Pashu Sakhis: A Unique Model for Women Empowerment

Sewantabai, a woman farmer and her husband, a daily wage laborer from Gondia district of Maharashtra, were struggling to make their ends meet.  She started a goat farm on a small piece of agricultural land. But over the years, the productivity of the goats reduced, the kids born were weak and they were susceptible to various diseases.

With support from The Goat Trust,  she now has more than twenty-one goats and is now a Pashu Sakhi or a Livestock Nurse.  She is an expert on artificial insemination, deworming and castration. No wonder she is called ‘Doctor Didi’ affectionately.

As per the Nineteenth Livestock Census of 2012 by Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, there are around 135 million goats in India comprising of 37,617 male goats and 97,556 female goats. India’s goat population is only next to China.

Known as a poor man’s cow, goat raising has significant advantages as it is a comparatively low-cost way for increasing the incomes in the rural areas. Goat farming requires lower initial investments and input cost, multiplication is faster, and it’s easy to raise goats than other animals, and their products can be used in multiple ways. But still, it is seen as a low-status business in spite of its tremendous market potential and as an insurance against crop failures. Women across the country play an essential role in goat rearing. But they are mostly involved in doing the indoor hard work which is non-cash such as taking care of the animals, arranging fodder, etc.

There is a need to train and encourage women to engage in the entrepreneurial activity of rearing goats so that a woman can become an active change agent and also an earning member of the family. Goat Rearing is low maintenance and a sustainable way of making an impact in the lives of rural women.

The Goat Trust is a Lucknow based resource organization that promotes small livestock such as goats, sheep, and backyard birds by supporting grass-roots institutions by providing technical inputs and in advancing market linkage for their products.

Founded by Mr. Sanjeev Kumar, The Goat Trust was set up in 2008. It socially, economically and technically empowers men and women from the marginalized and excluded groups for small livestock based livelihood development.

The Goat Trust has developed an enabling ecosystem by training poor rural women to become active change agents as Pashu Sakhis or Livestock Nurses.

Pashu Sakhis technically trained to disseminate local knowledge and practices and to timely door-step first aid services to the other small livestock farmers in the village. This helps in reducing the mortality & morbidity on a significant scale. The small livestock are an essential and considerable resource to the poor and vulnerable communities. This is a unique approach where women are empowered to manage livestock and improve their health and productivity.

Pashu Sakhis make periodic visits to assess local health conditions and provide services such as castration, vaccination, deworming, hoof trimming, wound dressing and artificial insemination. They also assist in the kidding process in goats and guide local villagers in maintaining hygiene and sanitation.

The women are identified from the local communities, and their capacities are developed continuously on rearing goat kids, vaccination, deworming and first aid services, and growth monitoring. Each Pashu Sakhi is provided a handspring balance to weigh goats regularly. These weighing machines are used to weigh goats and determine their estimated market price.  Dress, medicine kit and other tools based on their needs are provided to Pashu Sakhis.  They also play a leading role in goat breeding activity.

Pashu Sakhis earn an additional income by providing services which help in their children’s education and in providing nutritious food.

Patriarchy runs deep in India, and it is difficult for women to make a space for herself in the society dominated by men both in the private and public domain. The Goat Trust help women to find their voice and carve their own identity. 

Mr. Sanjeev Kumar says, “Pashu Sakhis are not just breaking social and economic but also caste barriers.  People whether rich or poor go to them for advice. They say ‘Our Didis are our Heroines”.

The Goat Trust has trained around eight thousand Pashu Sakhis in more than sixteen states across the country. They have recently launched herb fed Goat Milk under the brand name Caprico.

The Goat Trust also supports women by providing them with small loans to encourage entrepreneurship among women. This has enhanced not just the acceptance and higher status for women but also greater recognition for goat rearing as a profession.

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