Livestock Entrepreneurship in Kashmir — Long Way to Go

Ensure rigorous training to budding cattle & sheep farmers   

SOME years back, while discussing the potential of sheep and cattle farming in Jammu & Kashmir during a workshop, local entrepreneurs expressed dismay over lack of practical training. They complained that the Government was not providing them enough field training that would make them professional cattle or sheep farmers.

In the summer of 2014, I visited a huge sheep farm in the Tangmarg area. I saw almost 300 sheep with a huge farm built on 10 kanals of land. After a year, I came to know that the farm has been closed down. I have seen many cattle farms, sheep farms or even poultry farms shut down by budding entrepreneurs.

On one hand, the Government keeps advising educated youth to look into business opportunities in sheep and cattle farming but the authorities fail to ensure practical training or proper hand-holding for these budding farmers. The sheep and animal husbandry departments ask youth to set up farms through various centrally sponsored schemes and a lot of awareness is created as well but very few people are aware about the challenges sheep or cattle farmers face especially when there is outbreak of some disease. Last summer, there was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in sheep which otherwise is attributed to cattle, buffaloes and goats. I was in Pir Panjal meadows that time and I know how desperate the sheep farmers were who had traveled all the way through dense forests of Yusmarg to see their sheep. Some were seen vaccinating the sheep themselves as sheep  husbandry department vets were not available in spite of the fact that they have annual summer camps in these areas for 3 to 4 months. Similarly, the cattle farmers also face a lot of problems especially when the cows are unwell. Lack of fodder availability is also a big challenge for them.

Practical Training?

We lack Practical Training Centers (PTCs) in Jammu & Kashmir where budding entrepreneurs especially the livestock entrepreneurs would get trained for a few months. Neither the Government nor any Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) or any other private entity has set up such centers in J&K. In these PTCs, the livestock entrepreneurs would be given a practical exposure where they would live in an atmosphere to  undertake training in the cattle or sheep farming for at least two to three months.

It is impossible to create potential entrepreneurs by only making them go through lectures in class rooms or auditoriums. The budding educated MBA graduates or other qualified young men and women might get fascinated by watching videos of Jersey cows or Australian Merino sheep during the training workshops but once they start the livestock units, it is an arduous task. They have to face lots of challenges. This leads to closure of the units they establish.

As discussed above, the sheep are not much affected by FMD across other states in India but in Kashmir this is not an uncommon disease in sheep. This summer, even professional sheep farmers faced huge challenges.One can understand what kind of ordeal the young entrepreneurs would have gone through especially at a time when they had sent their sheep to pasturelands.

JKEDI 

Many educated young men and women start their sheep and cattle farms by availing different subsidy schemes of the Government through J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI). I am sure the JKEDI would be taking the trainees to visit dairy farms , sheep farms , and other similar places for which our young men and women are getting trained but without staying in these farms and living in such an atmosphere, I believe such visits won’t help to create dedicated and professional dairy or sheep entrepreneurs in J&K.

As of now, the training module has been built in such a way that all the focus and thrust during entrepreneurship training is given on theory. PowerPoint Presentations (PPTs), distribution of attractive pamphlets, showcasing films and one field visit cannot help these young men and women shape their future as professional livestock entrepreneurs. They have to live around sheep and cattle farms for months and then only we can expect some good results.

The Entrepreneurship Development Institutes (EDI) and other training centers imparting skill development training in agriculture, horticulture, dairy, sheep, trout farming, floriculture etc must have their own farms where these kinds of activities would be undertaken. In addition, EDI and similar institutions must help the entrepreneurs with market linkages as well.

The JKEDI lays special emphasis on dairy farming but they don’t own a dairy farm. The Government spends a huge amount of money on entrepreneurship development. Lot of money was spent on construction of EDI buildings in Srinagar outskirts near Pampore. I wish the Govt had set up a small practical training center under EDI for sheep and cattle farming at least that could have been established somewhere in Pulwama or Budgam.

National Livestock Mission 

The Govt of India launched the National Livestock Mission (NLM). This scheme proposes to bring sharp focus on entrepreneurship development and breed improvement in rural poultry, cattle , sheep, and goat farming including feed and fodder development. National Livestock Mission (NLM) was launched in the financial year 2014-15 which seeks to ensure quantitative and qualitative improvement in livestock production systems and capacity building of all stakeholders.The scheme is being implemented as a sub scheme of white revolution. The department of Sheep husbandry or even animal husbandry have various schemes that are funded under National Livestock Mission. Govt provides support to farmers and entrepreneurs to start sheep or cattle rearing farms. Unfortunately in these cases also no practical training is available.

Conclusion 

It must be mandatory for all the beneficiaries of Govt schemes to undergo practical training sessions in sheep and cattle farming especially at designated farms. In summers the budding entrepreneurs should be sent to pasturelands to learn the art of sheep farming and the department of sheep husbandry who are already available in these places must provide necessary assistance to them. With regard to cattle farming the young boys and girls who avail funds from Govt must be attached with some Govt or private dairy farm for at least two months so that they get fully familiar with the cattle farming and challenges cattle farmers face. Unless the budding cattle farmers don’t milk the cows themselves or clean the cow-dung or are not able to vaccinate their cows or calves themselves ,they can’t become promising cattle farmers. Similarly the emerging sheep farmers have to be associated with shepherds and live with them for at least two months in pasturelands.  Once they do this practical course then only they will become professional sheep farmers.


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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