When it comes to livestock, it has been documented that although women assume much of the responsibility for labour, they rarely derive economic and social gains from the livestock, especially from large animals such as cows, whose ownership is closely associated with men. But the narrative is slightly different for small animals such as goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. Women are more involved when it comes to decisions regarding the care of small stock. These animals give women access to family income (the sale of small ruminants can provide an emergency source of cash for medical treatment or school fees, while daily milk provides a regular flow of cash income often used to purchase food and household items).
In northern India, in the states of Utter Pradesh and Bihar, livestock such as goats provide a lifeline for many rural women. Twenty-five-year-old Saraswati Devi from Chapati village in Kishanganj in Bihar uses income from livestock to take care of her five-member family’s needs. She recently sold off two goats to repair a leaking roof, replacing the grass thatch with cement roofing.
“Livestock gives us an annual income of about forty thousand rupees (USD 550). This income helps me to manage my household better”, says Saraswati.
Small animals like goats and chickens are often nicknamed “ATMs” because they are convenient sources of cash. “As long as I have some goats in the yard, I can turn them into money whenever needs arise”, adds Saraswati.
In the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, Shivkumari is also rearing goats, which are her family’s primary source of income. While Shivkumari’s husband engages in other agricultural activities, the responsibility of taking care of the goats falls squarely on her. She makes decisions such as when to vaccinate the animals. She knows her decisions directly impact the household.
“Should we lose any goat due to an illness, we lose a lot of income, about forty to fifty thousand rupees per year. This is money we use to educate our children and meet other family expenses. I therefore take very good care of our goats”, says Shivkumari.
Livestock is an important entry point for promoting women’s empowerment in rural areas to enable them to break out of the cycle of poverty. For this potential to be fully realised, access to veterinary services is crucial. GALVmed is working with Hester Biosciences to strengthen the distribution mechanisms which will increase the supply of quality veterinary medicines and vaccines so that women like Saraswati and Shivkumari can continue to take better care of their livestock and improve the livelihoods of their families.
This blog was written by Alternatives and Beatrice Ouma.