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Pashu sakhis enhance goat-based livelihoods making 'better use' of govt schemes

By Bharat Dogra* 

Bharti Aharwar, a dalit woman of Nadia village in Jatara bock of Tikamgarh district, was finding it difficult to cope with increasing economic difficulties. Her husband had even gone to Delhi in search of better earning opportunities but no durable solution had emerged.
So when she learnt from an activist of Srijan social organization visiting her village about their plan to train some selected rural women for medical treatment of goats, Bharti decided not to miss this opportunity. Soon she was availing the training organized by a Lucknow-based organization called the Goats Trust covering treatment of common diseases, vaccination and nutrition.
This training gave a new confidence to Bharti. After some days she was ready, with her bag of medicines and smart new uniform, to go to various households where goats needed treatment. Bharti was excited and happy. However she had to overcome some opposition from family members who did not like her going from one house to another for a small fee (often no more than Rs. 10). There were taunts from some neighbors too. However Bharti did not let these minor irritants stand in the way of the new opportunities opening up before her.
Soon these irritants were removed without creating much fuss as her treatment was seen to be quite successful and villagers soon acquired a new respect for the ‘pashu sakhi’ , as she and her colleagues are called ( friend of animals). This recognition increased further when Bharti held health camps for goats for vaccination as well as deworming.
Villagers soon found how useful it was to have a para goat vet or doctor right within the village community, whose treatment could be availed whenever needed at a very low cost. As they knew from their experience, certain diseases could spread very fast among goats and in particular they had been troubled by FMD and PPR diseases. It was highly beneficial to take preventive actions, they found, and now with the help of Bharti it was much more possible to do so.
With the help of a farmer producer organization, it was possible to more effectively arrange for the timely supply of not just medicines but also of nutritious feed which has been prepared by women members belonging to this producer group. Bharti also sells this feed to those interested in buying it, earning a modest commission in the process.
In addition, of course, Bharti is able to take better care of the goats belonging to her own family. With annual income from her new efforts coming to over Rs. 60,000 or so, Bharti has been able to arrange better education for her children.
Maya Ghosh was one of the first pashu sakhis or goat doctors to emerge in this district. After her training one of her first tasks was to conduct a survey of goat rearing in her village which revealed that with the exception of a few households, like those of migrant workers, almost 90% of the families in her village Bijrawan keep goats.
The average size of goats kept by a household was found to be around 5 to 10. This shows the very important role on the livelihoods of these families of mostly small and marginal farmers.
Maya is very happy at having taken up this work of a pashu sakhi and feels very grateful towards Srijan for this. She saved her earnings in order to be able to gift a motor cycle to her husband. Her next target is to buy a scootie so that she can reach even those households of a nearby village whom she cannot reach now when her services are needed.
Hira Devi is a pashu sakhi in Kaanti village. She said that when after training she started attending to her work, some villagers expressed doubts about her skills. So she purchased a very ill goat herself, and brought it back to good health.
After this she gained the acceptance and respect of villagers, and there has been no looking back for her since then. Varsha Vishwakarma, a pashu sakhi of Bachhaura village, said that when she started moving out on her rounds, some neighbors started making fun of her, but she ignored this and went ahead with her tasks and responsibilities.
This effort had started in Tikamgarh district with just 10 pashu sakhis but within a relatively short time this appeared to be a very promising effort and now the number of para vets in Tikamgarh district has increased to about 76. In addition this successful effort has picked up in some neighboring areas as well as in selected parts of some other states. In fact some government officials who had earlier expressed their doubts regarding the success later expressed much appreciation for this.
This success can be seen at two levels. Firstly as disease has been seen as a significant problem for goats, this model has helped to increase the prospects for goats based livelihoods and that too along healthier lines.
Secondly, the emergence and progress of successful pashu sakhis has been very helpful for women and has also helped to increase the regard and respect for the skills of women. This is helping to open up more opportunities for rural women. Rakesh Kumar Singh, coordinator of Srijan’s activities in Tikamgarh, stated that the learning and skill development of pashu sakhis has been much beyond expectations as they could quickly learn many things regarding which it was thought that it will be more difficult or time-consuming.
There are prospects of further enhancing goats based livelihoods by making better use of government schemes that already exist, particularly for scheduled castes and tribes.
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*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. Recent books include ‘Man over Machine', 'A Day in 2071’ and ‘Navjeevan’

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