Chhimi Dema 

Prakash Pradhan, 29, who had lost his job because of the pandemic has finally secured a stable source of income. He owns a poultry farm in Thimphu. The farm has 5,000 poultry birds.

This would not have been possible without the support of Department of Livestock’s Big Ticket Initiative (BTI), launched in August last year.

Prakash Pradhan said: “I had the interest to start a farm but there were financial constraints on my end. Moreover, if I had invested in a farm with the capital I had, then I would not have gotten satisfactory financial returns.”

Import restriction has increased the local market.

He said that the increasing price of feeds and the difficulty to find individuals interested in poultry farming remain the challenges, however.

Officials from the BTI project monitoring the unit said that BTI was focused on employing youth and laid-off employees.

“The objective of BTI is also to substitute the import of livestock products and help increase food security,” an official said.

He said that based on the import data of 2019, the team projected the number of farms to meet the livestock product requirements of the country. “Even if 100 percent substitution is not met, at least 80 to 90 percent is expected through BTI.”

Through BTI, 65 piggery farms were established with 20 sows (adult female pig) on a farm.

The expected production from the farms was 26,000 piglets as pigs farrow twice a year with an average litter size ranging from 10 to 12 piglets­.

The estimated return is Nu 728 million from the 65 piggery farmers under the project.

According to RNR annual statistics 2020, 775MT of pork were imported and 897MT were produced within the country.

An official said that through the project, the beneficiaries were monitored and provided training and technical assistance in the field.

“It stipulates in the contract that the beneficiaries should at least operate the farms for five years,” he said.

He added that some beneficiaries discontinued operating farms because of the religious sentiments and due to the nature of work.

Under BTI, 15 layer (egg-laying poultry birds) and 45 broiler (chicken raised for meat production) farms were started with each farm that can raise 3,000 poultry birds.

The official said that the projected egg production was close to 0.75 million eggs in a cycle (after 504 days) from 15 layers.

Every farm will employ at least three individuals. Hence, with this project, about 200 individuals would have a source of income.

The official said that the consumption pattern and the source of funding would determine the continuity of the project.

The official said that livestock farming is the stepping stone for people to engage in other trade. “There is a need for consistent investment in livestock development.”

Ugyen, a poultry farmer in Paro, said that the initiative helped to establish farms but there were still financial constraints to establish well-equipped facilities.

“The challenge is augmented with the community’s poor support while starting poultry farming,” he said, adding that occupying a strategic location was difficult.