Poultry from and for women in India

The Kesla Poultry Society was founded 15 years ago in India, with the aim of helping the region’s poorest women to improve their quality of life. The cooperative targets women from the various traditional tribes. Initially the women are required to set up self-help groups where they save together and lend money to one another. When this proves successful they’re able to join the poultry cooperative, which is open to women only.

The Kesla Poultry Society is one of 19 cooperatives that together make up the National Smallholder Poultry Development Trust. Together the cooperatives number over 8000 members. Rabobank Foundation teamed up with ngo Pradan to form the Trust and furnishes the capital required to build the poultry sheds. In 2002 the Kesla cooperative had just 250 members, but that number has since swelled to almost a thousand, from nineteen different villages. Each village is represented on the board, and each also has a supervisor who helps members with feed, medicines, administration and technical assistance. The Kesla Poultry Society’s objective is a flock of 1000 chickens per member, enabling them to earn a respectable annual income of 50,000 rupees (equivalent to around €725). At present however many members have far fewer chickens, meaning they earn just 20,000 rupees a year. For the women, poultry is a perfect source of income as they can make money while staying at home to look after the children. And with the women the money is in good hands: they invest in their flocks, while men tend to prefer spending money on other things.

This poultry project has been made possible with the help of the Rabo Foundation Client Fund. Rabobank Barneveld is one of the banks involved, within the framework of the adoption programme.

Rukmani’s story

Rukmani Bai (47) is married to a woodcutter. Originally she worked as a wage labourer. She was forced to borrow from money lenders to get by, at an interest rate of 10 percent a month. Fifteen years ago she began farming with 300 chickens. In 2009 she secured a loan of 25,000 rupees to build two poultry sheds. She paid off the loan within three years at an annual interest rate of 6%. Now she has 800 chickens in her flock, savings and a life insurance policy. In the past she was dominated by her husband, but now she takes the decisions and he fetches the water. Her story is not unique; according to the board of the cooperative it is part of the pattern of women’s experience. Previously women earned little and as such were afforded no respect and were frequently beaten. Now they earn as much or more than their husbands they are valued and the men listen to them.