Goat pathways to better lives and livelihoods in remote mid-Himalayas

Goats before the Himalayan mountain range

Goats rest before the Himalayan mountain range in Kothera Village, Gangolihat, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

A TATA Trust-funded project conducted by staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) called Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems (ELKS) is holding a stakeholder workshop today (28 Feb 2012) on goat value chain development in the mid-hills of northern India’s state of Uttarakhand.

Twenty participants are meeting in Dehrudan, the state capital, where ILRI’s Sapna Jarial is based. The coordinator of ELKS, ILRI’s V Padmakumar (Padma), has organized this workshop with Jarial to get concrete recommendations from actors along the whole goat value chain here as to how to substantially improve goat enterprises among poor hill communities in this region.

Goat keeper getting her master's degree in Hindi literature in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Gita Fartiyal, a goat keeper getting her master’s degree in Hindi literature from Almora University, is paying for her education by keeping 40 goats with her brother  in a village in Lambgara Block in Almora District, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Goat keeper in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Govind Fartiyal, Gita’s brother, with some of their 40 goats (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Portrait of goat-keeping family in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Portrait of goat-keeping family, with Gita Fartiyal (left) (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Goats matter here. This state has 1.34 million of them! And there are signs that goats could provide farmers here with a pathway from subsistence to commercial enterprises.

Goat is the preferred meat in India,’ says Padma, ‘and demand for goat meat is increasing. There is thus great scope for using goats as an engine for reducing poverty.’

Terraced landscape in India's northern state of Uttarakhand

Terraced landscape in a village in Lambgara Block, Almora District, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

While the focus of the Indian government till now has been on sheep development in this mid-Himalayan region, the sheep population is declining while the goat population is exploding, having increased 10-15% in just 10 years (1997-2007). Only sporadic initiatives support goat development in the state. The TATA Trust, ILRI and other participants at this workshop are interested to support this till-now neglected sub-sector through interventions and policies that support better goat health, breeding, feeding and marketing.

Mr Gafur, Dehrudan goat trader, and ILRI's Sapna Jarial

Mr Gafur, Dehrudan goat trader, and ILRI’s Sapna Jarial at a stakeholder workshop on Goat Value Chain Development, held in Dehrudan, 28 Feb 2012, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

This workshop is tasked with coming with practical ideas for substantially improving the state’s goat production in the next three years. At the same time, since goats here graze common lands under open grazing systems, it is vital that this development does not come at the expense of the fragile mountain environment.

ILRI's V Padmakumar

ILRI’s V Padmakumar, coordinator of the TATA-funded ELKS project (Enhancing Livelihoods through Livestock Knowledge Systems), listens to discussions at a stakeholder workshop on Goat Value Chain Development, held in Dehrudan, 28 Feb 2012, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Read more about the ELKS project and check out a recent article about ELKS on the ILRI Asia Blog.

 

Research group helps pig business become bigger business in northeastern India

 Pig in Nagaland, India

Pig kept in Nagaland, in northeastern India, where pig production and consumption by poor tribal peoples is commonplace (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Small-scale pig production is the basis of livelihoods of many poor tribal people living in India’s remote northeast corner. Pigs could provide a pathway out of poverty for many people if they were able to transform their subsistence production into market-oriented systems. Few people in India’s state of Nagaland are vegetarian and pork is the most preferred meat (50% of all pork consumed in India is consumed in the northeast). Although only about a quarter of all pigs in India are in the northeastern states, some 80% of tribal families keep at least 2 to 3 pigs. Pig meat is so in demand that these states import pigs from northern Indian states and Myanmar. Nagaland alone imports about 10,000 pigs per month.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) undertook the first comprehensive assessment of the whole pig value chain in northeast India in 2006–07. Reports were published for the state of Assam as well as Nagaland and set out the role of pig production in people’s livelihoods and the current state of pig production here, identifying some of the sector’s technical, economic, social and institutional constraints and opportunities.

As part of a National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) funded by the World Bank, the Government of India and the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), ILRI is implementing a project with other local partners in Mon District of Nagaland to improve livelihoods through development of the pig sector. With few good roads or other infrastructure, most people here are very poor, and their pig farming remains very traditional. The small, local pig breeds raised here are fed forages harvested from the jungle and kitchen wastes and are housed in unhygienic pens with virtually no veterinary care. With no concerted effort made to improve pig production in the villages, it remains very traditional and largely unprofitable. While most of the farmers produce one mature pig, of 70–80 kg, in a span of 3–4 years, the same sized pig can be produced within 8–10 months through adoption of a few relatively simple improved practices.

