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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Beyond the Coop: Exploring Rohingya's Poultry Practices

Words by Ahtaram Shin and Anuwar Sadek. Photos by Anuwar Sadek

The Rohingya community in Myanmar had a diverse array of poultry, including cattle, geese, goats, hens, pigeons, and fish. Their interest in poultry farming and cultivation, along with their acquired skills, stemmed from a wealth of experience in this field. Historically, this diverse range of poultry helped sustain Rohingya community and contribute to their livelihoods. After in Bangladesh refugees camp, people have lost all their wealth, space, and belonging except the skills they had in farming and growing poultry. Now here, in camp someone is farming chicken and growing mini garden aside by their shelters.

Nurul Amin, a 32 years old refugee who resides in the largest Camp-2W, Block-B, Kutupalong in Bangladesh with his wife Jisma and four children. As a daily laborer, he goes to work in different camp, while Jisma, a dedicated housewife, takes on the responsibility of managing the household and caring for their children until he returns to home. She is not only tends to their children's needs but also looks after their chickens, ensuring their family's well-being and fostering their children's education.

"I feel like I am a lonely woman when my husband goes out and feel mentally not well. So, I try to make my mind strong, I make new routines like playing with my kids, taking care of the chickens and tending to the micro garden. Keeping busy in different tasks I enjoy and nurturing my strength and help to my mind from unnecessary distraction," Jisma said.

Amin's devoted wife, Jisma finds out the free space of their shelter near a paddy ground, enabling them to raise chickens. Despite challenges, including limited resources and the responsibility of caring for their children and home, Jisma diligently tends to their chickens, ensuring they are fed three times in a day from the limited rations which distributed by World Food Program monthly, even during her husband's absence. Her dedication exemplifies her commitment to sustaining their family's livelihood.

"From morning to dawn, I am a busy housewife in preparing kids for Arabic school and NGO school and also caregiving to chicken are a great deal of dedication and responsibility for me. Another challenge is to control the chickens in a single place where they are fed and sometimes, dealing the complaints from the neighbors about my chickens' noise and poking over the roofs of their shelters adds extra layer of challenge and I am committed to responsible to manage it. Every morning, I need to open the door of the coop to let them for grazing outside and I also feed them three times daily and contribute my care to them the way I do to my own kids." Jisma added.

Jisma recounts how, after grazing in the paddy field, their chickens return to their coop by evening to rest. During this time, she manages household tasks, including overseeing her children's studies, preparing dinner, and arranging sleeping mats, showcasing her multitasking skills and dedication to her family's well-being.

Raising chickens in the camps offers several advantages. Firstly, it preserves and honors traditional practices and cultural heritage passed down by their ancestors from Myanmar.

"Our ancestors used to do poultry in Arakan and we learnt it from them and also do it. So, we have a good skills of farming and poultry," Jisma added.

Poultry allowed for the practical application of Jilma skills and experiences in adaptation and cultivation. It enhances the ability to manage various household tasks and diverse animal and farm activities effectively. Additionally, it serves as a source of small income through the sale of chickens, enabling families to support our children's education and meet other needs.

"We women need some hygienic material and other personal requirements. We feel hesitate to ask it from husband to buy it for us. Now when we make a small income by selling chicken, we can secretly buy it our need comfortably," she explained.

Amin emphasizes an additional, unseen advantage of adapting chickens, which is the production of waste materials in the coop that can be collected and used to make fertilizer for seasonal plants in their small garden nearby shelter. This reduces the need to purchase fertilizer from shops, thereby saving money and ensuring sustainable gardening practices.

Overall, integrating chickens into their livelihood provides not only direct benefits such as income and food but also indirect benefits such as organic fertiliser for our garden, contributing to self-sufficiency and sustainability.

It is the most beneficial source tending the domestic animals in the home and bring solution from different challenges and reconnects the agricultural skills of our people to the heritages of ancestral culture but this opportunity is not open for every refugee in Bangladesh because the camp residing place is very crowded and not available distinctive sphere to breed the domestic animals and cultivate the garden like farms and micro gardening. There are some free spaces nearby playgrounds, paddy fields, roadsides and streams. It should be better if the coops will be managed to breed the chickens and goats by any NGOs.



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