Mahadevrao Kinhewar is a small farmer based in village Aloda in Wardha district. For years, he relied on dry-land farming and struggled to make the ends meet at home, with the limited crops he grew in the harsh climate of the region. His annual income hardly amounted to Rs 15,000 per year. In 2014, in order to promote animal husbandry and to create a source of supplementary income, under the Kamdhenu Gopalan Project of Pune-based organisation Jankidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha (JBGVS), had distributed animals like cows, buffaloes and goats to poor farmers in Wardha.
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Under the project, Kinhewar was given a Gaolao breed of cow. Now, the annual income of Kinhewar amounts to Rs 45,000, out of which Rs 30,000 comes through cow’s milk. In the past five years, over 600 animals have been distributed in 20 villages of Wardha district to small farmers like Kinhewar. Till now, JBGVS has distributed 20 Gaolao cows (which have multiplied to 50 after breeding), 100 hybrid cows, 40 buffaloes and 90 sets of goats (five animals each). While up to 50 per cent of the cost in case of cows and buffaloes, and 90 per cent in case of goats, is borne by JBGVS, the rest is borne by the beneficiary.
Commenting on the initiative, Col. Vinod Deshmukh, director, JBGVS, said, “Animal husbandry has the potential to significantly transform the economic conditions of farmers. JBGVS has successfully worked on this for many years across different geographies through activities like distribution of cows (including native breeds), buffaloes and goats and training and support in aspects like building model cowsheds, bio-gas plants, vaccination and insurance.” Deshmukh said the goats are particularly given to those who are Below Poverty Line. The livestock has brought about a significant rise in the income of poor farmers.
Kiran Chaudhari, who earlier made about Rs 20,000 per year through dry land farming and as a labourer, is now earning an additional annual income of Rs 50,000 through a hybrid cow. Likewise, owing to Kamdhenu Gopalan Project, those who are given a set of goats are able to earn one lakh annually and a buffalo owner is earning Rs 55,000 in a year. Some cattles provided by JBGVS have also been a part of the Gaolao Cow Exhibition in Wardha, organized by Biodiversity Conservation Campaign of the government.
Gaolao cows are a native breed that serve a dual purpose and are used both for drought farming and milk. Deshmukh said the initiative had a strong rationale. The breed, he added, is a robust one that can easily withstand harsh environment of Vidarbha region. “Unlike most other local breeds, Gaolao cows need less maintenance and external inputs. Gaolao bulls are used in all farming practices. The increasing focus on native breeds across India, due to the medicinal qualities associated with their milk, ghee, dung and urine promises health benefits and supplementary income to farmers since the same fetch better price in the market. The demand for these products is expected to increase,” he added.
Additionally, JBGVS has been assisting the animal husbandry efforts of the government in Wardha by creating a pond for supply of water in Central Breeding Institute in Hetikundi, which houses 150 cows, including Gaolao. Besides, it also provides drip irrigation facility to the new Fodder Cafeteria of the government in Pulgaon village in Deoli taluka. The Fodder Cafeteria is a one-acre demonstration plot, which has 12 grass species suitable for goats and cattle, has a livestock development officer who guides the visitors. Grass seeds and stems are also provided to farmers for plantation on their land. All these initiatives of JBGVS will go a long way in sustainable development through animal husbandry.