In the pilot project in Mon, ILRI and members of the community together identified a package of integrated, locally appropriate interventions: (a) improvement of the local pig genotype through distribution of higher-producing pig breeds, (b) development of community-based veterinary first aid services, (c) cultivation of dual-purpose crops that can feed pigs as well as people, (d) better pig housing, sanitation and quarantine measures (e) closer links among stakeholders in the value chain, from input suppliers to pork sellers, (f) creation of business development services and (g) building the capacity of target groups using local resource persons and influential groups.

ILRI’s initiatives raised the level of interest of community members in pig keeping, especially for breeding. The ILRI project promoted the adoption of clean and hygienic practices in the pig sty and encouraged the cultivation of food-feed crops. Two trained paravets in each village became sufficiently confident to provide veterinary first aid and business development services. And household income from pigs increased from one year to the next by 133–457 per cent.

With funding from the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust under their North East Initiative and in collaboration with several local non-governmental organizations, this successful model will be extended to other parts of Nagaland and into Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Several government and non-government organizations in northeast India are interested in replicating this model and have sought not only ILRI’s technical support but also its help in framing a people-centric policy for development of the pig sub-sector initiated by the government’s North East Council.

For more information, contact Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia, at i[dot]wright[at]cgiar.org

Livestock sector in India’s Jharkhand could move millions out of poverty

A woman in Jharkhand tends her goats
A woman in Jharkhand, in eastern India, tends her goats (photo credit: BAIF).

A new report from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) highlights the potential for the livestock sector in the state of Jharkhand, in eastern India, to move millions of people out of poverty.

Jharkhand, formerly part of Bihar, was created as a new state in 2000. Despite having rich mineral resources and some of India’s most industrialized cities, its population of 27 million are amongst the poorest in India. Some 26% of the population is classified as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ and a further 12% as ‘Scheduled Castes’.

The rural economy is dominated by smallholder rain-fed farming and use of extensive common property resources. Nearly 56% of holdings are less than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in size. Most farmers here raise livestock and grow rice, although pulses, maize, wheat and oil seeds are also grown. Lack of investment in infrastructure (only 9% of the sown area is irrigated), poor extension services, lack of input supplies and services as well as a lack of training have led to low agricultural yields and very low incomes.

The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which has been funding rural livelihood programs in Jharkhand for several years, commissioned ILRI to undertake a study of the livestock sector to explore its potential for improving livelihoods in this state. As in the rest  of India and other developing countries, the demand for livestock products in Jharkhand is increasing. With 90% of rural households in the state keeping livestock, there is a huge opportunity for these small and marginalized farmers to supply the growing livestock markets with livestock products. In areas around towns, the study found a booming demand for milk, much of which has been met by imports from neighbouring states, but peri-urban dairies are developing to supply the demand locally.

Dairying, however, is not an option for all. As Iain Wright, ILRI’s regional representative for Asia and one of the report’s authors, explains, ‘In the tribal societies, there is no tradition of milk consumption or of producing milk, so there  are no traditional skills in dairy production. These communities do, however, have a long tradition of keeping goats and pigs. And with high goat meat and pork prices driven by growing demand, many rural communities, including those of “Scheduled Tribes” and “Castes”, have the potential to supply pork and goat meat for markets outside as well as within the state.’

Assessing the results of surveys carried out in different parts of the state, the authors of the report recommend the following ways to overcome the technical, institutional and policy constraints to livestock development, especially among poor and marginalized livestock keepers: (1) tailor development programs to suit different ethnic communities and locations and build on the traditional skills and knowledge of local communities, (2) help livestock producers to access markets and improve their marketing skills, and (3) implement community-based programs to support livestock development.

The report concludes that poor coordination among the key stakeholders in the livestock sector—from government officials to livestock researchers to staff of non-governmental organizations, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions—is what is most hindering the development of the livestock sector. A main recommendation, therefore, is to establish a common platform, facilitated by the government, where key players can come together to exchange information and experiences and identify knowledge gaps.

ILRI will be implementing some of the recommendations of the report in two new projects in Jharkhand. An imGoats project will work to strengthen goat value chains in Mozambique and India, including Jharkhand, and as part of an ELKS Project, ILRI is supporting an organization called ‘Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), which is supported by the Sir Rattan Tata Trust, in the design of a new project to improve the livelihoods of goat and pig keepers.

For further information, contact Iain Wright (i.wright@cgiar.org), the author of this blog post, or read the ILRI report by Rameswar Deka and Iain Wright: Potential for livelihood improvement through livestock development in Jharkhand, January 2011.