Small Ruminants: the “Natural Refrigerators” and “Living ATMs”

Empowering Rural Women in Western Rajasthan, India

by Vincent Darlong, IFAD India Country Office, New Delhi
Traditional goat shed. 

IFAD-funded MPOWER (Mitigating Poverty in Western Rajasthan) project has successfully promoted small ruminants (Sirohi goats) to trigger social and economic empowerment of women farmers. Besides organising the women into Self Help Groups (over 5,000 SHGs with nearly 49,000 memberships) for social and financial inclusion, the goat rearing households (women are the primary stakeholders in goat rearing in rural Western Rajasthan) have been brought under the “Goat Clusters” to provide inclusive technical, extension and market support services through community resource persons (CRPs) called Pashu Sakhi (“friends of livestock”, trained by the Livestock Department, Govt of Rajasthan). MPOWER established 70 goat clusters having over 12,000 memberships, serviced by 527 Pashu Sakhis (all women who are also goat farmers) and constructed goat sheds (over 8,500 units) for the poorest households as prioritized by the cluster members.

An improved model of goat shed provided by MPOWER. 

Additionally, the project facilitated in organizing periodic “Pashu Mela” or Bakri Mela (Goat Fairs) to enable goat farmers to sell to the highest paying buyers. Overall outcomes had been significant reduction in mortality rate (35-40% at baseline to 2-5% in 2016), increase in herd sizes per household (average of 7-11 at baseline to 22-26 animals[1] during 2016 assessment), and increased in income (annual average of INR 3,500-5,000 at baseline to INR 15,000-20,000 per households now), along with better pricing following introduction of weighing machine.
Another model of improved goat shed by MPOWER 
The Sirohi goats are dual-purpose animals, being reared for both milk and meat. These animals are popular for their weight gain and lactation even under poor quality rearing conditions. The animals are resistant to major diseases and are easily adaptable to different climatic conditions. Lactation last for up to 90 days and the average milk yield is 0.75–0.90 kg/day per goat. Today, the women farmers in this part of the state proudly say that thanks to MPOWER project, the goats are their “Natural Refrigerators” as they can milk and use the milk anytime of the day and in any season (no need to have any refrigerator). They also consider the goats as their “Living ATMs”[2] as anytime they are in need of money (besides borrowing from revolving funds of SHGs), they can sell their goats and meet their requirements. It is worth mentioning that agricultural interventions are judiciously integrated with livestock, mainly with crops that will provide both grains and biomass for livestock fodder. This successful intervention has prompted the government to scale-up in new areas and also developing a new project concept note for scaling-up to larger areas.

[1] Average of 21-27 goat per household is considered to be manageable herd size for a typical household having marginal integrated agriculture-small ruminants as per experiences of the communities.

[2] As described by the women from Kerlipura Village under Baytu Block in Barmer distrct in Rajasthan during recent Grant Review Workshop field visit mission to MPOWER led by Mr Malu Ndavi, IFAD, Rome on 16 June 2017. Other mission members were Mariam Awad, Celik Duygu, Claudia Buttafuoco and Subhas Marcus, all from IFAD, Rome; and Dr Pooran Gaur, ICRISAT, Hyderabad and Vincent Darlong, CPO, IFAD India Country Office, New Delhi.