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Grassroots Women Animal Health Workers Felicitated at the National Workshop on Strengthening Small Ruminant Based Livelihoods

by ruchita last modified Mar 10, 2015 08:32 AM

Mar 09, 2015

Grassroots Women Animal Health Workers Felicitated at the National Workshop on Strengthening Small Ruminant Based Livelihoods

Shri Sanjay Bhoosreddy, Joint Secretary, Administration and National Livestock Mission, DADF, MoA, GOI, felicitating Pashu Sakhi Nimabai Pendare from Madhya Pradesh

Neither awake, nor in their dreams, had Nawaldehi or Neema Bai, or their co-workers from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, ever imagined that there would come a day when they would be addressing a gathering of over a hundred delegates and distinguished guests from the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF), academic and scientific research institutions, and NGOs around the country. The women are trained Pashu Sakhis, or community animal health workers (CAHWs), representing hundreds of others like them, who provide invaluable last mile primary and preventive veterinary care services to goat keepers in their respective villages, resulting in enhanced incomes and potential savings worth millions of rupees every year.

Nawaldehi, Pashu Sakhi from Rajasthan addressing the participants at the National Workshop on 'Strengthening Small Ruminant Based Livelihoods'
It was a proud and cherished moment, not only for the Pashu Sakhis, but the countless individuals and organisations that are working to promote livestock-integrated rural livelihoods in remote rural areas, without access to veterinary hospitals, dispensaries, or qualified veterinarians in the vicinity.

Goats and sheep, collectively referred to as small ruminants, form the backbone of rural livelihoods for resource poor families in arid and semi-arid regions of India, often providing them with much-needed cash which go into supporting farm-based and other livelihoods. Goats, in particular, are one of the most indispensable of the poor’s livelihood assets, readily liquidated in times of need and emergencies, thus forming a core of their livelihood and risk management strategies. For the same reason, goat mortality and morbidity could prove to be catastrophic to their lives and livelihoods.

In a country with a total livestock population of 512.05 million, of which 40% are goats and sheep, the livestock sector contributed over a quarter of the total value of output in agriculture, fisheries and forestry (in 2012-13, at current prices). Notwithstanding, the significance and contribution of the sector is severely compromised on account of inadequacy of technically qualified personnel, and generally ill-equipped veterinary units around the country, especially in rural areas. To overcome the problems of persistent mortality and poor productivity, many agencies, including the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme (SA PPLPP), a joint initiative of FAO of the UN and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), India, have been advocating for mainstreaming the services of women community animal health workers. Their felicitation at the event in New Delhi, which was jointly organised by SA PPLPP and the DADF, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, was an explicit recognition of the role played by them in awareness generation, preventive health care including deworming and vaccination, and disease surveillance in villages.

One of the recommendations which emerged from the workshop was that given the criticality of women CAHWs, standardised training curriculum as well as occupational standards on quality and performance of services provided, need be clearly defined and demarcated. Simultaneously, it was underscored that this would require sustained support in community capacity building, ensuring accountability of CAHWs to the service recipients, and their linkage with local veterinary institutions.

This is a more detailed version of the article which appeared in the February 2015 edition of the monthly newsletter, UN NEWS.

Contributed by - SA PPLPP Coordination Team