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Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry

by Shivia
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Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry
Empowering India's Rural Poor through Poultry

We are pleased to report that, despite a second lockdown in large parts of West Bengal, we have recently been able to start distributing chicks again to our beneficiaries who are registered on our poultry programme.

This is after a long period during March and April when our field staff were unable to visit families and provide the toolkits and face to face training that they normally would do.  Almost overnight, our poultry farmers lost their livelihoods and means of an income.  To make matters worse, rumours were rife that chickens were responsible for the spread of Covid-19 to humans, so the market plummeted. And then, on 21st May our farrmers were hit by a devastating cyclone (Amphan) which caused huge damage to their homes and completely destroyed a large number of chicken coops.

While we help our farmers rebuild their poultry enterprises, we reflect on how our team on ground in India responded to the Covid crisis and the efforts they made to support their striken communities.

This report was written by Dr Natalie Schoon, a supporter of Shivia who tuned into one of our webinars in May to hear about our local response to the pandemic.

How to respond to a crisis - Shivia's approach

"As the world struggled to get to grips with the impact of COVID-19 and started to put in place measures to isolate people and close borders, many NGOs understandably sent their staff home and closed their doors in an effort to make sure everyone stayed as safe as they could.  Major donors have, understandably, rapidly shifted their focus to health and crisis management.

Shivia (known locally as Nirdhan in India) has followed a different path, as I found out when I joined one of their webinars in May and also listened to their audio blog published on the Shivia website (https://shivia.com/conversations-with-kolkata). 

Although equally concerned for the health and well-being of their staff and beneficiaries, their staff did not leave. Because they are already at home.  All Shivia/Nirdhan’s people on the ground in West Bengal (Livelihood Service Providers or LSPs) are local - they speak the local languages, have the support and trust of the community and understand the issues and concerns of the beneficiaries.  This is of great importance at all times, but specifically in times of crisis. They have been able to provide health and safely information to the communities, so they are aware of the risks of infection and how to prevent it, plus dispelling social media rumours that COVID-19 is spread by chickens. 

Shivia/Nirdhan’s staff has been invaluable in recognising needs and have proactively addressed them. They collected fabrics, thread and sewing machines, sourced a mask pattern and mobilised people to make masks against a fee. With their normal income flow reduced due to the virus, making masks gave the women in the villages an alternative source of income. 

The masks are distributed to a wide range of recipients within Shivia/Nirdhan’s beneficiary portfolio as well as families in the wider communities, focusing on the families who cannot afford the cost of the masks and those with vulnerable members. Recipients of the masks have also included civic police, civic volunteers, health and community workers, nurses from the local hospitals on duty during lock down, as well as a charitable foundation in the Sunderbans region of Bengal after cyclone Amphan hit in May.

Making the masks also has a secondary benefit. It had already been noted that there is a reluctance to take up farming among the younger generation, and making masks is providing an opportunity to develop new skills including fabric handling, pattern drafting, sewing, and use of colour. 

Given that the requirement to wear masks in public is expected to last for a while, Shivia/Nirdhan is already considering a line of masks for different occasions such as weddings, but also perhaps a limited edition for festivals such as Diwali. 

Remaining involved with the community and proactively seeking out opportunities to help current beneficiaries as well as the wider community has raised Shivia/Nirdhan’s profile in the community. The field staff have gained a lot of respect in the process, for the organisation as well as themselves."

 Dr Natalie Schoon, CFA, LLM is an independent consultant with a main focus on financial services, financial regulations and policy, and gender equality. Besides supporting their work, she is not affiliated with Shivia/Nirdhan.

Women have been employed making masks
Women have been employed making masks
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We all know too well that when a crisis hits, the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world suffer the most.  Where Shivia works in rural India, extended families live together, the public health system is sub-par and the immunity within communities to viruses such as Covid-19 is minimal.  Our absolute goal is to protect and assist our beneficiaries as best as we can during this unsettling and unprecedented time.

On 24th March, the Government of India announced a total lock-down for three weeks, until 14th April.  We had already instructed our staff not to go to the villages to prevent spreading Covid-19 to these vulnerable populations.  Even though our staff are in their homes, they are far from sitting idle waiting for this to blow over.   Instead, they are getting vital messages out to our beneficiaries including:

  • Covid Sensitisation: our staff are communicating with our farmers explaining to them about Covid-19 and answering questions they may have. They are focusing on preventative methods for contagious diseases at a personal and family level. They are also educating farmers that the rumours spreading on social media that the coronavirus is spread by chickens and livestock is simply not true.  In many parts of India, farmers are slaughtering their chickens as a result, their only form of livelihood.
  • Hygiene promotion: our staff are promoting washing hands and basic hygiene.  With the smart phones, they can do this pictorially. This is much more powerful in rural communities than verbal instructions.
  • Social distancing: even though grandparents, parents and grandchildren typically live together, our staff are emphasising the need to respect the lock-down and not move around and run around between houses.
  • Our usual services: we will continue to support our farmers by proactively calling them, ensuring they are ok and continuing to answer their concerns relating to their chickens, agriculture and goats.

As the situation changes almost daily, we will continually review how we can best support our beneficiaries.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on olly@shivia.com

Best wishes,

Olly and the team

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Over the years we have collected numerous stories about the impact of our programmes.  In the majority of cases they involve a mother who is desperately trying to earn money to help provide for her family.  Sometimes she needs to buy shoes or uniform so her children can go to school; sometimes she might need to get medicines for a sick relative; maybe she just wants to be able to choose some more nutritious food from the market for the whole family. But this is not always the case.  We have come across many people in the villages whose children have grown up and have had to move to the city in search of work.  Sadly, not all of them are able to send money home to help look after their elderly parents, so they are left to fend for themselves with little prospect of an income.

