Mumbai

The season is dry, but all is not lost in Marathwada villages

In the face of drought: Villagers from Shelgaon in Aurangabad have taken to goat rearing as a sustainable alternative to farming.

In the face of drought: Villagers from Shelgaon in Aurangabad have taken to goat rearing as a sustainable alternative to farming.  

PwC Foundation, NGO help villagers find alternative means of livelihood in goat rearing and paper bag making

Marathwada has had it tough for the third straight year. Over a month since the monsoon arrived in Maharashtra, the region has received just 144.9 mm of rain on average.

In the wake of this situation, 168 small farmers from the district are being encouraged to take up alternative livelihoods like rearing goats, while women are being trained in making bags from old newspapers and tailoring. “Goat farming and rearing is fast emerging as a sustainable option. As goats thrive well on a wide variety of thorny bushes and crop residues, they can survive under harsh conditions too. In fact, they can help in maintaining grazing lands and save farms from bush encroachments,” Prasanna Patil, a founder-trustee of the Aurangabad-based Savitri Bai Phule Mahila Ekatma Samaj Mandal (SPMESM), and director-projects at Hedgewar Hospital, said.

Dr. Patil and his team at SPMESM have, over the past year, been working with farmers in the region in partnership with PwC India Foundation, which has adopted Narla and Shelgaon, two of the worst-hit villages in Marathwada. PwC India Foundation has in the past worked with drought-affected farmers in Bundelkhand.

“The villages are facing an unusual situation of huge financial losses due to recurrent drought years,” Jaivir Singh, vice-chairman, PwC India Foundation, said. “Till date, they were managing on savings or whatever paltry income they earned from their farmlands. Without any formidable alternative livelihood option, most small farmer families would likely face serious financial consequences, with adverse effects on health, education and overall well-being.”

The goat farming route

The intervention, said Mr. Singh, started with restoration of defunct water structures in Shelgaon in 2017-18 and gradually moved to Narla in 2018-19. Each family received water tanks.

But the water scarcity had a much larger effect on agriculture, the villagers’ chief source of livelihood.

Options for an alternative means of livelihood were discussed with the village community, at least till they received more rain, and goat rearing came up as the most feasible.

The season is dry, but all is not lost in Marathwada villages

“A total of 227 goats were requested in Narla. In Shelgaon, 304 goats were asked for,” said Melinda Serrao, associate director, corporate responsibility, PwC India Foundation. The price of a single goat works out to be about ₹6,000, of which the farmer pays ₹2,000 and the foundation bears the rest.

The foundation is supporting the purchase of goats, and training farmers in rearing and insurance. After this initial support from them, SPMESM will take the project ahead. “We have larger plans for socio-economic development of the region through sequential projects after this,” Mr. Patil said.

Once the goats are ready for sale, the NGO will help in onward sale or slaughter. There is an approximate six-month pregnancy cycle for goats and four-plus months to get them ready for sale. Earlier, villagers did goat farming on a sporadic basis and sale took place on a need basis. Now a sequential project for their sale or slaughter will be taken up. Post the current monsoon period, villagers have said they will purchase more goats.

Farmers said the goats helped them feel more secure. “Earlier, we had to take a loan against our jewellery or sell them in case of an emergency,” Shanti Mhatre, who belongs to a family that has adopted adopted goat rearing, said.

Stitching them together

Another intervention has been paper-bag making for Mumbai and other towns in the State, which is in demand following the plastic ban. However, with no bus service to their villages, transportation of newspapers and bags is posing a problem, villagers said.

PwC India Foundation is helping the villagers make sturdier bags and having their own point of contact for newspaper supply as well as sale of paper bags that they make. So far, it has supplied 900 kg of newspaper, and the paper bag making is in progress. In mid-June, over 6,000 paper bags were sent to the city.

At least the villagers do not need to sit around and wait for nature to begin a more benevolent cycle.

(The writer travelled to Aurangabad at the invitation of PwC India Foundation)

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 4:56:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/the-season-is-dry-but-all-is-not-lost-in-marathwada-villages/article28764354.ece

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