Published: Saturday 15 April 2006

Poultry cooperatives

Apropos of your editorial ('Poultry business too serious to be left to industry', Down To Earth, March 15, 2006), I would like to mention the approach adopted by us in pradan, which is promoting small-holder broiler poultry in large areas of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Around 3,000 women poultry producers, most of them from poor tribal families, are raising broiler poultry in a decentralised manner under the guidance of qualified veterinarians. Each of them has put up rearing sheds on their homesteads, which can accommodate 300 to 400 birds. The flocks of birds are maintained inside the sheds and do not forage outdoors. Sheds have proper separation distances between them. This and certain other measures allow much tighter biosecurity than is possible in large farms.

The women producers are organised into cooperatives, which provide them inputs and market the birds. The cooperative also hedges the small producers against high market fluctuations that are common in broiler markets. Each producer has a net income of around Rs 1,500 per batch of 45 days duration (there are, on an average, seven batches in a year). The profits the cooperative earns are used to create a reserve to combat market fluctuations and/or are paid as dividends to members at the year-end.

Following research over the last 15 years, we have come up with the livelihood prototype, which has the capacity to provide livelihood to thousands of poor producers in the country in a way that is compatible with biosecurity and health considerations.

While there are ten cooperatives at present, we plan to help promote several others. We believe that poultry industry can be reorganised not only in India but across the developing countries, creating livelihood for the poor and addressing environmental and health concerns. The prototype developed has both decentralisation and integration features (to fight competition and attain economies of scale). Perhaps the prototype can be used in other parts of the country as well.

Soumen Biswas

The continuing mass killing of poultry to contain avian flu virus is a dramatic and psychological treatment to plant safety in the minds of consumers. Currently, the human cases are not many but then who can predict the future? As a virologist, one must propose preventive measures. Besides vaccinations, constant monitoring of poultry is also important.

One agrees with your viewpoint that food per se cannot be left to manufacturers alone. The editorial talks about greater controls on poultry breeders to contain the spread of avian flu. However, local regulations within a given country only breed local corruption. Naturally, if the businesses integrate at a global level, so should their monitoring.

Globalisation of business is a way of life in contemporary times. What we need are International Food Monitoring Reference Laboratories. International organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, who and unesco are spending billions of dollars to support "development" programmes in different parts of the world. It is time they consider monitoring human food internationally.

Independent inspection, sampling and testing of foods supported by unbiased, probably un -controlled, testing laboratories is as important as the monitoring of the development of weapons of mass destruction.

What could be a better weapon than "contaminated" human food for mass destruction?

Bhupat Rawal

Tannery facts

I am writing in response to your article that talks about removing chromium from the effluent of leather units ('Getting the tan right', Down To Earth, February 28, 2006).

It is well known that the tannery sector uses basic chromium sulphate for tanning purpose. The chromium in such compounds exists in its trivalent form and not in its hexavalent form. That is why the common effluent treatment plants are able to precipitate it. Otherwise, as the article claims, precipitation is not possible.

The research focus and the available form of chromium (in effluents) as described in the article run contrary to the tannery sector's environmental issue. It is rather surprising how an institute of repute like the Central Leather Research Institute could mislead the readers.

Please verify the facts and inform your readers accordingly.

N K Kuttiappan

Down To Earth Replies
The error is an inadvertent one and is regretted....

Rural energy

In all the talk on energy, includinghigh-tech measures, rural energy like biogas and biomass do not get as much importanceas they should. These are the cheapest resources and available in plenty. There are only 3.2 million installations of biogas against a potential of 120 million.

The movement for biogas use should be made more dynamic considering the multifarious benefits of rearing animals. The total budget of the Union ministry of non-conventional energy sources is only Rs 597 crore (just one per cent of that for the energy sector,excluding atomic power). This could be increased by Rs 100 crore to give asubsidy for biogas plants, especially in case of tribals. This willalso encourage them to rear pigs, cattle and other animals as a source of livelihood. On the other hand, the biogas could be used forcooking and lighting and the waste to make manure. At an average subsidy of Rs 4,000 for each plant, this amount willadd 0.25 million units a year inaddition to those under the normal programme.

In fact, rural energy and energy for the tribal should be given the status of amission.Mobilising an additional Rs 100 crore will not be difficult considering that nearly Rs 10,000 crore are spent on subsidy forkerosene and lpg, generally obligingmiddle and upper class people, who are the main users.

C R Bhattacharjee


Neglected ponds

This is in reference to your article 'Watered down' that appeared in the September 30, 2002 issue of Down To Earth, which I happened to come across recently. The piece was about the Gujarat High Court directing the government authorities, which had actively contributed to the destruction of Ahmedabad's lakes, to protect and recharge them.

I would like to tell you about a village, Multhan, in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, which is located just about one km away from the Ratlam-Indore state highway. About 50 years ago, there were two ponds, each about one km long and 0.5 km wide, between the village and the highway. Because of the ponds, the village had ample water and even the crop yield was good. In course of time, these ponds were filled up with mud. As a result, the water table for the village fell below 500 feet (about 150 metres). The state government has not made any effort to restore them.

Similarly, a pond in Khachraud in Ujjain district, suffered complete neglect and its storage capacity was drastically reduced. The water table started receding and tubewells started to go dry in summer. The Khachraud municipality is reportedly trying to restore the pond.

I feel that the government should take a keen interest in restoring such ponds by regularly increasing their storage capacity and ensure the flow of water from the catchment area to the ponds is unrestricted.

R K Nandecha


Down To Earth welcomes letters, responses and other contributions from readers. We particularly welcome you to join issues and share your opinion with others. Send to Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth, 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062. Email: editor@downtoearth.org.in ...


Ash disposal
A small village I recently visited produces huge amount of cow dung ash. There is no government body to lift it nor any marked place to dump it. The ash is produced because the villagers use the cow dung cake as cooking fuel.

I would like to know what can be done?

Is there any utility of large volume of cow dung ash apart from using it to clean utensils or as a pesticide for farms?

Is there any technology available to make something useful out of it and generate livelihood opportunities?

What is the safe mode for its disposal?

Pervez Alam

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