Thursday, 19 February 2015


The Rain-fed Livestock Network (RLN), anchored by the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), is a consortium that works in the livestock and natural resource management (NRM) sectors.

RLN operates by developing partnerships with various stakeholders and strives to address location-specific diversities while aiming at carrying out activities at a relatively large scale and for the right duration. 

 Our Genesis

The Rainfed Livestock Network emerged as a result of the concerns raised by various individuals with regard to the need of a common platform that facilitated knowledge sharing among the various stakeholders in the livestock ecosystem. In 2008, a unified representation, a consortium of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) working on animal husbandry in the Indian dry lands decided to press for a multi-stakeholder arrangement to address the concerns of livestock holders on behalf of the livestock herders and so.

This perspective, they envisaged, could help popularize animal husbandry as a risk mitigation strategy, assist in stabilizing rain-fed agriculture and increase contributions to the rural economy while ensuring equity to groups that were ignored earlier. These NGOs aimed at enhancing the understanding about livestock rearing and expanding the scope for intervention by drawing the attention of civil society organizations (CSOs), donors and the government to certain aspects of the sector ignored earlier, especially in rain-fed regions.

Thus, came into being the Rainfed Livestock Network to invigorate rainfed livestock rearing in rural India.

The priority areas
RLN has identified five priority areas that not only can strengthen livestock rearing in the arid and semi-arid regions of India but also can have a potentially significant impact on the lives of the communities involved. RLN envisages building up momentum through its activities and influencing policies and actions on the ground, that focus on the issues and the concerns of the poor with special focus on the location-specific nature of the issues.

The five priority areas are

Better Access to Markets
Breed Conservation through development and emphasis on livestock keepers’ rights through the Biocutural protocols
Livestock and Commons
Healthcare through community and state interaction
Backyard Poultry

Each of the five partner NGOS of the RLN network are nodal leads for each of the themes based on their work experience.

RLN Collaborations 

The Rainfed Livestock Network collaborates with the following NGOs located in various States across India for action pilots in their locations and shares good practices and strategies, by providing technical support and designing pilot interventions.

MARAG in Ahmadabad
SEVA and SKRF in Tamil Nadu
Wassan in Hyderabad
Future greens samste at Bhagalcot and Janastu at Bangalore in Karnataka 
LPPS in Jammu
KJS in Belgaum 
Honeybee network node in Bhuvneshwar
Seva Mandir in Udaipur  
SPS in Madhya Pradesh 

The very first moves of RLN, after defining the critical themes/priority areas, was towards 
organizing workshops around these themes. A workshop on ‘breed conservation’ was organized  by LPPS at Sadri in February 2011. Speakers/participants were invited from all ICAR institutes, various agricultural /animal husbandry universities, NDDB, other NGOs working with livestock, besides representatives of livestock keepers. The workshop resulted in underlining the present status of livestock breeds, work happening in various parts of the country and the organizations involved. It helped in drawing a roadmap for the network on what needs to be done and what are the priority areas for action.

Friday, 30 January 2015



An important aspect of breed conservation has been identified as ‘livestock keepers rights and the BioculturalProtocols(BCP)’ and this is being guided by the LokhitPashuPalakSangh (LPPS).

LPPS developed the first BCP for the Raika community in the Pali district of Rajasthan with the help of South Africa based lawyers and an NGO working for farmers/community rights. The protocols are developed by the community and documented by the supporting NGO.

The BCP records the history of development of their livestock as well as that of the community. It also records the topography/ mapping of their working area along with the the flora/ fauna of the area. Besides this, traditional practices and local knowledge are also documented. All in all, a comprehensive document is prepared. This is then supported by locating the documentary evidence from archival records and already existing documents. The relevant elements of the BCP are being recorded in the local biodiversity registers.

At present, the network manages about five BCPs and NGOs in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orrisa,Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir, working towards developing new BCPS.

Saturday, 20 December 2014



Sahjeevan at Bhuj in Gujarat has been chosen to lead the ‘breed conservation and development’ theme.

