A loan of Rs 4,000 and two goats took a Santhal farmer from penury to pride
Sunil Tudu owned 1.5 bigha land and led a life of poverty till he bought two goats. The tribal farmer now owns a goat farm, and traders from as far as Jharkhand buy the livestock from him.
Madhu Sudan Chatterjee 28 Sep 2023 7:51 AM GMT
Bankura, West Bengal
It was perhaps the darkest time in his life when Sunil Tudu bought two goats, one male and one female, from the Rs 4,000 loan his brother, Rabi Tudu, secured for him.
Five years later, today, the 33-year-old Santhal farmer from Khayerpahari village in Bankura, West Bengal, has a full-fledged farm with 44 goats, which is expected to touch a hundred animals by next year. From owning half-a-bigha land and a life of penury, Sunil Tudu is now a successful goats rearer.
Buying the goats has changed the lives of the Tudu brothers whose village is located 190 kilometers from the state capital, Kolkata. “The goats became our saviours. They have provided enough money for food, clothing, medicine, and repairs to our home. It is thanks to the goats that Rabi’s sons go to school and study in class five and third,” Sunil Tudu told Gaon Connection.
“I am no longer running from pillar to post and travelling to distant lands to find work to feed my family,” the tribal farmer added.
Tudu brothers sell goats to traders and earn handsome amounts. “Traders buy them at Rs 500 per kilogram at the wholesale rate. One of my goats weighed up to 40 kgs. This year, traders came from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, and bought goats from our house,” Sunil Tudu said proudly.
Each female goat gives birth to three kids every six months. This way Tudus get at least 15 kids from one goat in three years. Last year, the family made a profit of Rs 150,000 by selling goats. They have already sold one lakh rupees worth of goats this year. “I plan to build a pucca house soon for my family, and get married too,” Sunil Tudu said happily.
The years of struggle
Sunil Tudu has never had it easy for most of his life, as during his growing up years, his village was affected due to Naxalism. His family owned just one-and-a-half bighas (1 bigha = 0.25 hectare) of land which was not enough to survive on. “My wife and I worked as labourers to supplement the income from our land,” Duldal Tudu, Sunil’s 72-year-old father, told Gaon Connection.
“I can never forget the blanket of fear descended on us, especially in the evenings. It was not uncommon to hear gunshots and people’s terrified cries,” Sunil Tudu shuddered at the memory. In early 2000, ultra-left-wing Naxalites had revived their agitation in Bankura. And, there were many casualties, a lot of them from villages near Tudus’ village of Khayerpahari.
Sunil Tudu, who in the midst of Naxal unrest, had managed to complete his Bachelor's of Arts degree in the hope that he would get a government job had to give up his dreams.
“From cutting trees and being an assistant to a stone mason, to digging soil and cleaning drains as part of MGNREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act] projects, I did everything,” Sunil Tudu told Gaon Connection.
There was barely any money at home and his mother, Sabitri Tudu, suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2017. “We couldn't afford the medical expenses, and she passed away,” the goat farmer said, swallowing his tears.
It was then that his brother Rabi Tudu took a loan of Rs 4,000 from a relative and Sunil Tudu bought two goats, and things began to look up.
“For the first time in our lives, there was some hope. By the end of 2021, we had 18 goat kids,” narrated Sunil Tudu. Right now, the two goats have increased to 44 and he hoped that in a year’s time they would give birth to as many as 100 kids.
Some of their male goats were castrated with the help of a local prani bandhu, a contractual worker at the animal husbandry department. Castrated goats fetch the Tudus higher price at the market. They also grow to be bigger and some of them grow to weigh more than 20 kilograms within a year.
Role models for their village
The Tudu brothers take good care of their animals, said Durgadas Mahato, a prani bandhu. “In the last three years, not one of the goats has died of disease. Sunil and his Rabi regularly keep the department informed about the goats' health conditions,” Mahato told Gaon Connection. They contact the Block Animal Husbandry Office for advice, and their animals are up to date on vaccinations and supplements, he added.
Every morning at ten, Sunil and Rabi Tudu take the goats to graze. They also feed the goats with leaves of cauliflower and cabbage that they grow on their small patch of land.
The Tudu brothers have inspired fellow villagers to embark on goat rearing too. Kalu Layek, Tilu Saren, Baidyonath Hansda, Champa Saren, and Sombori Hansda from Khayerpahari are following suit and Sunil Tudu readily advises them.
“My husband had borrowed a lot of money from the moneylender but he died before he could repay the loan. My son and I are now rearing goats and we believe we can repay the money by the end of the year,” Sombori Hansda, a goat farmer now, told Gaon Connection.