Women have been raising livestock for years, but hardly own them under their name or be the one buying it. For most of them, even this decision is made by the ‘man of the house’. Recently, in the first ever women-led livestock market at Marui, Tando Allahyar, a Taluqa in rural Sindh, majority of the buyers and sellers were women. In this market, it’s the women calling the shots, whether selling or buying.
“I received a grant to purchase two goats,” shares Sahiba, who is six months along. “This has been given to help me during my pregnancy so I can drink the milk regularly and have a healthy baby.” She beams as she selects the goats for herself, something she’ll get to call her own.
Malnutrition significantly affects pregnant and lactating women across Pakistan but particularly in Sindh, where nearly half the children under five are stunted. To sustainably improve the nutritional status of these two groups, the European Union-funded Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh (PINS) is working towards this cause. And, giving grants to purchase goats is one of the many interventions under this programme.
According to the World Bank, the global prevalence of stunting has improved at an average annual rate of 2.1 per cent, however, Pakistan’s stunting rates have barely changed over the last three decades, worsening in recent years. According to Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2017-18, 38 per cent of children under five in Pakistan are stunted.
Under these circumstances, the Programme focuses on two main areas: improving dietary diversity and improving sanitation and water infrastructure while putting an end to open defecation across the 10 districts where it’s currently being implemented.
So far in 10 districts, over 13,000 women have been given grants of 30,000 rupees each to purchase goats. It will help them with their regular dairy needs in a rural household. Similar efforts have been made with other food groups such as poultry, crops and seasonal produce. There are three out of five households that experience food insecurity as stated in a report by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, this initiative will help change that number for the better. It also states that 16 per cent of the population is experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity. The incidence is twice as high among the rural population (20 per cent) as among the urban (9.2 per cent).
In Tando Allahyar, livestock and agriculture are the two main sources of livelihoods. Since crop production depends on weather and rainfall, the people mostly depend on the livestock. So, ensuring the health of the livestock is paramount for the inhabitants. There are efforts being made to strengthen it, given its significant contribution to both daily diets and income. To target this, a team of Community Livestock Extension Workers (CLEWs) have been trained at the Research and Training Institute (RTI) at Tando Muhmammad Khan in collaboration with the Livestock Department. This team is dedicated to develop awareness providing services to rural households so that their animals are healthy. So far CLEWs have vaccinated 65,000 large and small animals and poultry birds in Tando Allahyar, including vaccination for Pesticides Petites Reumenant (PPR), a winter disease of small animals, in advance to save the livestock.
“As many as 16 of the 191 CLEWs trained originally at RTI operate in my district,” informs Dr Mazhar Ali Rind, Deputy Director, Livestock department, Sindh. “Through them, the overall outreach has increased in providing services like vaccination, drenching and breeding to community members to keep the livestock healthy’’
Apart from training the residents of these areas, the programme has also helped people like Rizwan Ali, a CLEW, who now has a stable livelihood. Though having done his intermediate, he was unable to find work until he got this training. Now, he earns up to PKR 20,000 a month. He charges Rs 15-20 for one animal and vaccinates around 400-500 animals monthly. “We remain on-call and refer any serious cases to Dr Rind, who regularly sets up free medical camps for animals,” says Rizwan. “To me, it is a form of community service. I have received so much from them so this is my little contribution and I hope to do my best!”
Mobilising rural communities is essential to ensure that they work together to reduce malnutrition in the area. There is a focus on empowering them to improve their food intake as well as helping them reduce water-borne diseases (which often results in significant loss of nutrients) through disaster-resilient water and sanitation infrastructures such as latrines. Community Institutions in the area (that have been organised into three tiers – Local Support Organisation, Village Organisation and Community Organisation) have been working actively. They have been instrumental in selecting the right people who can effectively motivate the community to take things ahead. The selected members are trained with multiple skills, and the community institutions ensure that they are operating productively, staying on top of their capacity development and giving them the support that they need. In just Tando Allahyar alone, 330 men and women have been trained as Agriculture Entrepreneurs and manage their Farmer Field Schools (FFS). The FFS acts as an informal hub of learning where they impart knowledge on growing fruits and vegetables through kitchen gardens. Similarly, 330 Community Resource Persons have also been trained to conduct Community-led Total Sanitation, developing Village Action Plans to map out goals for the community and lead awareness sessions on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and better nutrition. This has resulted in over 15,000 latrines in the communities which will have a significant effect on water contamination.
Goth Phuto Burfat, part of Village Organisation Dhaloo is one such community in Tando Allahyar that has implemented PINS’s motto: every member is committed to creating a better future for those ahead. With a population of nearly 400, they are active participants of PINS. 92 households there struggled with clean drinking water, before a pipeline from a water source as far as 32,040 feet was introduced. Now, residents are able to fill water from the multiple tap hub located at the start of the village which is sprinkled with green – kitchen gardens grown under the guidance of Resham and Hari who run the local FFS there. The FFS is their pride and glory, boasting of organic ridged gourd, sweet gourd, spinach, cauliflower, sweet peas and moringa that the couple have worked so hard for. They will keep some for themselves and sell the surplus to the community, while also supplementing their income by selling compost for kitchen gardens.
“Before this, we never actively did kitchen gardening but now it has become a routine. It is cheaper than buying from the market and any excess we have, we barter for eggs or milk,” enthuses Najo, as she shows off her labour of love. “I want to set an example for my children so that they continue this and pass it on to their children,” adds Najo. Her brother Gaino Mal is a smallholder farmer who was given a grant to cultivate zinc-fortified wheat, a pilot under PINS to target zinc deficiency suffered by the majority of rural women. “Earlier, the yield from this land was around 45 maund, but this year with this new seed, we are expecting a yield of around 50 maund. I will also preserve some seeds for next year crop,” informs Gaino Mal.
Furthermore, a neighbouring plot has been developed for berseem, a high-quality forage crop which is affordable nutrition for livestock and helps in enhancing milk production. The more availability of better fodder, the more people are inclined to feed it with the aim of ensuring a nutritious diet for their livestock.
“It is especially heartening to see the mothers actively taking charge of their children’s health. It has not been easy to see so many suffer from stunting, which is irreversible beyond the age of two,” highlights Rabab Jafar, Communications Officer at the Rural Support Programmes Network. “We actively make use of the 1000 days window of opportunity, which starts from the time that the baby is conceived and I’m happy to see our communities come together to address this. You can see a marked difference in families which gives me hope about the future.”
The author is the Editor of Supplements. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org