Community chicken vaccinator earns income and brings hope in India

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  • To prevent the spread of the disease, chickens should be vaccinated.

  • In Odisha, India, community vaccinators provide essential support to poultry farmers.

  • Community vaccinators are frontline health workers for livestock and poultry.

  • Vaccinators earn income from their work.

A community vaccinator is a key animal health worker who provides low-cost chicken vaccines and deworming treatments to poultry farmers. With support and training from Heifer International, the women of Odisha, India are committed to fulfilling these roles for local farmers while earning their own income. And in the midst of the pandemic, it allows vaccinators to keep their community’s livestock healthy and their families afloat financially.

Closing the Living Income Gap for Poultry Farmers and Vaccinators

Geeta Rani Jena stands outside the front door of her home in Odisha, India.

© Pranab K. Aich.

Many diseases and parasites can harm poultry and other farm animals. From bird flu to tapeworms, chickens are susceptible to diseases that can affect their health and spell bad news for the farmers who sell them and the consumers who buy them. Fortunately, there are vaccines for this – and community vaccinators like Geeta Rani Jena know exactly how to use them.

Jena is one of some 200 community vaccinators trained by Heifer India’s Bring hope project, which aims to improve the nutrition and incomes of 3.2 million people in Odisha State through the production, promotion and consumption of poultry. The ultimate goal of the project is to close the living income gap for the project partners and their families.

Living income is the amount of money each person in a household needs per day to lead a life of dignity. In Odisha, the living income is $ 1.16 per person, but many families fall below this threshold and are unable to afford basic necessities such as nutritious food, clean water, shelter, education and care health.

Community vaccinators help poultry farmers bridge this vital income gap by providing affordable vaccines and deworming treatments for flocks. When chickens are healthy and happy, they produce more eggs and get higher prices. In turn, farmers pay community vaccinators for their services and help them earn a living on their own.

Geeta Rani Jena (left) administers eye drops to a young chicken.
Geeta Rani Jena (left) administers eye drops to a young chicken.

© Pranab K. Aich.

Building a sustainable way of life

Like many rural women in Odisha, Geeta Rani Jena did not have many employment opportunities outside her home. Yet when she learned that Heifer India was offering to train new community vaccinators, Jena jumped at the opportunity to participate. The job was perfect – a fantastic opportunity for a mother of two who had no time to waste.

“Vaccination work can only be done in the morning or evening,” said Jena, who currently provides immunization services to 60 to 70 households in two villages. “I can comfortably cover these families because I also take care of other work in my house.”

Jena has worked as a community vaccinator for almost two years. When she started touring, business was tough. Local farmers had little or no knowledge of the diseases that plague their herds, let alone the fact that most were easily preventable.

“When I started I was charging 2 rupees (around 55 cents) per bird for vaccination and deworming,” Jena said. “I was only making 700 to 800 rupees ($ 9 to 11) per month at the time.”

Geeta gently administers medicated eye drops to his patient.
Geeta gently administers medicated eye drops to his patient.

© Pranab K. Aich.

To help farmers understand the importance of vaccinating their birds, Heifer India has run trainings and educational campaigns designed to let local poultry producers know that chicken vaccines are good for business and available from community vaccinators. Jena embraced the cause and quickly noticed that the demand for her services and expertise was increasing.

As the farmers who hired Jena noticed the improvement in their herds, more and more clients asked for her. In just a few months, she was earning five times the income she had previously earned, enough to cover family expenses one month at a time with money to save.

“I have seen a major shift in the awareness and attitude of members of my community,” Jena said. “Now that they are also seeing the results, they are more willing to continue taking service and raising their herds. While this helps them prevent mortality, it also directly affects my income. “

Geeta Rani Jena counts her earnings from a working day.
Geeta Rani Jena counts her earnings from a working day.

© Pranab K. Aich

Securing a stable future

Jena’s income as a community vaccinator has kept her family afloat during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the strict lockdown that followed. Government restrictions prohibited residents from leaving their homes, which meant Jena and many of her friends and neighbors could not work. With no income during the three-month period, Jena supported her family with the money she had saved.

“The three months have been a big setback,” Jena said. “But, thanks to the savings I had kept from my job, I was able to support myself and my family. Now things have started again and I am earning again 2,000 to 2,200 rupees ($ 27 at $ 30) per month I used most of my savings during that time so now from that income I again create a savings fund for such events.

With her skills as a community vaccinator and the ever-increasing demand for her services, Jena is confident that she can provide for her family no matter what the challenges ahead.

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