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Extension strategy to network poultry farmer for socio-economic development of rural poor

Transfer of Technology , National Institute of Rural Development
Rajendranagar, Hyderabad 500 030



Poultry constitute an important economic activity for up-liftment of rural poor. Decades of research and development had gone into rapid development of poultry as a competitive, commercial activity. However, the benefits of such corporatised commercial poultry has side lined the back yard poultry activity which once was the foundation of poultry benefiting the most disadvantaged sections. The paper presents possible strategies to mediate the benefits of poultry revolution for the advantage of rural people.

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The main purpose of Rural Development endeavour is to improve the quality of life of rural people in India by enhancing their employment and income opportunities. In this over all contest one has to examine as to how the poultry sector contribute to this objective, its role, its importance and the opportunities offered by the sector within given constraints. Poultry in India prior to early seventy’s was in the hands of most deprived and destitute groups in rural areas. Though, no exact estimate of its actual share of contribution in terms of percentage of household income is available, it is anybody’s guess as to how a regular assured small cash flow play very crucial role in the household economy of the people in the lowest strata of the economic ladder. Poultry for the poorest people had added advantage by way of regular day-to-day cash returns by sale of eggs and also periodic cash income from sale of birds for meeting the occasional family exigencies. It requires minimum capital and ensures quick return. Yet, poultry keeping was never considered as a full time primary economic activity of rural people in the country. It best suit to the landless households as it does not require more farmland and is accommodated in the homestead area. Poultry utilizes substantial quantities of non-edible agriculture and industrial by products. It supplemented the family income and improved nutritional status as a subsidiary activities.

Over the last 4 decades of technological break through and efficient management interventions in poultry has totally changed the scenario in India. Organized poultry farming is one of the most commercial activities in competitive terms among not only animal husbandry but within the total agriculture sector. Poultry, which was considered as a backyard venture in the early 60's has now been transformed into a strong agro-based farming activity. Poultry occupies an important place in the Indian economy, as it contributes nearly Rs. 11000 crore to the National GDP. The single most significant step in poultry development has come from the initiative taken up by the private sector for commercial pure-line breeding in the country. The growth in this direction has been substantive. The country has thus reached a stage in which commercial pure-line poultry breeding may be left exclusively to the private sector. The pure-line breeding program for the production for commercial hybrid broilers and layers i.e. high-input high-output chicken may be confined to the private sector. The role of the government may be restricted to provide the enabling environment to carry out breed development, research and promotional activities by organized sector. Commercial poultry farmers should be provided with liberal loans and working capital at a lesser rate of interest in line with those applicable to development activities such as food processing, land development, etc. There should be easy access to technologies and investment from foreign investors on competitive terms.


The present scenario of poultry system can be seen in three distinct patterns namely, 1) Modern, medium, large scale and high intensive system-mostly around peri - urban areas; 2) small intensive hybrid birds with deep litter system in rural areas promoted under various development schemes and programmes through Government initiatives; and 3) traditional, age old, back yard poultry with local and genetically improved stock.

Though, all the three systems have important role to play they have significantly diversified requirements, in terms of their husbandry practices, feed requirement and health care management – thereby differential treatment for their development support. The large-scale intensive poultry farming in India is comparable to modern poultry production system anywhere in the world. The other two systems namely - small intensive and backyard family poultry production are totally neglected and primitive. This needs urgent attention. Promotion of poultry in all these systems will require different focus.


The large-scale commercial poultry farming is well managed and it has achieved excellence with regard to housing and health care management. The risk, uncertainty and market fluctuations have been largely addressed through the intervention of the All India Egg Coordination Committee. However, it’s major concern is with regard to availability of low cost and quality feed stock. The primary constituents of poultry feed are maize and soybean. This basic feed ingredient is costly in India compared to rest of the world and is in short supply. Therefore, there is urgent need to promote extra acreage of land for cultivation of maize and soybeans. Proper strategy needs to be worked out to link the dedicated and organized farmers groups who should focus on cultivation of maize and soybeans exclusively to meet the requirement of commercial poultry farm enterprises.