This is exactly what happened to Anjali.  She’s in her 60’s and her husband who suffers from severe asthma is now in his 70’s and is no longer fit enough to get work in the fields. Their children have moved away and sadly have not been helping to support them financially at all. But Anjali is a resilient and resourceful woman. She heard about Poultry Development Services and kick-started her new life as the bread-winner by raising chickens and selling eggs. Then, with some of her income, she turned her room into a little grocery store. And now she’s added goat-farming to the mix by graduating to our Goateries programme and has taken two female goats from us to start her next enterprise.

The last time I visited Anjali was in July during a field visit to our project areas near Kolkata - it was the middle of the summer monsoon season.  We negotiated the flooded pathways of the village and finally reached Anjali’s tiny home.  She herself is tiny too but she feels so empowered by her achievements she was standing tall and proud.  Her efforts are literally keeping their heads above water!

Thank you for supporting inspirational women such as Anjali.

The team at Shivia.

 

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Empowering women to earn

We know that the impact of PDS is enormous for incredibly poor women. Our impact studies show that our women farmers can earn an additional 30% household income annually from the sale of chickens and eggs. And we know that when a woman earns money she will spend it on her family first and foremost.

When we questioned our farmers about what their spending priorities were, education was high up on the list for most mothers.  Just being able to buy uniform and books allowed their children to attend school regularly.  Also, a few hundred extra rupees a month (£3 or £4) pays for some additional tuition so that their children pass the exams they need to stay in school and move up to the next class.  This is such a high aspiration given most of our PDS farmers are uneducated or illiterate themselves and they strive towards providing brighter futures for their own children.

Over half the women we talked to said they have used their money to start a second enterprise, which accelerates their route to independence and a more financially secure future.  Typical examples include running a small grocery shop from home or a tailoring business having bought a second-hand sewing machine.

Promoting independence and entrepreneurship

Our goal is to give women the tools and training to work their own way out of poverty and remain that way, without falling back into the poverty trap once we are no longer helping them. The key to this is independence - being able to sustain a profitable poultry farming enterprise in the long term without our intervention.  We have been working hard researching how to achieve this and in July 2018 we launched a new extension to our PDS programme - 'PDS Groups'.   When a woman enrols on our poultry farming programme we will work with her on an individual basis for two years, with intensive training, hand-holding and confidence-building. Thereafter, she will graduate into a farmer group.  By working in groups, women can source the toolkit parts on their own (the chicks, vaccinations and feed, etc.) and sell their produce further afield without the need for our assistance. We are delighted to report that over 580 farmers are now members of a group and are using the training and resources we have given them to truly launch out on their own to become fully fledged (excuse the pun) poultry farmers, independent of our charitable services.

Thank you for helping us to create these opportunities for thousands of women who are determined to provide a brighter future for their families.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

We are proud that our programmes are aligned to a number of the UN SDGs, in particular:

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Mangala with her 'little feathered friends'
Mangala with her 'little feathered friends'

In this report, we are delighted to publish our latest Annual Review for 2018/19 and tell you this inspiring case study.

Case Study

This is the story of Mangala, one of our most enterprising farmers. Now 35, Mangala was married at the tender age of just 16. By 19 years of age she was mother to two young children, staying in her village home looking after them and her parents-in-law while her husband worked in Kolkata as a construction labourer. After just four years marriage he fell ill with tuberculosis and came back home jobless. He has never fully recovered from this debilitating disease.

Mangala quickly realised that she had to start earning money to feed her two young children, her husband and his parents. She got in touch with a local agent who delivered old bicycle tyres to her house and she was tasked with pulling out the copper wires embedded in the rubber for cash. For each kilogramme of copper wire pulled, she received Rs.8 (about 10 pence). Doing this laborious and gruelling work, she managed to make about 50p a day. As soon as her youngest son was two years old, Mangala also got a job in the local fields as an agricultural labourer, planting seeds or picking crops, earning an additional £1 per day. Her hours were long and she was exhausted by the end of each day, her hands burning and cut from pulling the copper wires from the tyres. This was the story of Mangala’s life two years ago.

Then, at a village community meeting, she met Majida, one of our field team of Livelihood Service Providers. Majida inspired her to start poultry farming as an alternative option to the gruelling work she was doing just to survive. And so Mangala embarked on this new enterprise and proved to be an extremely hardworking and dedicated student who learned everything about poultry farming very diligently. She has raised a flock of more than 130 birds in almost 2 years now and has an excellent track record of zero chick mortality. She sells the cockerels and fresh eggs from her hens in the local market. Her husband also helps her to raise the chickens and their relationship has really benefitted from this. He now accepts that, as a money-earner, Mangala is a decision-maker in the family now. And her children, now 16 and 18, are very proud of her, especially as she has enabled them to stay in school and receive extra tuition to pass their exams with the money she is earning.

There is no doubt that Poultry Development Services has changed Mangala’s life and given the whole family a brighter future. She proudly says, “These little feathered friends have changed our lives and I have to give them all my attention! I am heavily indebted to them because they have taught us to work hard to earn money and produce food together as a family. Thank you Shivia – your project has revived my life!”  

Thank you for helping Mangala turn her fortunes around.

Best wishes from the team at Shivia

 

      

Her old job was pulling copper wire from tyres
Her old job was pulling copper wire from tyres
Mangala's hands were burning and cut
Mangala's hands were burning and cut

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Organization Information

Shivia

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @shiviatweets
Project Leader:
Olly Donnelly
London, UK United Kingdom
$50,913 raised of $58,590 goal
 
727 donations
$7,677 to go
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