Kavilumpara’s micro goat farming units have led to the panchayat being popularly called the ‘Goat Village’ of the district.

Over a year ago, the women of Kavilumpara village along the high-terrain region of the Western Ghats, banded together to rear goats. Mostly homemakers and daily wage labourers, they attended a five-day course organised jointly by the grama panchayat and the District Kudumbasree Mission in April 2012.

The classes were on the rearing, sale, and native medicinal treatment of goats. The volunteers were divided into 44 groups of five women each. Each member was allotted five goats, four does, and a buck, to rear.

For working capital, the women were instructed not to borrow from loan sharks or private financiers. Instead, the Kavilumpara Community Development Society (CDS) of the Kudumbasree directly stood guarantor with the local cooperative service bank for loan. Funds were also allotted from the Western Ghats Development Programme. Each group was allotted Rs.1.5 lakh as start-up money. All the women had to do was work hard and prove their mettle as entrepreneurs. The rest is history.

Today, Kavilumpara’s micro goat farming units have led to the panchayat being popularly called the ‘Goat Village’ of the district.

More importantly, 220 women of the village, spread across the panchayat’s five hills of Karingad, Poothampara, Ottathaplavu, Karingad, Nagampara, have found financial independence and self-worth, thanks to the poor man’s cow. There has not been a single default in loan payment so far.

“There is a legend about the business skills of Kavilumpara’s women entrepreneurs. They say there is only one thing the women have not yet been able to sell off their goats: its bleating,” says Kavilumpara grama panchayat president P. Surendran.

The Kavilumpara’s meteoric growth rate in goat farming has become a model of women empowerment in the district. The success of the project has led neighbouring panchayats, the State and District Kudumbasree Missions to send teams to study the Kavilumpara model of goat farming. Each of the 44 groups has raked in profits from Rs.70,000 to Rs.1.35 lakh through sale of goats alone.

Kudumbasree Area Development Committee president Leela Panachikkad who heads one of the 44 groups called ‘Pulari’ says the women and their goats have also changed the social landscape of the panchayat for the better. “A year back, these women were non-existent. They had no voice in families in which men were the sole breadwinners,” she says.

Take the case of Devi Chevittappara, whose daily routine was confined to tailing her husband to their plantain fields and back.

Devi has single-handedly built up her farm unit from five Malabari goats to 24 in the past year. She sold seven of her goats, all bred from the original five, to earn Rs.47,000.

“Now, I and my husband walk shoulder-to-shoulder to the fields,” says Devi, who also raises rabbits, fish, chickens, dogs, and guinea pigs.

Food for goat

“Here, after the day’s MGNREGS work is done, a common sight is women going home with a bundle of leaves for the goats,” Narayani Panichikkal, who rears goats in her 19-cent plot, says.

She has earned Rs.24,000 selling five of her goats and used the money to buy sand for her ongoing house construction.

But the enterprise of Kavilumpara’s women does not stop there.

Over 190 acres of land is being used for organic farming as part of a community project organised by Kudumbasree in the village. The goat droppings collected are used as fertilizer on these lands where spices, cocoa, and tapioca are cultivated.

“Access and marketing are the two problems raised by the women now. Also buyers who come here try to bargain with the women on the price of goats. Our dream is to form a society to market goat products from milk to meat to goat droppings at fixed rates,” says Geetha Rajan, chairperson, Kavilumpara CDS. The society has won the best CDS award for three years consecutively.

For the women to gain more visibility, the panchayat is organising Ajam 2013, a one-day exhibition and sale of goats reared by the village women as part of its annual Onam fair on September 11. “Self-reliance is their key to self-respect and economic freedom. We even planned a mutton stall where women are butchers. But many are now reluctant because they can’t even think of killing the same animals which have given them so much,” says Mr. Surendran.

Luttaapi’s antics

But Sindhu Elakatt has a more immediate problem. Her buck, the temperamental buck, Luttaapi, is again throwing a tantrum.

“I don’t know how I am going to bring him to the fair. He is so naughty at times,” she says. Her flock of Jamunapari goats has yielded her an income of Rs.17,000 and a permanent glow on her face.

As goats bleat to glory at the backyard, she quips with a twinkle in her eyes: “Aishwaryathinte siren muzhangukayaanu.”