From near extinction to demand surge, the Kadaknath chicken has changed the lives of the women of poverty-stricken and Naxal-affected Dantewada region in Chhattisgarh.

A fowl from poverty-stricken and Naxal-affected Dantewada region in Chhattisgarh is slowly getting to be the favoured white meat on urban menus. The ironies are flavourful.

The chicken has black meat and the state government is hoping women autodrivers will give it the required fillip to reach the economic scale to be self-sustaining.

Locally called Kalimasi — the fowl with black flesh — the Kadaknath is considered a premium breed and its meat is priced three times more than that of broiler chicken.

Uday Chand Sinha is fast picking up the tricks of the trade in raising Kadaknath chicken, and also the economics of it. As Sinha is growing 333 Kadaknath fowls at a farm in Palnar village in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, he is confident, at least 300 birds will survive.

In a back-of-the-envelope calculation, Sinha hopes to make a decent Rs 2 to 2.5 lakh in six months, discounting the inevitability that some of the grownup fowls could be weighted marginally lower than two kilograms, and he might also end up selling the meat at a price a tad below Rs 500 per kg.

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Kadaknath, to be precise, is not a local fowl in Dantewada though it is grown in pockets of Bastar including Dantewada. The fowl that belonged to neighbouring Jhabua and Dhar districts of eastern Madhya Pradesh was introduced in Naxal-affected Dantewada district in large volume only in January this year.

But with the government subsidising 90% of Rs 5.23 lakh needed for growing 1,000 birds, the scheme has picked up its momentum: the district has now 76 individual entrepreneurs raising 76,000 birds, with the district administration targeting to up the number to 1.5 lakh by mid-2018.

The scheme is such that from the next round — one round is one and half years — the entrepreneur needs to pay 90%, with the rest only being aided by the government.

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Last month, Dantewada administration applied for geographical indication (GI) tag for Kadaknath on the ground of the district’s adventure in the fowl’s promotion and breed purity conservation.

As Kadaknath meat has more protein with less fat and Cholesterol — fat content, for example, is 0.73 — 1.03% as against 13 to 25% in other breeds — it’s likely to be a hit among health conscious, rich and urban foodies.

The capital city of Raipur is another destination which may also consume Dantewada’s black chicken, but the district officers find it a challenge to expand the market to other metros as the transportation is still a bottleneck — the nearest airport in Raipur is 385 km away, and the railway connectivity is still poor. Mumbai, Pune and also Vizag could be the next destinations.

For the Hyderabad market, a formal transportation arrangement was already made. There are now four restaurants in Hyderabad that have Kadaknath in their menu, but the plan is to expand the base, according to Dantewada district administration officials.

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In Hyderabad’s upmarket Jubilee Hills locality, Jivati Restro has started sourcing Dantewada Kadaknath chicken only from this month, packaging it to its customers as “healthy”, “tasty” and “100% organic” dish.

Dantewada is one of the Naxal-affected districts in the Bastar region even as the incidents of Maoist violence in the district are still less as compared to that in neighbouring Sukma and Bijapur districts.

The Dantewada administration has been roping in women auto-rickshaw drivers to multiply Kadaknath farms so as to reach a target of 1.5 lakh birds by mid-2018.

The government under a new scheme has started imparting training to local women to drive autos and making the 1.6-lakh-vehicle available with an 80% subsidy; what could however turn this “Danteshwari Sewa” into a game-changer if the women auto drivers and their groups take up the business of Kadaknath to boost their existing income.

And the move will minimise the problem of transporting the birds to the local markets, both for wholesale and retail. #KhabarLive