In an effort to promote the consumption of goat meat and other goat products, the Gujarat government under its Goats Unit Aid Scheme launched last August, recently gave away 44 goats each to six tribal widows from south Gujarat, as means of livelihood.
And the district panchayat got the job to identify 20 women from each tribal dominated district, as beneficiaries of this scheme.
The scheme supports the rearing of goats and pitches its produce saying it’s better than the cow, as far as protein supplements are concerned.
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Inspired from the Centre’s National Mission for Protein Supplements (NMPS) of 2012, which was already existing in states under which farmers would get 12 goats (including two males), the Gujarat government went a step further to launch the Goats Unit Aid Scheme for tribal women who are divorcees or widows, to make goat farmers out of them.
So every beneficiary, who is identified by the district panchayat, gets 40 she-goats and four he-goats whose rearing and maintenance is duly monitored for three years by officials of the Animal Husbandry Department, the nodal agency for these schemes. Gujarat is among those states that accounts for more than 95 per cent of the goat population in the country.
Animal Husbandry Department officer at Surat District Panchayat Dr N M Patel said, “The percentage of protein in the milk sold in the market is not as per the standards of WHO. However, the goat milk and meat contain a large amount of protein. Beef has large percentage of cholesterol while protein component is less. Through this goat unit production scheme, the adult male goats can be sold to butchers by the beneficiaries, at the end of three years. The beneficiaries also get to develop their goat production business to earn money and overcome financial crisis while consumers can get more protein supplements from goat meat.”
Goat meat sells at an average of Rs 400 per kg while beef sells for Rs 150 per kg in the market.
Patel told The Indian Express, “We have given away six units in Mahuva taluka so far. We have made a list of remaining 14 beneficiaries and as we get grants, we will deliver the goat units to them in the coming days.”
Under this scheme, the government had planned to give 200 units of goats having ratio of 40 females and 4 males for each unit in all tribal dominated district across the state.
Surat district, which has a high number of tribals, has effected the scheme in Mahuva, Mandvi, Mangrol, Umarpada and Bardoli talukas, said Patel.
The beneficiaries of Mahuva taluka are Sudha Bhula Halpati, resident of Dhundesa village, Leela Chhiba Dhodiya, of Zeravanvra village, Meena Dinesh Patel of Machhisadada village, Chanchal Arvind Patel, of Velanpur village, Urmila Dilip Patel, of Dhamkhadi, and Chanchal Dinesh Patel, of Karachelia village.
However, the beneficiaries have to bear the cost of fodder, water, shelter and veterinary care of the goats. “Since tribal areas are all forest with ample water, the women can take them for grazing, so it is not much of an expense,” said an officer.
Listing out further benefits, Patel said that goat milk is also used in medicines and its droppings used for manure. The awareness about the scheme and its benefits is disseminated at Pashu arogya melas, Krishi Mahotsavs and in gram sabhas.
Animal Husbandry officer Dr N K Rohit said, “Our veterinary officers give detailed information about the scheme to the people and also guide them how to fill the form. We have formed a taluka purchase committee for this scheme which comprises of veterinary officer, sarpanch and others. The goat suppliers are in regular contact with the veterinary officers and seeing the condition of goats we strike a deal with them. The district development officer is final authority who decides to whom the goat would be given.”
Mahuva Taluka Panchayat Veterinary Officer Dr Sanjay Patel explained the reason behind the 40:4 ratio, “The life span of a goat is 14 years and an 18-month-old goat is an adult. The pregnancy period of female goat is five months. The female goat delivers twins or triplets, and usually equal number of male and female are born in each delivery.”
A beneficiary, Sudha Halpati (40), said, “My husband died five years ago and left behind a 13-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy. My daughter quit studies after Class VII while my son is in Class IV in the village school. I work as a labourer to run my family but it was tough. This goat scheme is very helpful to me. My children take the goats in the forest area to graze in the afternoon and to the village pond to drink water. I have taken this as an opportunity and will develop the goat business.”
Another beneficiary, Leela Dodhiya (46), said, “My husband died three years ago and I have two daughters, both of who quit studies in class VIII. I will get good money by selling the milk, excreta and urine of goats to the farmers. This money would be help continue the education of my daughters. We have got enough space to keep the goats.”