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Home > Policy & Practices > Better livestock management in hills helps women farmers

Better livestock management in hills helps women farmers


Women farmers, including landless women, rear livestock for food and income security. Livestock is an asset they often own, manage and control. Yet, getting fodder and water has always been difficult for hill women. Human-induced and climate change-led destruction of forests, soil erosion, depletion of perennial streams and erratic rainfall has made the situation worse. In the hills, livestock is particularly important because landholdings are small, fragmented and decreasing and women are the main farm workers. Livestock is a critical additional source of livelihood for farmer families. Livestock waste is also used as manure for growing crops on the small landholdings as hill farming is based almost entirely on natural inputs. 

Livestock rearing can be a profitable means of livelihoods with high yielding varieties of livestock and assurance of fodder and water for them. Such an initiative is underway in over 15 villages in Lamgarah block in Almora district. The improved breed given to women farmers by a local organization is yielding high milk yields. Efforts are on to promote and motivate villagers to adopt artificial insemination in local breeds from the semen of improved varieties. This can be done at minimal cost. This initiative has led to fewer cattle heads giving enough milk for women to sell it locally and for their menfolk to sell it commercially. Fodder banks have been developed in Van Panchayats, or village forests, which are being rejuvenated by the Van Panchayat committees where a third of the members are women. Fodder is also being grown on the borders of the hill terrace farms among 700 families.



From a Gender Lens

This intervention has reduced the workload on women as earlier they spent all their time fetching water and fodder from afar or taking cattle out grazing. Now, women get fodder from around their homes and stall feed the cattle. The time saved is spent on learning new skills. Women’s income from livestock rearing has gone up. However, wider market linkages are still made by men as cultural norms continue to restrict women’s mobility and freedom to interact in public spaces like markets. Within homes, however, women do now have a larger say in decisions regarding livestock rearing and management. Women are also better informed about livestock management following opportunities to attend trainings and take part in exposures visits. Since this programme works more closely with women because livestock rearing is primarily women’s work, the village men are reluctant to participate or even encourage this programme. Women traditionally have less access to funds and need the support of men to invest better in improved breeds and fodder production.

Policy Options

This programme can be promoted by ATMA and National Rural Livelihoods Mission through existing women’s cooperatives, women SHGs. Panchayats can promote this scheme with individual women as part of a rural entrepreneurship. These programmes will give women access to financial and other inputs for livestock m and linked to credits and savings. Panchayats can promote this scheme as a self-sustaining business plan, giving incentives to develop women entrepreneurs and give support for the initial technology, fodder seeds, training and other inputs. Panchayats/block offices can also provide livestock and fodder to women farmers and women agriculture labour. 



Further Reading

Resource organisation: Central Himalayan Environment Association, CHEA (www.cheaindia.org)