Livestock farming plays a pivotal role in the family based farming system and has been the backbone of a farmer’s household economy from times immemorial. It is subsistence farming providing sustenance and self sustainability by augmenting agricultural income and ensuring provision of high nutrition food for the whole family in the form of milk, meat and eggs.
It is a misconception that rural women do not participate in the productive activities of the livestock. The ground reality is that it is the women’s hard work that leads to the eventual success of the small enterprise. Rural women not only care for their animals but they take decisions associated with their well being as well. They work nearly 15 to 19 hours with equal division of their time for the household chores and caring for the livestock including watering, cleaning, and fodder-gathering, cutting, and mixing of fodder with dried straw keeping in mind the required concentration. As the sun rises, they do milking and process milk products for use and sale e.g. milk, ghee, lassi etc.
In grazing systems the men usually take out the animals but sometimes, women also share this out home activity jointly. Pregnancy, and delivery of the animals is a difficult task that involves the whole family but the day to day care of minor ailments lies with women.
However, men carry the sale proceeds and mobility of the animals due to their dominant position as head of the family. Women do not receive acknowledgement and fair share of the monetary gains commensurate with their hard work.
Women contribute a significant portion in animal husbandry but in a conventional setup that produce low output due to the outdated approach, takes away most of their hardwork. It their knowledge and skills are improved abreast modern technology, and the various barriers are removed in their access to the facilities available at public and private level; they could easily enhance their home-based ventures into an independent and profitable businesses on modern scale.
A major strategy to increase the livestock output in rural areas is to empower women farmers on small land holdings through implementation of development projects aimed at removing the constraints faced by them.
- Spreading awareness regarding benefits of women mobility and their part in livestock.
- Policies that guarantee fair share and acknowledgement of female labor.
- Availability of high yielding exotic breeds at low cost.
- Easy access to institutional, microcredit facilities and services. For example, PRSP, NRSP, FWB etc.
- Education and hands on training in line with modern practices.
- Timely and rapid response veterinary services on 24 hours basis.
- Development of livestock cooperation societies at district and tehsil level.
- Creating easy and accessible marketing services where they can cash directly the sale proceeds into their pockets.
- Provisions of incentives and subsidies for women working on modern scale.
- Provisions of free livestock to widows, and other deserving classes.
- Setting up help centers for livestock at union council level.
- An insurance system against calamities (accident or death of animals).
It is important to understand the huge potential of livestock as a sub-sector of agriculture, and the involvement of rural women on a larger scale would not only empower them, but it will uplift the annual GDP of the country with an identifiable percentage of difference.