A Pioneer in the development of the poultry industry in Bangladesh
BRAC Poultry has become a successful enterprise in Bangladesh, both in terms of its social impact and surplus generation. It started with two hatcheries in Savar and Rajbari, and has since increased its capacity to six hatcheries. During the Avian influenza in 2007-2008, BRAC Poultry, along with the rest of the country’s poultry farms, experienced a substantial loss of (nearly BDT 10 million; USD 120,660). However, in the following years BRAC Poultry started to generate a surplus of nearly BDT 25 million (USD 301,667) per year, due to the supply shortage of day-old chicks and the closing of many other poultry farms affected by the bird flu.
BRAC Poultry managed the avian influenza outbreak by constantly monitoring the poultry and exercising strict quality control. As a result, not only has BRAC Poultry generated a surplus since then, but the number of day-old chicks it supplies has increased from 165,000 per month to 180,000. The enterprise's plans for the future include building new sheds on the existing farms, which will increase their capacity to over 200,000, making them part of the largest hatcheries in the country.
The early days
Collaboration to serve utra poor families
BRAC's Poultry enterprise started out in 1987 as a development initiative in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), with the name – the Income Generation for Vulnerable Groups Development (IGVGD) programme. The main benefactors of the programme were the people who were recognised by the UN to be ultra poor and thus became recipients of the UN VGD (Vulnerable Group Development) cards. In the late 1980s only the governmental poultry farms had access to poultry vaccinations, and most rural farmers were unaware of the higher-yielding breeds of poultry that the government farms were developing. In order to introduce both poultry vaccinations and high-yielding varieties of poultry into the Bangladeshi market, BRAC initiated its poultry project.
Livelihood opportunity for women in rural communities
The programme first sought to educate and train the VGD card holders on poultry rearing and poultry vaccinations. Then, BRAC would purchase high-yielding varieties of day-old chicks from governmental poultry farms to provide VGD card holders with access to these breeds. BRAC divided the programme participants into several categories such as vaccinators, farmers who would rear the day-old chicks until they were mature, farmers who would then breed around 10 chickens, and finally the egg traders who would collect and then sell the eggs on the market. The primary objective of the programme was to involve women in income-generating activities in a way that they could perform their household duties and rear poultry on the side, earning an income equivalent to the price of the monthly VGD ration they received, creating a source of revenue for them.
Meeting new market demands
This programme was continued until 1993 with the aid of WFP donations. As the WFP funding for the programme ceased, IGVGD became solely a BRAC programme that continued until 1997; after which all donor-funded poultry programmes were scaled down and only certain projects involving clients from BRAC's ultra poor programme were kept in operation. By then, the programme had already achieved its aim, as both high-yielding varieties of poultry and the vaccinations required to keep these healthy had become widely available in the market. Some of the groups previously involved in the programmes, such as the vaccinators, became independent entrepreneurs who proceeded to collect the vaccines from BRAC Head Office and continued with their work. As the donor-funded programmes were wrapped up in 1997, BRAC recognised a shortage of government-provided day-old chicks and thus started its own commercial hatcheries to meet the demand for healthy chicks amongst the VGD card holders. They gave around ten chicks on credit per customer, which they would reimburse in installments.
The evolution of BRAC Poultry
In 2003, as BRAC Poultry became one of BRAC’s social enterprises, the target group of beneficiaries and the operations of the hatcheries changed. In lieu of directly selling the day-old chicks to rural farmers, BRAC Poultry began to distribute the chicks to both BRAC's rearing farms and 250 dealers around the country, who then proceeded to sell the chicks to the farmers. These dealers, along with the workers of the BRAC Poultry-related chain became the new beneficiaries of BRAC Poultry. The objective of BRAC Poultry has been, and still is, to sell these high-yielding, good quality varieties of day-old chicks to rural farmers at a lesser price than the market price, giving them better value for money and therefore supporting them in their activities.