Feature story

Herd mentality

Improved goat-farming practices are helping tribal communities in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra secure much-needed income increases

Pinti Jethya Pawara had been trying to make a living through goat farming in Chondwade Kh, a tribal village in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district, but it just wasn’t working out. Her herd was plagued by low birth weight, weak immunity and an abysmal kidding index (birth rate of kids per goat). Lack of access to quality vet care and ignorance about good rearing practices added to her woes, leading to Ms Pawara losing nearly a third of her herd every year.

Ms Pawara — and her goats — desperately needed a break and it came in the form of a goat-breeding project seeded in her village in 2018 by Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts that anchors a number of social development projects in the tribal belts of Central India. 

Ms Pawara is part of a cohort of more than 6,500 families from 81 villages in Nandurbar who have benefitted from CInI’s livestock development programme (LDP). She has managed to swell her breed from 15 to 25 goats and she earns about 50,000 annually from selling them.

The goat-breeding story runs along similar lines for others involved in the initiative, which reaches an underserved region where scheduled tribes comprise nearly 70% of the population.

Nandurbar’s hilly terrain and shortage of irrigation facilities make farming here a difficult proposition. There’s plenty of land available for grazing, though, and that’s the reason 60-70% of households have come to depend on goat farming as a primary or additional source of income. 

Ms Pawara and her compatriots were previously bedevilled by the unhealthy quality of their breeds and, consequently, the meagre returns they provided (never more than 20,000-25,000 a year). Disease was rampant in the animals and high mortality rates the norm. Adequate fodder was also an issue and knowledge about scientific rearing and herd management was conspicuous through absence.

 The LDP push brought new hope for these farmers. Piloted in 2016 in Manwani Kh village in the Dhadgaon subdistrict, it has been scaled up gradually since. The programme aims to improve goat breeding and, thus, enable small and marginal farmers to reach an income target of more than 100,000 a year (the objective of the Tata Trusts’ wider Lakhpati Kisan initiative).

Many-hued approach

Capacity building through awareness and education, community entrepreneurship opportunities through the incubation of goat-breeding farms and support services such as fodder supply and veterinary doctors are some of the components in an initiative that has found ample takers. 

When CInI’s Nandurbar effort began, families pursuing goat farming in the targeted villages tended to have small herds of three-to-five animals of no special breed. These goats were prone to diseases and delivered few, mostly underweight, kids. The programme started with village communities being mobilised through meetings and veterinary camps. A para-vet cadre was created to serve farmers and door-to-door care services were offered.

The exertions started paying off quickly. Disease and mortality rates fell sharply, doorstep care meant farmers had to spend less on treating their animals and — encouraged by the positives — they became keen to invest more to expand their business.

The training programmes for goat farmers have been of particular help — topics include vaccination, breeding and fodder management — as have exposure visits to commercial farms and frequent buyer-seller interactions.

The quality of goats being bred is a focus. Buck user groups have been set  up, each consisting of 15-20 does (adult female goats) belonging to three-four farmers. The pure-bred Osmanabadi buck, known for its superior kidding index and high birth weight, was introduced in the project area. Farmers contribute 40% of the cost of each animal and CInI funds the rest through grants.

The buck user groups now have better herd sizes and their goats have healthier offspring. The overall mortality rate has dropped from 30 to 3%, morbidity rate is below 7% and the superior kidding index is an indication of the programme’s sustainable nature.

While the Osmanabadi bucks delivered as per expectations, there were significant challenges to be overcome. One of these was procuring good-breed bucks from markets more than 1,200km away, which led to an added transportation cost of 1,500 per animal. The long-distance travel itself was a risk as it affected the animals’ health.

There were other crinkles as well. Often bucks were not available for sale when required; this affected the induction period and delayed the rearing and production cycle. To complicate matters further, farmers started asking for particular doe breeds and this caused more procurement hassles.

It was then that the CInI team decided to find a lasting local solution to ensure availability of high-quality Osmanabadi bucks and does. In October 2021, the team established a breeder farm in Gaurya village, a step that went a long way in rapidly scaling up the project.

With the first breeder farm doing well, two more such farms have been set up (in the villages of Dhadgaon and Akkalkuwa). These farms have been critical in ensuring easy availability of pure-breed goats and in establishing value chains.

The initiative has also sparked entrepreneurial spirits. To set up in business, a farmer needs around 3,900 sq ft of land for fodder cultivation and a shed for the animals. CInI provides farmers with tools and support (such as chaff cutters), hydroponic units for fodder cultivation and insurance for parent animals to kick-start the breeding programme. The offspring from these farms are sold for breeding purposes.

Fodder cultivation is a key part of the programme. Afforestation has reduced the open grazing areas for goats in the region and fuelled a scarcity of fodder, especially from February to July. This problem has been tackled by providing farmers with training in fodder and feed management and through the introduction of newer fodder varieties, seeds for which are delivered by a local farmer producer company.

Schooling springboard
Mona Paradke is also a successful breeder entrepreneur

Betting on breeding

Dilwarsing Mona Paradke wanted to become a teacher and he completed his graduation to that end. It wasn’t to be. What did come to pass was Mr Paradke hearing about the goat-breeding project under the Lakhpati Kisan initiative of the Tata Trusts and committing his heart to it. This was in 2016 and the native of Gaurya village in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district has not looked back since.

Lakhpati Kisan works with marginalised communities, mainly tribal, across India and its goal — as the effort’s name indicates — is to enable farmers to secure annual incomes of more than 100,000. Mr Paradke has gone much past that threshold and is primed to go further still.

Playing the role of mentor and enabler to Mr Paradke has been Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), the Tata Trusts associate organisation implementing the goat-breeding initiative in Nandurbar. A risk-taking ability and prior experience have propelled Mr Paradke from goat farming to becoming a breeder entrepreneur.

Mr Paradke set up his breeding business by borrowing
180,000 from relatives and 50,000 from his bank; he also received a grant of 780,000 from CInI. The breeder farm is now in production mode and Mr Paradke has sold 34 animals for about 270,000 over a period of 18 months. Paying back the bank loan on time has opened up more credit lines.

Mr Paradke’s herd size has grown to 49, with a healthy kidding index. He also grows fodder on his farm, and generates additional income from this and the sale of root slips and fodder seeds. The going has been so good Mr Paradke’s farm now serves as a resource centre and training hub for other goat farmers (it has received attention from a number of agricultural institutions and organisations).

“My goat farm fills me with immense pride,” says Mr Paradke. “Our success has elevated my father’s and my status in the village and this makes me very happy.”

Income addition

Fodder and seed cultivation is a vital additional source of income. Some 720 farmers now grow fodder for their own consumption and for sale, and as many as 50 of them earn an average of 20,000 a year through the sale of fodder seeds and root slips (cuttings).

The LDP endeavour has changed the lives of more than 7,200 tribal farmers, who have seen their annual income grow by an average of 16,000 a month from goat sales. Importantly, the programme has strengthened and modernised a traditional community livelihood.

“LDP has helped in crafting a local value chain for entire communities,” says Sachin Chaudhary, a programme manager with CInI. “Strong health monitoring and support and preventive and curative services, alongside community participation, have been the key to the growth and well-being of this effort.”

Given the success of the programme in Nandurbar, CInI is planning to implement the same model in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district and in select regions in goat-rearing states such as Gujarat and Jharkhand.