Few weeks ago, a former colleague, who retired a long time ago and was known to be subsisting with difficulty on his pension alone, visited me in the Federal Capital. I found him looking healthier and happier than I had last seen him, the reason for which, he said with a smile - was chickens. It turned out that he had now added a fair amount of income to his pension by raising chickens or ‘layers’. He had begun with what appeared to be an insignificantly small number and within one year had increased his flock three fold, enabling him to set up an outlet from where, he was selling and supplying ‘desi eggs’. This story came back to me, during the ‘silly’ furor that erupted after the Prime Minister urged the people to raise chickens and improve their livelihood. I thought that this advice was well given, but I was deeply disappointed with the reaction it evoked from Khan Sahib’s political opponents and media channels. The nonsense that came from political sources was something to be expected, knowing the character of our politicians, but it was the frivolous manner in which the media played ball with a viable and common sense idea that ‘did not go down’.

Ironically, these channels also showed what Bill Gates had once said in answer to a question put to him. Asked as to what he would have done if he had not gone into the Information Technology business and become the richest man in the world, Mr. Gates replied that he would have raised chickens. This was not something said in jest, because the Bill Gates Foundation is already implementing a project in Africa, where small chicken raising businesses are being successfully sponsored to help families pull themselves out of the poverty loop. If chicken farming had not been profitable, members of the Sharif Family would never had gone into the poultry business and raising birds that are considered unhealthy by many health organizations, because of the stuff they are fed and induced acceleration of their growth.

Nevertheless, I am receiving feedback that the poultry raising scheme has met with overwhelming response in Punjab, where chicken sales have risen dramatically. It would be interesting to see if the success of this ‘home based industry’ will gag its critics and make them eat ‘humble pie’, which they should already have done, after seeing Mr. Gates on television and watching clips showing his scheme’s impact in Africa.

I have repeatedly stressed the notion that desperate times demand unconventional solutions. To the Pakistani brand of politicians and a segment of their followers, especially those with ‘no background worth mentioning’ or one steeped in feudal traditions, the untraditional approach will always be unacceptable, as will solutions that exist right in front of their noses. These solutions are rendered invisible due to mindsets or vested interest. Take for example the cultivation of vegetables in roof top container gardens. This is a practice adopted by many urban home owners all over the globe. I visited one such place in Sri Lanka and found a family that was growing a wide range of greens on their roof and running a small outlet that sold home packaged organically grown dehydrated culinary herbs.

I know of many middle class retired individuals, who have taken to raising goats for their mutton on land cheaply rented or bought in out of the way places away from cities, generating healthy revenues from the practice. Like chickens, goats normally deliver a pair of kids on a minimum scale of twice a year. If this is correct, it means that one could begin with affordable number of these animals and speedily multiply it in a short space of one year. One of these gentlemen, inspired with the profitability of his entrepreneurial venture and rapid increase in the herd, is now ambitiously planning to market goat milk and goat cheese.

In the final analysis, let us not ridicule a notion that is profitably doable and costs very little to start up. Sticking to our inherent cynicism and inflexible political mindsets leanings may in reality discourage millions of households from improving their lot and surely enough this will not be a service to the country.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.