By Syyed Mansoor Agha

Livestock rearing has been a support activity for farming, to boost income. Animals are reared for multiple purposes like producing milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. They also produce fur, fibre, fats, and meat. Hoofs, horns, bones, and dung are their by-products. Before the advent of agro-machinery, animals were used as the main power source to accomplish major farming activities like tilling fields, pulling rahat or Persian Wheels for irrigation, swivelling a sugarcane crusher (kolhu) in jaggery industry, threshing harvested crops and carrying loads. Animal dung and a large amount of carcass waste are basic sources of organic manure.

EASY FOR FARMERS

To rear animals alongside farming is relatively easy and economical for farmers; for it yields many agro-by-products like straw, green leaves, and weed, etc. to feed animals at nominal cost.

For the promotion of the livestock industry, the Government of India created a Department of Animal Husbandry under the Ministry of Agriculture. After reorganisation in 2019, it is now a separate ministerial department known as Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD), including Fisheries. The performance and progress of auxiliary agro-industries under this department is valuable for our agro and national economy; it can contribute to fighting malnutrition and hunger.

RELEVANCE

Farming in India is traditionally a hereditary profession. With each next-generation land-holdings per family shrink because of division among the hires. The produce from small holdings does not suffice the growing needs of extended families. Cases of crop failure or unprofitable market rates of agro-produce cause distress. To provide work for each hand and fir financial boost, farmers need either employment or some other income source. Poultry, fishery, bee farming, rearing of animals and food processing, etc. are easy and need not big farms. If properly managed and supported by the state, these have the potential to create job opportunities with liveable incomes. It will suppress migration for jobs from rural to urban areas. These industries will also be valuable in supplementing the nation’s demand for protein-rich food and nutrition for the ever-increasing population.

CHALLENGE OF HUNGER

In the Global Hunger Index (2020) India stands at the 94th out of 107 countries. The main factors are deficiency of nutrition, protein supplement in food, iron deficiency (anaemia), and iodine disorders. “The bane of child and maternal malnutrition is responsible for 15% of India’s total disease burden.” (Shubhomay Saha; Rashi Singh). Nearly half the population of malnourished children and one-third of all the stunted children globally live in India. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found that more than half of the Indian children under four years of age were underweight and stunted. One in every six was excessively thin. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report (2017) has warned of food and nutrition crises.

As Ratan Lal (Ohio University, US) has marked the situation as a ‘big worldwide challenge’. During the 1950s and 1960s fears of famine were looming large with population explosion (around 18-20% increase every 10 years.) However, the fears were averted thanks to the Green Revolution of the 1960s (Pingali; 2012). India was one to benefit from this revolution. We have become not only self-sufficient in grains but a country of huge surplus production. However, the challenge of malnourishment due to deficiencies in protein, micronutrients, and vitamins is still a big cause of suffering.

TAP FULL POTENTIAL

India can play a key role in averting this situation, first in securing its own population and then assisting the world over. Here lies the vast potential to expand and multiply livestock sector productions, through pragmatic national policies. 

Our milk production is around 22% of the world’s total, second only to the US; but per-capita production of milk is low. If our potentials are properly tapped, we can become an even bigger producer of animal-based foods and play a leading role in eliminating malnourishment and hunger.

The situation demands faithfully to boost agro-products like cereals and fruits and develop food processing industry along with animal-based produce by encouraging farmers with MSP, quality standard and export facilities. We need to tap all avenues to confront the crises of hunger and nourishment as well as unemployment and migration.

[The writer is Chairman, Forum for Civil Rights. email: [email protected]]

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