Role of Women in livestock Rearing

Why in News?

  • The livestock sector is one of the most swiftly growing components of the rural economy of India, accounting for 05% of national income and 28% of agricultural GDP in 2018-19.
  • In the last six years, the livestock sector grew at 7.9 percent (at constant prices) while crop farming grew by 02 percent.
  • Studies reveal that women in rural households that own livestock are invariably engaged in animal rearing.

What is Livestock?

  • Livestock are farm animals. They are domesticated by agriculturalists and raised to produce labour and commodities.
  • Further, the term livestock is generally used to refer to animals that have been domesticated by humans for commercial purposes.
  • The livestock sector is an important sub-sector of agriculture, producing nutrient-rich food products, draught power, organic manure and domestic fuel, hides and skin, and a consistent source of income for rural households.
  • Livestock is important to the Indian economy. The livestock sector in India contributes 4.35% of GDP and 29.35% of total Agriculture GDP. Around 20.5 million people rely on livestock for a living.
  • Livestock contributed 16% of income to small farm households, compared to an average of 14% for all rural households. Livestock provides a living for two-thirds of rural communities. It also employs around 8.8% of the Indian population.

Role of Women in rural economy-

  • Mostly engaged in agricultural activities- It is broadly recognised that the majority of women workers in rural areas (approx. 72%) are engaged in agricultural activities. Though, with the exception of participation in dairy cooperatives, especially in milk marketing, women’s role in the livestock economy is not as widely known.
  • Rise in no of women in Dairy cooperatives- There were 05 million women members in dairy cooperatives during 2015-16, and this increased further to 5.4 million in 2020-21.Women accounted for 31% of all members of dairy producer cooperatives in 2020-21.In India, the number of women’s dairy cooperative societies increased from 18,954 in 2012 to 32,092 in 2015-16.

Issues related to women livestock farmers-

  • Issues with data collection– Conventional labour force surveys fail to precisely estimate women work in the livestock sector. Their work is irregular in nature and they often undertake work for short spells.
  • Underestimation of women livestock farmers- As per the estimates of employment and unemployment survey of 2011-12, 12 million women were involved in livestock farming. However, women actually engaged in the livestock economy were four times the official estimate.
  • India’s first national Time Use Survey in 2019 validates this finding. By recording all activities done in the past 24 hours, 48 million women in rural areas were involved in animal rearing. The National Livestock Policy of 2013 rightly states that about 70% of the labour for the livestock sector comes from women.
  • Other core issues– The reach of extension services to women livestock farmers remains low. As per the official reports, 80,000 livestock farmers were trained across the country in 2021. But we have no idea how many were women farmers.
  • Women farmers found it challenging to avail loans without collateral to buy livestock. Approx. 15 lakh new Kisan Credit Cards were issued to livestock farmers under the KCC scheme during 2020-22. There is no data on how many of them were women farmers.
  • Women livestock farmers lacked technical knowledge on choice of animals and veterinary care.
  • Women were unaware of the composition and functions of dairy boards. Men were decision -makers even in women-only dairy cooperatives.

Government policies-

  • The National Livestock Policy (NLP)- The NLP of 2013, aims to increase livestock production and productivity in a sustainable manner, rightly states that about 70% of the labour for the livestock sector comes from women. One of the objectives of this policy was the empowerment of women.
  • The National Livestock- The National Livestock Mission 2014-15, was introduced for the development of the livestock sector with a focus on the availability of feed and fodder, providing extension services, and better flow of credit to livestock farmers. Though, the NLM does not suggest any schemes or programmes specific to women livestock farmers.
  • Responsibility of state Government- The policy suggests that the State government allocates 30% of funds from centrally sponsored schemes for women. There is no logic for the 30% quota.

Conclusion- Women’s labour is essential to the livestock economy. It follows then that women should be involved in every stage of decision making and development of the livestock sector. Presently, women livestock workers remain unnoticed owing to their absence in official statistics. We must recognise the due role of women in livestock rearing.

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