When Lalpanliana graduated from Tripura Theological College run by Tripura Baptist Christian Union (TBCU) he became pastor of Gangarai Baptist Church. With 850 members it is a huge task for a new minister but he also has responsibility for another 22 churches in his Association. However he also had an interest free loan for an income generating activity to enhance his salary. With it he purchased 3 piglets for Rs5000 each. Two he gave to his grandmother to look after and 1 he is feeding. After more than a year’s fattening they are ready for market and are worth Rs20,000 each. It sounds like a great money spinner. However there haven’t been enough food scraps to anchor the porcine diet and he has had to purchase extra food. At nearly Rs500 per month per pig this has eaten much of the profit. By contrast goats offer the advantage of being able to source much of their food from village common areas.
With assistance from retired New Zealand pastor and missionary, Rob Bellingham, the TBCU has established a revolving loan fund to support small scale income generating projects like these. The revolving loan scheme offers other options including fishery, pineapples, peppers, bamboo, goats, cows, rabbits, embroidery – in fact anything that offers hope of generating additional income for pastors, churches, associations and TBCU.
To date reporting has been major problem for this 5 year old program. It has been spasmodic and lacked detail. This was a major finding of Paul Thompson, Banzaid Manager, when he did an evaluation of the program in July 2018. They have not followed through with detailed analysis of issues and costs with many of the loans, which could have pointed to issues such as the cost of pig feed for a pastor with limited access to wider food sources.
However at the review meeting, TBCU leaders reported successes and enthusiasm to continue. With more training input the program has the potential to make a major contribution to the future of many of the 850 TBCU churches and give a fuller expression of the message of Jesus. Baptists in Tripura have made huge steps in evangelism. 90% of Gangarai town is Christian, their church is large and their school double the size of the run down government school. Now they are looking to support that growth with economic improvement for their communities.
Is Lalpanliana happy he took on this project? Definitely but when he re-invests it will be in broilers rather than pigs. They can grow from day old chicks to sale in 6 weeks. The sale price of Rs250 per bird would net Rs25,000 for 100 birds. Of course not all chickens will survive, eroding the profit margins, and again a critical issue will be the food cost which could eat up a significant amount of the investment loan.