Shivia was founded in 2008 and is a UK registered charity working in West Bengal, one of India’s poorest and most populous states. They give families living in extreme poverty the tools and training to start a small agricultural enterprise from home. They empower the people in most need, and particularly women, to earn a much-needed income, enabling them to improve their lives and provide a brighter future for their children. The focus of the programmes is thorough training for beneficiaries, so they can build a profitable enterprise. They believe this is key to our success, delivering the impact they are striving for. All programmes are operated by a team of locally recruited staff – men and women from the villages where they work who understand the problems faced by the poorest members of their community.
Alquity TL has supported Poultry Development Services (PDS), a very simple, cost-effective livelihood programme that delivers a big impact. PDS is specifically aimed at women, enabling them to earn money from raising chickens and selling the produce. Through a team of locally recruited staff (called Livelihood Service Providers or LSPs), they deliver Poultry Toolkits to beneficiaries. The toolkit includes ten chicks, plus the essential vaccines, medications and feed they need in the first few weeks of life. Most importantly it includes training on how to look after the chicks, build a coop and successfully raise the birds to maturity. LSPs visit the farmers weekly at first and remain on call for six months to guide them in all aspects of the enterprise, including financial management and advice about marketing and selling the produce. They chose poultry farming for a number of reasons – very little land is needed to raise chickens; it’s a low risk enterprise where start-up costs are also very low. There is a large market demand for eggs and chickens in West Bengal, enabling farmers to earn a small, regular income over an extended period. Research has shown that women can earn about £35 a year from one toolkit if she keeps five hens for egg production and sells the other five birds for meat, rising to £52 a year from ten egg-laying hens. A typical annual income is about £270, so this represents a significant increase. A further advantage is that there is no wastage as unsold eggs and chicken can be consumed by the family, and this means that children are having a more varied and nutritious diet.
Grants received from Alquity TL have been used to supply poultry toolkits to 300 families and cover the salaries of five LSPs and one Data Entry Operator for one year. They have also been granted funds to conduct research into another potential enterprise, fish-farming. Research is crucial to understanding how farmers can develop new income streams. Alquity TL has also pledged to support the opening of a new location for PDS in 2018, subject to matched funding. For more information, please visit: https://shivia.com/programmes/poultry-development-services.
Tinku is 38 years old and married with two children aged 11 and 16. With the extra income she has earned from selling eggs and chickens, Tinku has been able to pay for some private tuition for her children. By our standards, this might sound unaffordable for a family living in poverty in rural India, but in her small village where the government schools are not providing a good education (often due to teacher absenteeism), the goal of many parents is to seek and pay for some extra tuition for their children. A good-sized chicken or a tray of fresh eggs can pay for one of those valuable lessons. Like parents the world over, Tinku and her husband know that a good education is the key to success in later life.
Aside from raising chickens, Tinku has used her newly found skills to start a second micro-enterprise. She buys inexpensive saris from a local wholesaler and sells them for a small profit in her village. She is managing to earn an additional £12 a month as a result of her efforts.
Kamala Nayak is 36 and has three children, one of whom has a brain tumour. Her husband is a daily-wage labourer and prior to her poultry enterprise with Shivia their household income was very low.
Kamala registered for PDS in 2012. After the initial training sessions from her Livelihood Service Provider, Prenundu Biswas, Kamala received her first poultry toolkit of 10 one-day old chicks. Prenundu continued to help Kamala and her family, teaching them how to build a coop and raise healthy chickens. He also helped her with some financial advice and how to market her produce.
Kamala now has a regular income from selling eggs and chickens and has laid the foundations for a much bigger coop to expand her business. She is also able to pay the medical expenses for her sick child.
Hens start laying eggs when they are about four months old and Kamala was very proud when one of the hens from her toolkit laid the very first egg. She presented that beautiful, fresh egg to Chandrani Banerjee, Shivia’s Head of Livelihood Programme, insisting that she take it back home to Kolkata on the crowded train and give it to her daughter for breakfast. Chandrani obliged and the egg (poached for breakfast the next day) was delicious!