The commercial poultry farm should enter into agreement with crop farmer groups to provide them technical and financial support with assured buys back arrangement. This will mutually benefit the commercial poultry farmers and the rural farm households. The other equally important aspect it has to deal firmly is to counter the negative propaganda regarding ill effect of eggs and poultry meat causing heart diseases when no specific research finding so far has established the exclusive impact of egg and poultry meat in increasing heart attack. Especially when the present per capita availability of egg and poultry meat is only 33 eggs and 700 gms of meat per person per annum, which is extremely low when compared to the nutritionally recommended animal protein. Most particularly, it is a matter of serious concern that the per capita egg consumption in rural areas is only 3 (three). The organized poultry sector therefore must take up seriously to counter the negative propaganda through well-planned consumer education programme and aggressive advertisements.


The poultry could play very important role in enhancing the economic conditions of the rural poor. In view of this, several government programmes and schemes were launched since seventies to promote intensive deep litter poultry farming with improved bird stock with unit size ranging from 50 to 500. It provides very good organic farm manure to crops and vegetables. The manure from deep litter system of poultry rearing of 100 bird flock size provide total organic fertilizer requirements of one and half-acre intensive paddy farming or 1.25 acre of intensive vegetable cultivation. However, experience shows that despite continuation of these programmes for the last 25 to 30 years, the system could not make a success due to several reasons. Today, it is disheartening to observe that almost all small poultry farms have been closed. The reasons could be many. Some of the important factors are -- (i) poor and untimely supply of quality cheeks, (ii) uncertainty in supply and high price of cheeks, (iii) lack of quality poultry feed, (iv) lack of organized marketing support, (v) poor and non-existing health care support (both preventive and curative) from the animal husbandry department, (vi) poor educational and information support for better management and marketing of poultry products, (vii) Poor or non-exist transparent system for poultry birds, and eggs, (viii) lack of storage of processed birds and eggs in rural areas and (ix) total absence of cold chain facility, etc. Since, our last 25-30 years experience with regard to promoting this system of small intensive poultry farm in deep litter system has been met with repeated failures, it will be appropriate to look for alternative strategies of linking the intensive small organized farm with large commercial parent farm. The parent farm may take up the total responsibility of in put supply and marketing of the produce for the small farmers on a mutually agreed cost-sharing basis. The details for this could be worked out.


The most conventional in poultry sector is the backyard and semi-intensive farming system, which constitute nearly 63% of the total bird population. This significantly contributes to rural economy in a highly disbursed situation. The concentration of backyard poultry farming is mostly with regard to geographic spread in tribal belt. Otherwise it is practiced almost in all over in the country. Its concentration in social context is among the schedule caste and other downtrodden house holds. Poultry farming can do immense service to poverty alleviation and improving the nutritional condition of less privileged people. Unfortunately, this has not drawn the type of attention it should receive from researchers as well as development agencies and very little work has been done with regard to improving the performance of indigenous bird. The average egg production of desi-bird, which was 60 in seventy’s have come down to 45 per annum now. The improved exotic breeds like white leghorn, RIR and their crosses are presently in large number and gradually replacing the indigenous poultry breeds in the countryside. Therefore, the overall average egg production in the system is reported at 104. The average size of the folk in backyard poultry range from 5 to 20. Mostly, the birds depend on scavenger type of feeding with negligible amount of additional feed supplement. The population of back yard poultry has increased over a period of time while the area for scavenging has been reduced due to intensive agriculture and extended housing. Therefore, the carrying capacity in rural village environment has consequently reduced. Unfortunately, very limited research findings are available on this aspect to determine carrying capacity of village environment in different agro-climatic conditions of the country so that one can plan regarding the number of birds that can be sustained in a given village environment to make it viable. In the absence of adequate naturally available food to the bird they fail to perform to capacity. Though, this system does not require sophisticated management, some basic principles of good health care and feeding system must be followed by the back yard poultry farmers in order to optimize their production which include good hygienic practice by way of cleaning the drinking water turf, night shelter for the birds, supplementary feeding, periodic vaccination and health care for disease control. Besides, creating proper marketing linkages.

