A cleric who is now a successful Dumba sheep farmer in West Bengal
While studying in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Nabibul noticed how raising the Dumba breed of sheep had brought prosperity to its owners. When the pandemic hit his family hard, he bought five Dumba and now has a flourishing business.
Madhu Sudan Chatterjee 12 Oct 2023 6:51 AM GMT
Bankura, West Bengal
Little did Nabibul from West Bengal know that the fat-tailed Dumba breed of sheep he had casually observed years ago when he was studying at the Darul Uloom Deoband Jakiya Madrasa in Rajasthan’s capital city Jaipur, would become a lifesaver for him.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Nabibul, who worked as a maulvi in a mosque in Malappuram, Kerala, had to return to his village Aangaria in Bankura district of West Bengal, making both the ends meet became a huge challenge.
He was 26 years old, educated but unemployed, and had no source of income in his remote village. And his father, Lokman Ali Khan, owned less than a bigha of land with which he had to feed his family of a wife, four sons and three daughters (1 bigha = 0.25 hectare). It was a do or die situation for the young man, the youngest son of his family.
With a leap of faith, Nabibul decided he would buy the Dumba sheep he had seen 1,500 kilometres away in Rajasthan at the other end of the country. Dumba had brought huge profits to the owners who raised them in Jaipur.
But people laughed at Nabibul’s ‘mad’ idea of rearing sheep in Bankura, West Bengal. No villager had tried that before. Majority of his village population of 1,500 people was involved in daily wage work.
Undeterred, Nabibul was ready to take the risk. He borrowed four lakh rupees — one lakh from his elder brother who traded in cattle, and the rest of the money from neighbours and friends — and bought five Dumba from Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Three years later, his five sheep have grown in number to 18 and Nabibul has also repaid his loan. “My sheep have a market value of fifteen lakhs rupees, and they are now the primary source of income for my family,” the young man said happily.
Dumba is a hardy sheep and adapted to hot semi-arid climatic conditions. It has high fertility, rapid growth and high milk yield potential. According to ICAR-Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute, “Main objective of rearing and keeping these animals by entrepreneurs or live animal traders is to fetch a huge sum of money during the Eid festival as they have great aesthetic and religious value… Adult males are sold at the rate of Rs 90,000 to 150,000, females Rs 70,000 each, and lambs Rs 15,000 — 30,000 in the market.”
"Before I bought the animals, I was forced to work as a farm labourer with my old father for a meager wage. The MGNREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act] work has also been inactive for two-three years,” said Nabibul.
“That was when I thought of the Dumba. I remembered how the Dumba had bought its owners in Rajasthan profit, especially during Bakrid, for its tasty meat,” he added.
Nabibul bought four female and one male Dumba from Jaipur. And, soon the female Dumbas began to reproduce.
“A mother Dumba can give birth to up to ten babies in the space of six years. At four months, the baby Dumba weighs 35-40 kilograms and is ready to be sold. By the age of one, it weighs up to a quintal [100 kg],” explained Nabibul.
Live Dumbas are sold at the rate of Rs 2,000 a kg while their meat goes for Rs 3,000 a kg. “I have sold fifteen Dumbas in these three years, earning 15 lakh rupees. People from neighbouring Jharkhand, Odisha come here to buy Dumba,” he said.
“Originally from a desert environment, the Dumbas adapt well to our environment. They require feeding thrice a day. I spend eighty rupees per Dumba per day for its feed of wheat, husk, and grass,” the young farmer said. They are also given regular medical check ups and kept up to date on vitamins, etc.
Nabibul has built a shed for his sheep besides repairing his own home. Now, he owns 18 Dumbas, with a market value of more than 15 lakhs rupees, he said.
The youngest son of the family, Nabibul always wanted to be a cleric. Circumstances turned him into an entrepreneur and a Dumba farmer. But, the young man and his family are happy.
“We struggled for food and I took up whatever work I could find, like most other families in the village,” 70-year-old Lokman Ali Khan, Nabibul’s father, said. The family no longer has to struggle and there is enough on everyone’s plate thanks to the Dumba.
Watching the success Dumba breeding has brought Nabibul, several others from Aangaria village are planning to take it up now.
Migrant labourers Haidar Ali Khan and Gulzar Mollah, and farm laborers Sabur Ali Khan and Jiyaul Khan visit Nabibul’s house regularly to learn more.
“I left my job in Hyderabad and plan to start Dumba cultivation this year,” Haider Ali Khan, told Gaon Connection. “I have begun to save money and Nabibul has promised to help me start my business,” he said.