Failure and closure of a big chicken farm in Parigam, that employed many villagers, could have pushed the village into economic depression. But one man’s courage and skills helped script a success story of economic independence. Majid Maqbool visited the chicken-farm village, Parigam.
Parigam village in district Pulwama has scripted a success story out of a failure. Almost every household in this village, about 20 kilometers from Srinagar, owns a small poultry farm. After a big government owned poultry farm was closed down in the mid 80s, the villagers started setting up their own poultry farms near their homes. Over the years the poultry farms have multiplied and the business is thriving. The proliferation of poultry farms has also created more avenues of employment for the residents.
Not surprising then, only a few people in this village work in the government sector. The village has come to be known as “Chhota Panjab” for being the biggest supplier of chicken to the Srinagar city and other adjoining villages. The village has become a unique example of economic self-reliance in Kashmir, an inspiration for other villages for taking initiatives and starting small units independent of the government.
Parigam produces up to five lakh chicken in its nearly 500 farms and has its own integrated chickenfeed market. The farm owners don’t have to go to Srinagar to buy the chicken feed, medicine and other required material – it’s all available in the village. It is all so well integrated that the farm owners do not need to go anywhere for any material required for chicken farming.
The Parigam’s success story goes back to 1985. That year, with the help of the local MLA, a big poultry farm was set up in the village by the Tramboo family business house. Some locals from this village were employed in the Tramboo poultry farm that turned out to be an unprofitable venture. The hatchery unit of this poultry farm could not work. There were electricity problems that affected the chicken production. The local employees were paid less. Eventually, the Tramboo poultry farm unit was closed down in 1988. All the local employees in the poultry farm were suddenly laid off.
But not everyone panicked. Abdul Rashid Bhat, 46, an employee who also lost his job had learnt the tricks of the trade. “I was one of the 26 people who were initially employed in the farm,” says Rashid. “We were taken for chicken farm training to Ludhiana in 1985 when the farm was setup.”
Rashid learnt all the technicalities of poultry farming and sharpened his skills during that intensive eight weeks of training in Punjab.He had lost his job, not his skills and thought of setting up a small chicken farm of his own near his house.
Rashid succeeded and triggereda trend in Parigam that would finally result in economic independence of sorts for the entire village. Many villagers sought Rashid’s help and set up their own chicken farm units.
“To begin with I started the small farm with a capacity of around 1000 chicks,” says Rashid. “There was a risk element in it, but I took the risk and worked hard to make it a successful venture.”
Rashid’s success with his poultry farm unit came to be replicated by many other villagers in the subsequent years. Through the 90s the villagers began rearing chicks in small rooms near their homes, and some inside their homes as well.
Rashid was always more than willing to provide all his expertise in chicken farming. “After I setup my poultry farm, many people from the village realized that they too can do it. I helped them in whatever way I could to open their own farms,” says Rashid, proud that the people in his village are not dependent on government jobs for their livelihood.
Today Rashid is not only a successful owner of chicken farms, but he is also a big supplier and distributor of chicken in the area. He supplies chickenfeed to many farms in the village. In his two big poultry farms a short distance from his home, around 9000 chicken are being reared at present. Rashid also owns a big store of chickenfeed material in his home. He supplies the chickenfeed material to around 45 farms in the village.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat is another successful poultry farm owner in Parigam. He also started his own poultry farm after the Tramboo poultry farm was closed down. Today he is the proud owner of 3 big poultry farms setup just a mile away from his home. His two sons are also associated with the poultry business with the eldest working as a dealer.
“One of our neighbors left the village in 1995. We bought his house and set up a small chicken farm in it the same year,” says Ghulam Mohammad, who was inspired by Rashid to start his own farm. “We started with 1000 chicks and set up the small poultry farm in that house and over the years we expanded the business to three big chicken farms where we also employ local people.”
On an average, he says, around 10-12 people find employment in one chicken farm in the village. “And all the family members of the household, including womenfolk, do different works related with the poultry farms.”
According to Ghulam Mohammad nearly 90 percent of the people in Parigam are associated with poultry farming and majority of them have set up their own chicken farms near their homes.
“In the 90s we had to buy every material for the poultry farms from Srinagar. Now all the required feed and medicine is available locally,” says Ghulam.
There are around 15 dealers in the village that supply chickenfeed and medicine to the farms in the village. If there’s a chicken disease that threatens the chicken production, the villagers are able to get all the required medicine from the dealers who are based in the village itself.
“It is a business independent of government and we are not dependent on anyone,” says Ghulam.
Ghulam Mohammad says although the government didn’t help the village in anyway, they haven’t give up poultry farming all these years, not even when the situation was bad in the 90s. “This village has a population of around 15,000 people and less than 50 people are working in the government sector. The rest are associated with poultry farms in one way or the other,” he says. “People saw each others success and set up their own chicken farms and also employed people from their localities.”
The only problem confronted by the chicken farm owners of this village is the fluctuating rates of chicken. The farm owners say the government should fix up a uniform rate for chicken so that they are able to sustain their poultry business.
“Here Director of food and supplies fixes the rates on different occasions, but they don’t realize how much it costs us to bring up one chicken in the farm,” says Rashid. “It is only in Kashmir that poultry is under food and supplies department. Outside the state there are proper mandies for the poultry market.”
Ghulam Mohammad also feels that for poultry farming to keep thriving in the village, a uniform rate for chicken should be fixed by the government. “If for example the rate of chicken today is fixed at Rs 80 per kg by the government, next day it is dropped to Rs 70 per kg, and even less at other times,” he complains. “They don’t seek our opinion on the proper rates to be fixed.”
“If a uniform rate for chicken is fixed,” he says with confidence, “no one from this village will ever look for a government job.”