The organization has been chosen to lead the theme ‘breed conservation’, for its efforts towards getting the Banni breed of Buffalo recognized have resulted in effective outcomes.

The organization has worked closely with livestock community, the state government departments, the State University and the NBAGR in the process and in last few years Sahjeevan has been working intensively towards getting registered a new camel breed namely the Kharai camel in Kutch following the same modus operandi.

Following the orgnanization’s interaction with the State animal husbandry department with regard to breed conservation and registration, the Gujarat Government has allotted it a task of identifying and getting registered all the lesser known breeds pertaining to all the domestic livestock species within the State. Special funds have also been allotted for the same.

The process is being adopted and replicated in other states like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. In Karnataka, Sahjeevan is guiding an NGO named Future Greens Samaste in getting registered a local buffalo breed located along the Krishna river in Bhagalcote. Alongside, in Madhya Pradesh, Sahjeevan is guiding a local NGO named AKRSP in evaluating a cowbreed located in Khandwa.

Besides this, SPS, an NGO located at about 150 km away from Indore is working towards getting recognized a buffalo breed.

In all these processes local Veterinary/ Animal husbandry departments are being involved so that the State Governments can carry forward the process for other lesser known/undocumented breeds.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Indigenous Breed Could Bolster Farm Income

INDIA - An Indian statesman is championing native cattle as part of the National Dairy Policy due to hardiness.

India's minister of state for agriculture and agri-processing, Dr Sanjeev Balyan, has said that tolerance to tropical weather conditions means indigenous cows can increase rural income.

The minister said this while inaugurating one-day ICAR-NAVS expert consultations meet on strategies for enhancing milk productivity of indigenous cattle.

For this purpose, the government has launched the Rashtriya Gokul Mission for improvement of indigenous cattle, Dr Balyan stressed.

Dr Balyan hoped that the project will yield rich dividends and the mission aims to conserve and develop indigenous breeds in a focused and scientific manner, for which breeding facilities will be set up for breeds with high genetic potential.

"A well thought out cattle breeding policy which was in place 50 years ago which included selective breeding of indigenous milch cattle breeds in their breeding tracts and to use them for upgrading local cattle.

"However, the policy was not followed in letter and spirit and indiscriminate crossbreeding was done which has resulted in erosion and dilution of our rich germplasm of high yielding indigenous milch breeds,’ Dr Balyan adds.

Dr Balyan was also conferred with the Honorary Fellowship of National Academy of Veterinary Sciences by President of the Academy for contributing significantly in the area of agriculture sector in general and livestock in particular.

A.S. Thakur, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, India also briefed on various initiatives taken by the government for improvement of milk productivity and conservation of indigenous cattle germplasm.

The meet was organised jointly by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) through National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal; Central Institute for Research on Cattle (CIRC), Meerut and National Academy of Veterinary Sciences (NAVS).

Left alone to tend farm and family: reaching female farmers in rural India

Men are setting off to find work in cities, and women are being left holding the sickle – how can we help them? 
“I can see the strain when I go back to the farms,” says Palagummi Sainath. “Women have always done the bulk of work in agriculture, but post-2008, things have changed. There’s been a male exodus, and the roles that men were doing in agriculture are now sitting on women’s shoulders. People are cracking.”

The award-winning Sainath, who specialises in rural affairs and has spent most of the last 20 years in the Indian countryside, now says the burden on rural women has been getting steadily worse in recent years, with many now reaching breaking point.

Women have never been strangers to farm work in India, which has an estimated 77 million female farmers, but the country has recently witnessed a turning point in its migration trends. Its latest census, in 2011, showed for the first time since independence that urban populations are growing faster than rural ones. “The men are going first, and in larger numbers,” says Sainath. “And the roles that men were doing in agriculture are now sitting on women’s shoulders.”

India’s livestock census offers more evidence of this. Women have traditionally cared for small livestock such as sheep and goats, but the added burden of looking after crops means they have less time for this, so numbers are falling.

