In goat we trust

Kulsum Mustafa | Updated on March 17, 2011

Advantages of goat rearing: As the animal is small-sized, it can be reared even in a small space and can be easily handled by women and children.   -  wfs

goat1   -  wfs

Her bright red woollen sweater, multi-coloured glass bead necklace and a pair of anklets lay in the corner of the thatch-roofed hut. There was a pall of gloom hanging heavy in the air. Seven-month-old Jhumri, around whom the entire family had rallied ever since she was born, was extremely unwell — she had caught a severe cold and stomach infection. All the family members were frantic. Unfortunately, despite all the care, Jhumri did not survive the infection.

Even today Hakikun, 50, has tears in her eyes when she remembers the suffering her beloved goat went through. “She was the most loved of my five goats. She died because I did not have money for her treatment,” she says, as tears roll down her wrinkled face.

Why is Hakikun so emotionally attached to her goats? Because they help make ends meet and enable her to provide better for her children, especially her 11-year-old son who lives with her (her two daughters are married and her two older sons have moved out of the village). Hailing from Madanapuri, a village 50 km from Rae Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh, Hakikun works hard as a daily wage labourer only to earn a paltry sum. But her goats chip in — she sells their milk to earn a few extra rupees. Over the years, Hakikun has played mother to several kids and goats and that's why Jhumri's death is mourned like that of a precious family member. For Hakikun, Jhumri's loss is both an emotional and financial blow.

“Women in poor households in rural areas as well as some urban pockets of the State have been keeping goats to supplement their income. But goat rearing has never taken the form of an enterprise because aspects like marketing, veterinary services, feeds and breeding have never been looked into seriously,” says Sanjeev Kumar, Founder Secretary of Goat Trust.

Headquartered in Lucknow, the Trust has a presence in five States, and its main focus is to promote goat-based livelihoods. “The Trust has been working towards organising this sector for over a decade now,” says Kumar, who has a degree in livestock product and management.

After working as a livestock researcher for several years, Kumar decided to use his expertise to help women form Self Help Groups (SHGs) for dairy farming in 1998. That goats can provide food security, nutrition and employment, especially for women, was something he learned while working with rural women.

“I have to thank Ram Dulari, an illiterate village woman from Rajasthan, for drawing my attention to the economic benefits of rearing goats instead of cows for dairy farming,” says Kumar.

Over a decade ago, he had initiated a group loan for some poor women in Alwar district of Rajasthan to pursue dairy farming, but the scheme unfortunately failed because there was a severe drought that year. Out of anger and fear (about repaying the bank), Ram Dulari lashed out at him, saying, “You have got us into this mess. You made us dream big — telling us that rearing cows would be beneficial. But our little goats are much better any day. They are easy to rear, eat so much less and still give two litres of milk every day.”

This angry outburst remained with Kumar. He realised that the goat was the animal for the poor, especially poor women. Which is why he decided to set up the Goat Trust with the help of a few friends and an initial investment of Rs 5,000. The Trust was formally registered in Lucknow in 2008.

Today, it has worked with 26 small non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. They have partners in 145 villages who have trained over 2,500 women in goat rearing and promoted 125 special goat nurses. Financial aid is provided with the assistance of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.

The Trust works towards engendering good breeds, marketing and research. Regular training workshops on goat-specific livestock diseases are also organised, where women-friendly training techniques are used.

For instance, the colour coding of medicines — a mixture of allopathic and herbal medicines — helps in easy identification. Women trained as goat nurses are given a healthcare kit and the Trust regularly updates information on preventative healthcare and good practices.

The women are also taught marketing techniques, which includes traditional selling methods, so that they have the confidence to sell goats without waiting for a male member to be present.

Hakikun and others have benefited tremendously from this. Hakikun went through three days of goat management training and has received money through the revolving fund initiated by the partner NGO — Vishwas Sanstha. The revolving fund is provided by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust to women who have been organised in SHGs. The Goat Trust has also trained a woman from her village as a goat nurse, who provides regular appropriate healthcare service for a nominal price.

Hayeda Begum from Khale Ka Purva hamlet in Rahi block of Rae Bareli was able to negotiate a fair price (Rs 2,550) for her male kid in December 2010, thanks to the training she received. She says, “Live body weight pricing enabled me to assess the real price and negotiate well. Assessment of price had intrigued me for years, but it turned out to be quite simple and it helped me take a stand with the local traders.”

Goat rearing may still not be a full-fledged livelihood option, but goats have definitely given food security to many impoverished households. They have escaped hunger and disease just because they have a goat to take care of their dietary needs. Goats also provide the cash needed to buy ornaments or clothes or pay the school fees. And had it not been for goat milk, children in many villages would have never known the taste of milk, as the big cooperative dairies buy all the buffalo and cow milk available in these villages.

For women like Hakikun and Ram Dulari, these hardy creatures are indeed their reason for empowerment and wellbeing — goats give them financial security, put food on their table and allow them to dream of a good life for their children.

© Women's Feature Service

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Published on March 17, 2011
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