Out of all other supreme factors, what defines the tradition of a working India is its farmers. In some parts of the country, these people have remained unrecognized and there is hardly any support for them. Be it any of the farming sectors, our farmers have to cross many hurdles to reach the actual market. However, there are a few people who conquer everything with their dedication and attain a new level.
Dr Harekrishna Deka, a farmer, is one such person, who experienced hardships in his life and decided to do something to improve the process. Dr Deka was born and brought up in a small village named Khakharishal in Assam with ten other siblings. His childhood was difficult and he could not complete his schooling. Fortunately, his family encouraged him to study further. As a result, Dr Deka became a veterinary graduate from CVSc, Khanpara, Guwahati, and saw this as an opportunity to transform the villages.
He faced extreme poverty, isolation and marginalization by the community. After his graduation, he started working in an NGO named ‘Pradhan’. He also worked as a Production Manager of a fledgling Producers Cooperative ‘Kesla Poultry Society’ in Madhya Pradesh.
“This in many ways shaped my life mission to help small farmers bettering their lives through livestock and poultry husbandry,” says Dr Deka.
Dr Deka realized that poor people have inherent advantages in producing goods, which have labor or husbandry. They are able to bring in an engagement intensity to best productivity standards set by industry being owned labors. The question was how to convert this apparent advantage into bustling opportunity.
He established NSPDT (National Smallholder Poultry Development Trust), a dedicated sector oriented national level organization to orchestrate and spearhead the expansion of smallholder poultry in India. “It is all with a vision to inspire, encourage, facilitate and promote the emergence of an efficient farmer-owned network of well-organized empowered smallholder poultry farmers, setting the very best standards of professional excellence and wholesome development”, says Dr. Deka.
The biggest challenge for NSPDT was to organize resources to promote poultry producers and their producer’s organization (Cooperatives). The other challenges for them was to ensure the productivity in this kind of a decentralized production system by ensuring bio-security measures, getting quality raw materials, ensuring husbandry practices. The other routine challenge was organizing working capital, procurement of raw materials at competitive price, marketing of the ready birds (broiler chicken), ensuring system adherence and compliance with regulatory authorities, and managing a team. “As we have opted to work with ultra-poor section of the society, they find no way to contribute an amount of Rs 1,00,000 in creating poultry shed of 500 birds, and getting working capital to run the business. The biggest challenge is to mobilize these resources for them, and to assisting and facilitating their movement from non-producers to producers in an industrialized sector,” says Dr Deka.
Today, more than 11,000 women poultry producers organized in 25 producer’s organizations including Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, and Assam posted sales of Rs 366.87 crore and have earned over Rs 50 crore profit (FY2016-17). These organizations now have total equity base of Rs 80.78 crore. There are a few who have been associated with Dr Deka from the beginning and played a major role in what NSPDT is today. Dr Mridu Pawan Hazarika, Dr Pankaj Das and his mentor Shri Anish Kumar are the ones who have contributed to achieve success from social help.
They are looking to scale up and replicate the activity in the States of Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Assam in the next five years targeting 20,000 farmers, 50 cooperatives, Producer Income of Rs 100 crore, and turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. According to Dr Deka, this will place this initiative in the list of to five poultry producers in India and the largest such network globally.
Dr Deka has one message for the youth and people of the country- “If we want to see a developed India, we shall work at the grassroots to make socio-economic rise of marginalized sections of the society. Youths getting educated in good universities can play significant roles in it by utilizing their skillsets for a good cause of social development.”
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