Female farmers’ lack of land titles – custom, rather than law – exacerbates the problem. The rise of “special economic zones”, typically allocated to attract foreign direct investment, has led to farmer displacement. Without their names on deeds, women have been most vulnerable to displacement and suffer more from its impacts, says Sainath.

“Displacement affects women the most. Every chore doubles in intensity. You have to walk longer distances for water, and there is no water resource not already being used by another community, so they also face the hostility of that community.”

A government programme called Kudumbashree launched in Kerala in 1998 is an example of how to help these women. It has mobilised four million women under the poverty line (many of them farmers) to tackle the structural roots of their disempowerment. Kudumbashree established organisational structures at three incremental levels – neighbourhood, area and community – to encourage women to work together. Since 2007, women involved with Kudumbashree have organised themselves into more than 47,000 farming collectives, known as sangha krishi, and negotiated leases to take over unused land. “The collective may be five, 10 or 18 women,” says Sainath. “They lease land which a landlord might be letting lie fallow, and they restore it.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit of sangha krishi, according to Sainath, is something that cannot really be measured: solidarity. Amid all the talk of productivity and access to resources, the isolation of smallholder farmers is easily overlooked.

“When you go out into the countryside in India, you find women working alone, cut off from everyone else. They’re working in one small homestead farm here, another there. Bringing them together in a group creates an entirely different dynamic. They gain confidence, and know that if one of them falls ill, the others are there to cover for her.”

Kerala has a history of social movements, and a left-of-centre culture. But there’s no reason why similar change couldn’t happen all over India. “It can happen in the rest of the country. I haven’t the slightest doubt,” says Sainath, adding that this collectivisation is preferable to “the ridiculous farce of public-private partnerships”.

Research shows that putting female farmers in control of resources benefits the nutrition of children and Sainath’s observations of the farming collectives bear this out. “Women follow the principle that the needs of the families in the group come first,” he says. “Only what’s left over goes to market. There’s no doubt that when women get greater rights in agriculture, things improve.”

'Time to shift focus to horticulture, livestock etc'

Time is now right to shift focus from field crops to other frontiers of agriculture like horticulture, livestock, dairy and fisheries, a top official of the Union Agriculture Ministry said. 

"The problem of food shortage is already behind us and India is now surplus in foodgrain production. However, the country is still lagging behind and is one of the poorest in terms of nutrition and this is where agriculturists need to look and go forward to ensure it is tackled," Ashish Bahuguna, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, said 

Speaking as the guest of honour at the 6th Indian Horticulture Congress-2014 here, he said horticulture was at crossroads and poised for a great leap forward. "What is inhibiting the growth is probably our own reservation, our own conservative attitude and reluctance to let go the shadows left by our anxiety of food security." 

"We who want to be on the global stage haven't still managed to overcome nutritional security. One of the fundamental ways of improving this is by improving diets, by making fruits and vegetables available to the people, increase income sustainability of the people, their livelihood and agriculture is the best way to do it," he said. 

Technological advancements in horticulture can lure the younger generation and there was a need to slowly divert from traditional agriculture practices of wheat to horticulture, livestock, dairy farming and go for more integrated and sustainable agriculture. 

This would not only help reduce pressure of scant resources like land and water, but also improve sustainability, quality of life and general prosperity of the people, he said. 

"With the backing of researchers and farmers, this Congress will set the agenda for a science-backed approach.The Centre will extend its full support to any such endeavour." 

Eminent scientist M S Swaminathan said India was slowly refocusing its attention from purely food security as measured by calorie consumption, to nutritional security as measured by balanced diet, proteins, minerals and also drinking water. 

