Indian cattle

Once more, reading Devinder Sharma’s blog I feel that CHS co-founder would have seen him as a kindred spirit. Winin Pereira was one of the five founding members of the Maharashtra Prabodhan Seva Mandal [MPSM], which was formed to help the poorest farmers. 

Reading the following reference from the blog [below] sent me to the CHS archives and my own notes: 

“The fascination for exotic cattle breeds has been the bane of Indian dairy industry. Our planners and policy makers have introduced these breeds without even ascertaining the potential of native breeds. The Indian breeds are suited to the local conditions, are able to resist the heat of summers, need less water, can walk long distances, live on local grasses and resist tropical diseases. They can be also turned into high milk producers given the right kind of feed and environment. While the native cattle breeds (they number 30) are despised at home, and roam the streets because of their low productivity and therefore low economic value, the same breeds are doing exceptionally well in Brazil. In fact, over the years Brazil has become the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. Three important breeds — Gir, Kankrej and Ongole — give more milk than Jersey and Holstein Friesian.”

 

The introduction to Pereira’s second book, Asking the Earth,1 refers to his monitoring of the changing fashions of Western-inspired development, and the ways in which even the best of intentions often end up by benefiting the well-to-do, at the expense both of the poor and of the environment: 

“In the early seventies, the Mandal started promoting farming with cross-breed cows. At that time, they had no reason to doubt all the things they’d heard about cross-breed cows, any more than they had reason to question the conventional wisdom about chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Everyone was promoting these things: agricultural graduates, the government, and all the aid agencies, importers and manufacturers.” 

 

Plough and draught bulls

He refers to an unmet demand for plough bulls which would become even more pressing if oil prices rise too high for those now using hand-held petrol-fuelled cultivators. For environmental reasons alone he advocated the increasing use of animal power for transport of goods and ploughing.

Adivasis are used to herding cattle and could raise the bulls needed, he advised, instead of sending the fodder they harvested to urban cowsheds. Small bulls should be reared, because larger breeds consume too much fodder. The cows provide milk only for the calves and therefore do not need the large amounts of food and dietary supplements needed by dairy cows.

 

 

Replacing petroleum products

 A passage in the Times of India records:

 “In India [in 1994], 84 million draught animals, bullocks, buffaloes, cows, horses and camels, contribute an energy equivalent of 30,000 MW annually, nearly half of the installed capacity in the country. The savings in electricity is valued at Rs 10,000 crores. In addition, the annual savings in petroleum products is at least Rs 4000 crores.” 2 

In 2008 it was reported that farmers in the Indian state of Rajasthan are rediscovering the camel as the cost of running gas-guzzling tractors soars . . . Hanuwant Singh of the Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan says “It’s very good news . . . We had started to see camels, even female ones, being slaughtered for their meat. Now they are replacing the tractor again.” 

1. Asking the Earth: Winin Pereira & Jeremy Seabrook, Earthscan, London, 1990 – x

2. Bullocks – Yeoman service by draught animals, TOI, 4.3.94

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