. It works as an anthelmintic and improves the digestive system,” explained Ghanshyam Samarath from Temurupali.

(The author is a freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of local journalists.)

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