An important catalyst of this transition would be horticulture and protective horticulture assures availability of fruits and vegetables all through the year. "For every nutritional malady in this country, we have horticulture remedy," Swaminathan said.
Press Trust of India  |  Coimbatore  November 6, 2014 Last Updated at 19:48 IST

Pedigree pays off in seeds of fortune

How elite buffalo germplasm altered the fortunes of a farmer and what it says about India’s low milk yield

Kurukshetra/New Delhi: Take him home, he will make you famous one day,” the dying old farmer from
Sonipat in Haryana told a young Karamveer Singh 14 years ago. As an obsessive connoisseur of buffaloes, Karamveer, now aged 45, hesitated but ended up paying a hefty sum of Rs.54,000 for the seven-month-old bull. Years later, he named the bull Yograj, who, together with a milch buffalo named Ganga, did make Karamveer famous, as predicted. The two buffaloes changed Karamveer’s fate: from a young farmer tucked away in a nondescript corner of Haryana— albeit a prosperous farmer—he is today an avid businessman whose name has spread far and wide. These days he receives visitors from across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh almost daily. And in the past, offers for his buffaloes have come from distant places such as Venezuela and Thailand. Everyone, it seems, is eager to lay their hands on Karamveer’s buffaloes. Last year, Karamveer made Rs.75 lakh from selling the semen of his elite bulls. In February last year, he was offered a jaw-dropping Rs.7 crore for Yograj’s and Ganga’s offspring, a champion bull named Yuvraj. Karamveer refused to part with Yuvraj. The offers weren’t out of character, for both Yograj and Yuvraj belong to the best-known buffalo breed in the world called Murrah, that are native to a small region straddling Rohtak, Jind and Hisar districts of Haryana.
Murrah buffaloes, marked out by their distinctive tightly curled horns and massive and stocky build, are famous around the world for their high milk yields. Since the 1960s, Murrah bulls have been taken from India to Bulgaria, Brazil, China and several East Asian countries to help in efforts to improve their native breeds and increase milk yields. Ads by OffersWizardAd Options Ganga, Yuvraj’s mother, for instance, used to produce over 26 litres of milk a day in her prime, a record. That is more than 10 times the average yield of milch cows in India and about five times that of milch buffaloes, putting to shame cattle breeds such as Holstein Friesian or Jersey that were imported to India but could do little to improve milk yields. What makes Ganga an elite milch buffalo is that together with Yograj she gave birth to buffaloes that produce over 15 litres of milk a day each. Yuvraj is the bearer of an elite germplasm: he is what scientists call pedigree selected and progeny tested. Karamveer’s acumen in identifying and preserving this elite line, coupled with the scarcity of identified elite bulls in the country, makes Yuvraj what he is today. That’s why farmers looking for higher milk yields are ready to pay handsomely for the elite germplasm. They want to take Yuvraj’s semen to artificially inseminate (AI) their milch buffaloes. Economics of ejaculation The economics behind a single ejaculation by Yuvraj the bull is astounding. One ml of bull semen contains about one billion sperms. One ejaculation generates between 4-6 ml of semen which is then diluted with egg yolk or milk-based diluents to make between 400 to 500 doses of semen, preserved inside plastic straws and stored frozen in liquid nitrogen (cryogenic) containers. Karamveer sells a single dose (one semen straw) for Rs.300. Thus, every ejaculation by Yuvraj earns Karamveer anywhere between Rs.1.2-1.5 lakh. And as artificial insemination becomes popular across the country, sales are on the rise. In 2009, Karamveer sold 4,000 straws; last year the number rose to 25,000. Now six-and-a-half-year old, Yuvraj has many years of service ahead; buffalo semen can be collected up to 16 years of age. Living like a prince True to his name Yuvraj lives the life of a prince. He wakes up early in the morning and drinks 10 litres of milk, fortified with vitamin supplements to keep his liver in good shape. Then he is led out into the morning sun and allowed to stay there for sometime. This is followed by a leisurely bath, and then a relaxing massage—by two masseurs—with kachhi ghani (cold press extract) mustard oil. The massage cannot be a hurried affair as Yuvraj is a big chap—10.5 ft long (excluding the tail) and 5 ft 7.5 inches tall. His curled horns, too, are given a special oil polish. After the massage, it’s time for lunch. Yuvraj gorges on quality feed and then takes an afternoon nap. When he wakes up in the evening there are 5kg of apples waiting for him. Finally, he is taken on a 4km race in the fields, which helps him digest the food and keep fit. Karamveer is as affectionate towards Yuvraj as a doting father is to his favourite child. Standing