Duckery at Sonbeel

DR. APURBA CHAKRABORTY writes about a thriving enterprise in Assam’s rural hinterland.

Sonbeel in Karimganj district is a well known wetland (beel), famous for its pristine beauty and abundance of fishes. The beel gets water from the Shingla River of Mizoram and in the monsoons, it becomes a vast wetland, while in the winter, it reduces in size and turns into smaller water bodies. The surroundings are mostly inhabited by the Namasudras and Kaiborta people, and their livelihood revolves around fishing and boro paddy cultivation. These people are also doing a wonderful job in duck rearing and it has been economically beneficial for them.

I had a mind to know
the latest status of a breed of ducks known as Nageswari – whose numbers
are drastically coming down, available only in the Sonbeel area. Therefore,
along with a friend – Dr. Bijoy Saikia, I headed for Karimganj. Dr. Abdul
Hafeez, head of the Karimganj Krishi Vigyan Kendra; Khanin Bhuyan, Fishery
officer; and Joydev Das, president of the Fishery Cooperative of Sonbeel also
joined us. We were told that we would have to wait till the evening to see the
ducks, as they had been let loose in the beel during the day. Since
there was enough time, we went to the nearby Kali temple. Soon, as news spread
about our visit, duck rearers thronged the temple and we started gathering information
on the ducks. The Nageswari ducks are black in colour, with a white patch
in the neck and chest area, its beak and toes are black, and the inner feathers
of the wings are bluish in some birds. Its eggs are slightly bluish to greenish
in colour.

In the evening, we
went to the beel to see the ducks for the duck owners keep the birds on
a higher land in the beel. They construct temporary sheds made out of
bamboo or plastic and keep the ducks in the beel during the dry season.
Just before the rainy season, they sell out all the ducks. They do so mainly
due to space constraints owing to flooding, and because of the high mortality
due to duck plague – a devastating disease among ducks. To avoid losses before
the mortality starts, they sell off an adult duck at Rs. 400.

The place where the
ducks are kept is a high land with an abundance of hijal trees. During
the monsoons, up to six feet of these hijal trees are underwater, yet they
survive. The duck sheds are about four to five feet in height, 10-25 feet in
breadth, and 30-50 feet in length. The ducks are of different breeds like Nageswari,
Pati, Khaki Campbell, etc.

The ducks we saw were
quite healthy and weighed about 2.5 to three kgs. The ducks seemed to be very
obedient and would go to their sheds only on their master’s call. Every
morning, the masters come to the sheds, collect the eggs, let the ducks out on
to the beel, and clean the sheds. In the evening, the masters count the
ducks and guide them into their respective sheds. This is how the farmers are
rearing their ducks in Sonbeel. There is no feed supplement, no medicine, no
vaccination and not even a watchman in the beel for the night.

During the monsoon
season, the villagers do not keep any ducks but soon after the floodwaters
recede, they start the business as before. Meanwhile, a group of farmers rear
ducklings away from the beel area to sell them in time to the Sonbeel
farmers, who are happy to purchase readymade adult birds at a cost of Rs.
500-550 since they get the eggs from these adult birds as soon as they start
the business.

Although it’s a very
successful model for duck rearing, some scientific input will help the farmers
even more. So, we organised an awareness meeting with the help of the Krishi
Vigyan Kendra, Karimganj, with financial support from the Directorate of
Extension Education, Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat. The farmers were
happy to be part of such a meeting and to receive duck vaccines for the first
time in their area.

We can replicate this
duck rearing system, with scientific intervention, in the Brahmaputra Valley
too. There are numerous water bodies suitable for duck rearing in all the istricts
of Assam. Taking advantage of the huge resources in the form of the duck
population at Sonbeel, we can tap the eggs, ducklings and the meat by
establishing a modern hatchery and a small duck slaughterhouse. The Assam
Agricultural University in Khanapara, Guwahati, can take care of the
much-needed duck plague vaccine. If this can be done, farmers all over the
Barak Valley and the Brahmaputra Valley will benefit immensely.

Duckery at Sonbeel Duckery at Sonbeel Reviewed by feedvalley on June 03, 2019 Rating: 5


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