Saturday January 28, 2023

Women livestockers: One of the major missing links in rural income chain

February 21, 2019

HYDERABAD: Fostering livestock economy among rural communities, especially women, may not only help mitigate poverty but also overcome malnutrition, a burning issue that is now being hotly debated at all major forums as well as media, experts said on Wednesday.

“A family possessing a single goat can live sustainably,” Muhammad Nazar Memon, member Rural Support Programme Network (RSPN) said speaking at a workshop here.

“Rural families can avert disasters of all kinds through saving/rearing precious livestock assets like goats as this small animal can be a major source of providing nutrients to children in growing age in each family.”

The discussion was organised by Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support (Success) for sharing expert experience and views on improving the economies of agrarian communities.

Memon said, “When we talk about poverty reduction we forget the importance of education, health, water, sanitation and malnutrition, which are main factors to deal with carefully”.

The RSPN leader stressed there should be a multidimensional approach to deal with matters. “In this regard, community participation, especially the role of women is of essence,” he emphasised.

He said women could surely play a role in the livestock management, implementing vaccination and income generation programmes successfully.

The workshop attracted a large number of women leaders from eight districts, where women lead the poverty reduction programme.

The provincial government, following assessment on poverty, initiated the union council-based Success project in collaboration with European Union. National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), Sindh Rural Support Organisation (SRSO) and Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) are implementing partners.

It focuses on engaging women in economic activities to increase household income and develop mechanisms that promote the means, the processes, and ways to empower women at individual, household, and at society levels.

Practically, it is a women-led initiative that motivates village women at union council level. They have formed local support organisations (LSOs). They generate funds to help fellow women to run small scale entrepreneurships, and train young women and youth to run their business.

Microfinance, entrepreneurship, education, health, tree plantation, keeping environment safe at homes and streets are parts of the programme.

The women leaders hailing from Qambar-Shahdadkot, Larkana, Jamshoro, Dadu, Matiari, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, and Sujawal districts shared their experiences and showed their confidence to lead the communities at all levels.

Expressing his views, Abdul Qadir Junejo, director general (DG) livestock, said Sindh province was experiencing disaster after disaster in the shape of floods, cyclones, drought and increasing threat of malnutrition among newborn babies.

Quoting the economic survey report, Junejo said agriculture contributes 40 percent to GDP, while livestock share had increased to 60 percent. Given the situation the government institutions and other organisation that are working on poverty reduction should focus on livestock promotion, he added.

"We can see the 80 percent of the population in those districts, where malnutrition is being reported from recently, naturally depends on livestock rearing," DG livestock said. Junejo added that these communities depended on rains and definitely this province could not receive a proper rainfall for the last many years, which led to the issues related to food insecurity.

"From my 36-year experience of working with livestock department, I have learned that it is the major source of generating source of income for rural communities,” he said.

“Now when ups and downs in weather phenomenon and decline in livestock population has created problems of malnutrition, we all are facing problems."

He said now there were horrible news that levels of arsenic in underground water in major parts of the province had increased drastically, adding to the problems for the local communities. “All these problems beg strengthening collaboration within public and private institutions.”

Apart from this, Junejo said Sindh had been the end-user of water of the river Indus. “This too is another phenomenon that is reducing the area under cultivation and creating other problems.”

He asked Rural Support Programme Network (RSPN) to come forward to work together with the livestock department, which was keen to work with communities. “It can be a better option to help the generate rural income generation, reduce poverty, and provide nutrition to save children,” Junejo said.

Lauded the role of women in poverty reduction programme, Rafiq Chandio, director research wing at Planning and Development department, said the women, who came out to share their experiences and challenges at this forum had the potential to lead the community.

Kathryn Ennis, team leader Success, representing EU, said the cooperation of Sindh provincial government in their efforts for poverty alleviation were laudable.

Ennis said villagers had the basic right to play role in their own development. “That is why they are cooperating with implementing organisations in all eight districts, whose population has been declared living below the poverty line,” the Success official said.

Soaib Sultan, chairperson RSPN, showered kudos on the women leaders, who, despite coming from poor and economically marginalised backgrounds, stepped up to talk with government officials at district level.

Sultan expressed the hope that these women would bring about the much-needed change through their positive efforts in the society.

The workshop followed by a day before visit by guests and team leaders in Tando Allahyar and Tando Muhammad Khan districts, where community women showed their achievements and problems they faced.

The speakers also urged the LSO leader women to learn about mechanism of savings, community investment fund, maintaining bank accounts, and motivating fellow women to follow the suit.