outside his palatial house in Sunarion village in Kurukshetra district of Haryana, he makes sure Yuvraj is massaged well. Satisfied, he personally combs the tuft of jet black hair on Yuvraj’s forehead. Ads by OffersWizardAd Options “They are like my children and over the years have turned me from an amateur admirer to a businessman. Yuvraj has been very lucky for me—I began building this house the day he was born,” says Karamveer, who is now a commission agent in agricultural markets and a seller of seed potatoes. Yield challenge With a yearly output of 130 million tonnes, India is the world’s largest producer of milk, due mainly to the fact that it is home to the largest milch animal population on the planet—over 118 million, according to the latest Livestock Census published in September this year. However, India’s milk yields per animal are among the lowest in the world. Compared with 18kg of milk per day per animal in Europe and about 27kg per day per animal in the US, the average native Indian cow produces just about 2.36 kg of milk in a day. The average milk yield of cross-bred and exotic cows is a little over 7 kg and of buffaloes, 4.8 kg. “Production by milch animals is low in India; it is due to poor feeding practices and because little attention is given to breed improvement. The National Dairy Plan formulated in 2012 is trying to address these concerns. India is also importing bull semen to improve breed quality,” says R.S. Sodhi, managing director of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, the country’s largest milk co-operative, which markets dairy products under the brand name of Amul. Ads by OffersWizardAd Options Karamveer’s success—luck and acumen notwithstanding —is directly related to the scarcity of elite bull germplasm despite India having several high-yield native buffalo breeds such as the Murrah, Neeli Ravi and Jaffarabadi. So acute is this shortage that a semen bank in Hissar, Haryana, was robbed in May last year. “Unlike its cows India has the best breed of buffaloes in the world and of late several states—Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha—are showing interest in upgrading their breeds with Murrah germplasm,” says Inderjeet Singh, director of Central Institute of Research in Buffaloes (CIRB), Hissar, part of the apex Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). “There is a recognition that native buffaloes can yield more milk than exotic cattle in Indian conditions. We sold over 26,000 doses of semen last year. In Haryana, as land holdings per farmer is going down, dealing in buffalo calf is emerging as a prosperous business.” Out of 55 million breedable buffaloes in India, only 15% are bred through artificial insemination, according to a note prepared by CIRB. There are two main reasons for this: while 5,000-6,000 bulls are required for frozen semen production to adopt artificial insemination on a large scale, it is difficult to find superior bulls as they are rare, isolated and scattered. Also, they are in the possession of a few progressive farmers such as Karamveer. The worst case scenario is that India’s invaluable buffalo germplasms may get deleted from the gene pool. Since 2008, CIRB has initiated a conservation programme which has identified elite bulls in Haryana after examining the pedigree and production potential, says Singh. The semen is collected at the farmer’s doorstep, frozen in straws and sold to buyers with half the proceeds from sales going to the owner. So far CIRB has identified 13 bulls under this programme—a welcome start but falling far short of the numbers needed to meet growing demand. Cloning the mighty Murrah In May, scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) achieved a feat that could hold an answer to the shortage: they cloned an elite Murrah buffalo to give birth to a calf named Lalima. “This will facilitate faster multiplication of elite germplasm and help us to face the challenges of increasing demand for milk,” S. Ayyappan, director general of ICAR, said. However, buffaloes have been forgotten in a much-publicized project taken up by the ministry of agriculture in July this year. The objective of the Rashtriya Gokul Mission is breed improvement of cows using elite lines of indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal and Tharparkar. Buffaloes have been kept out of the project’s ambit—a baffling omission. Ads by OffersWizardAd Options “Buffaloes not only contribute more to milk production, India has become the largest exporter of beef due to export of buffalo meat. Selection of breeds and culling of unproductive animals is the reason that buffalo yields are more than double that of cows in India. As culling of cattle is not accepted in India the progress of breed improvement will be slower for cattle as inferior progenies continue to be in production,” said Singh. In Hindu mythology buffaloes are often regarded as demonic, but for India, the mighty Murrah may just help usher in the next white revolution.