It is satisfying to note that in recent times through systematic efforts several high producing birds compatible to rural environment and back yard poultry system are being produced. Birds such as Van Raj, Grama Sri, Krishna J, etc., performed very well for dual purpose. In order to promote their rearing by the back yard poultry farmers, there is need to ensure its timely availability to the farmers. Therefore, initiative needs to be taken to establish hatcheries to provide vaccinated cheeks to the farmers. The experience shows that the mortality of non-vaccinated cheeks in back yard poultry system is within the first three-four weeks. Therefore, the development initiative to promote back yard poultry with rural poor should be aimed to provide at least 4-5 weeks old cheeks after proper vaccination. Information and educational programmes by way of informal and formal on site short duration training should be organized periodically for the benefit of back yard poultry farmers. Institutional training shall not be convenient for them as they constitute mostly women and children who have several other house-hold responsibilities and their dislocation from the village for training will cause inconvenience to them. The mobile disease investigation and preventive health care facilities to the back yard poultry farmers must be ensured through the government initiatives.

Though, the chickens constitute major component of back yard poultry activity there is need to promote other birds species like duck, turkey, guinea fowl etc. Among the birds other than chicken the most promising is duck. Ducks constitute nearly 9% of the poultry population. On an average, a local duck lays nearly 108 eggs per year and could be reared in remote areas. Incidentally, ducks are concentrated mainly in north eastern and coastal region of eastern and southern states particularly with disadvantaged groups. Local ducks found suitable when integrated to coastal rice production system. They are voracious feeders and play crucial role in the final stage of paddy field preparation for planting by bringing the field to fine tilth with their spoon like flat beaks, they break the clods and feed on soil in sects. With webbed feeds, it helps level the paddy field. Eggs from ducks are added advantage to the rice farmer. Duck reduce the population of snails, which is important intermediary host for liver fluke and nosel schistosomia in cattle and buffaloes. It acts as biological control for numerous animal and human disease. Therefore, two pronged strategy like integrating local duck in conventional wet land farming system and high performing high breed birds in coastal fishery production system should be promoted.


The single most critical need for development of the decentralized backyard poultry production is the right type of organization, that will be able to address (a) provision of timely and regular supply of quality inputs i.e. four week old chicks, feeds and most importantly preventive health care - education service, (b) collection and marketing of eggs and chicken on a definite regular interval, daily, bi-weekly or weekly as is practiced in dairy sector. This could be possible by organizing the voice-less poor backyard poultry farmers - mostly rural women. Fortunately, a silent revolution in the form of organization of self help groups is under way in most part of the country where socially functional groups, which started with thrift and credit activity have now taken up wide range of tiny decentralized economic activities in most organized manner with remarkable success. Lessons have to be learnt from the success of these groups as well as the dairy cooperative sector to match the best of the two and evolve new form of a dynamic poultry development network structure. All the rural house holds keeping poultry (any type of birds) be organized as a social homogenous group in the manner of self help groups of 10 to 15 poultry farmers. Each village thus will have 10 to 15 such groups to form a primary society. Sixty to hundred such primary societies from village level may be organized as a union of the small poultry farmer (at block / taluka level). This will have a strength of 5,000 to 10,000 small poultry farmers with bird strength of 75,000 to 1,50,000 to be run on the lines of corporate poultry house engaging the best talent with managerial skills. These unions shall not restrict activity only to poultry as the case of dairy but must under take all other economic activities dim-needed for its members in integrated manner has it happens with federations of self help groups.


Source : IPSACON-2005