The pressure on coastal areas is continually on the rise with demand for land coming in for establishment of industries as well as settlements that support the existence of these industries. The land available for agriculture has been steadily on the decline (in fact, a warning to arrest this decline appeared recently in the newspapers) and this has not been helped with rising cost of agricultural inputs and the lack of water for irrigation in many areas, especially in the tail end of deltas. Overall, rural livelihoods are shrinking in myriad ways. There has been a steady exodus of people from the rural villages, even along the coast, into larger towns and cities, in search of employment either in industries (often as unskilled labour) or as construction labour. This has also led to steady rise in unemployment and under-employment. While the manufacturing sector is no doubt important for a nation’s progress, it is essential to ensure that the farm base is firm by putting effort into and encouraging its various components so that the food security of our billions is ensured.
The primary rural livelihoods in coastal areas are animal husbandry, cultivation and fisheries. In most of India, fishing is highly specialized with specific castes occupying the niche for hundreds of years. On the other hand, cultivation and animal husbandry are often practiced together as most rural households depend at least to some extent on animal husbandry in the form of rearing goats, sheep and milch cattle (cows and buffaloes) depending on the location.
Recent emphasis has been on the development and encouragement of livelihoods that are sustainable, which are also appropriate to the area. Of these, the animal husbandry and dairying sector is clearly a viable option in coastal areas.
A report of the NIRD
states that “The vast resources (more than 50 percent of the world's buffalos and 20 percent of its cattle) of livestock in the country play an important role in the national economy as well as in the socio-economic development of millions of rural households. Although the contribution of agriculture and allied sectors to the national GDP has declined during the past few decades, the contribution of the livestock sector has increased from less than 5 percent in the early 1980s to over 6 percent in the late 1990s”
Thanks to Operation Flood, reportedly the biggest livestock development programme in the whole developing world, the production of milk has gone up and the per capita availability of milk increased to about 232 g in 2004-05. The operation has been evaluated with respect to increase in collection, processing and marketing of milk and viability of cooperatives but few looked at the impact on the livelihoods of producers. According to a report (Shukla and Brahmankar, 1999 quoted in Rangnekar, D.V. “Livestock in the livelihoods of the underprivileged communities in India: a review), dairying contributed to 27% of the family income on an average, with the highest being in the eastern region”. Two major constraints for improving the productivity of dairy animals included (1) services for health care and breeding and (2) cost of feed and fodder.
The dairying sector is a major employment option in rural areas, especially for women. Employment is generated by rearing of animals, support in terms of growing / collecting fodder, procurement of milk and its processing and also the support activities such as production of organic manure and even biogas in some areas. Despite considerable strides made in this sector, in many areas, the milk procurement and marketing structures are not properly organized which means that while there is significant potential, a lot has to be done in this area to improve both availability of milk and its quality (during procurement, processing and distribution). This includes, apart from building the marketing infrastructure, providing veterinary services for breed improvement and health care, extension support for capacity building of farmers, developing entrepreneurship, technical skills and knowledge on scientific dairy farming practices (NIRD).
Rangnekar concludes with the following observations:
(1) Dairy production accounts for about 80% of the livestock produce
(2) Resource rich benefitted more from dairy development projects compared to resource poor and those from lower social strata as they face economic, social and technological challenges
(3) Improving dairy production can help the underprivileged to come out of poverty; however, they need institutional (credit and marketing services) and technological support (linkages).
(4) There are conflicting reports about benefit from crossbred cattle and buffaloes and reasons are not very clear and need in-depth study
(5) Many reports show that dairy production from indigenous cattle is not profitable; however a large number of rural families keep indigenous cattle and this showed that there is need for understanding the situation more clearly.
Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, famous for the impact of the 2004 tsunami is known for its agriculture because it is part of the Kaveri delta. It is also a very cattle-friendly district. BEDROC has taken up promotion of dairying as an important livelihood on the lines of AMUL with adaptations suitable to the area and the changed environment (TN State Government’s initiatives are also on similar lines as indicated in the government’s policy note
). Instead of the traditional cooperative society model, milk collectives have been set up and federated under the Producer Company Act. This Company is called Nagai Milk Producer Company (NAMPCO). For more information on this initiative, please see Bedroc’s website
. It is not an easy activity as it involves extensive social mobilization followed by capacity building to enable people to understand the importance of the cooperative movement. It also involves extensive capital investment towards setting up appropriate infrastructure. However, it is clear that sustained effort will bring in great rewards in terms of building up supporting livelihoods in coastal areas and ensuring food and nutrition security of the local populace.