Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Rational Livestock Policy

Maroof argues for sheep farming that combines livestock farming with religious offerings to help financial stability of farmers

(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 32, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)

Invitation to Sheep Farming

The best investment in Kashmir is most probably sheep farming. It is also the best method to create jobs and offers anybody, any organization or social worker, immediate opportunity for creating jobs. Today the best form of sadaqa jariya is giving employment to anybody. It is the best form of gifting dower to our daughters and sisters. Gifting gold is unproductive and dependence on international gold business. Gifting a few sheep instead would be a gift for life that multiplies every year. Gifting a single ewe is worth gifting more than two golden pounds in the long run. It is the best form of real wealth that neither recession nor outside forces can affect. Investment in sheep farming by way of capital or labour to a smaller or greater extent is an opportunity universally available. Anyone can participate. It is possible today and there is no need to wait for tomorrow. You can start it anywhere. You need nothing but the will to invest. Today you decide you want to have your sacrificial animals, your mutton requirement for the year provided free, in few months you shall have it.

If you are short of ideas where to invest your savings, if you are in search of employment, if you want to contribute to society by strengthening indigenous economy, if you want to do social service or uplift of the poor, if you want to go for the safest and guaranteed profitable enterprise, if you want to you should join the pastime/profession of the prophets, if you want lessons in Sufi ethics and share in the joy of pastoral life and life of adventure you should think of becoming part of sheep farming enterprise. There are different ways in which you can be an entrepreneur and invest your money in sheep rearing. Once you taste the fruits of your investment in sheep farming you will never look backwards. And it is one time investment that pays for life and for generations. Agricultural land and livestock wealth is the best insurance against uncertain market of currency. What for do you need money mostly is food and clothing. The world is at the brink of severe food crisis due to water crisis, deforestation and degradation in land quantity and quality. Jobs are going to shrink. Salaried class too is not immune. Currency wars can land anyone in deep trouble. Recession is going to stay as.

Sheep rearing is a mystical wazifa of the prophets and many mystics. It connects us to the rhythms of the earth, destroys illusory ego and makes us partake of supernal joys. There are few sights as beautiful as watching a lamb or a kid moving hither and thither in delight. It teaches us the value of life and life sustaining mechanisms. It makes us, in short, better humans. Children naturally find delight in company with animals, pet, game or domestic ones. That is quintessentially human state. Machines are dead and we can’t but be alienated in a machine dominated culture. We need life giving contact with animals. The West exasperated by machine environment has opted for companionship of dogs and cats. We could get the instinct for companionship satisfied by rearing livestock. Our children are busy in their own work, TV is a tool of distraction and cheap soul destroying entertainment. This leaves animals as best candidates for enjoying leisure time. Sheep, a preeminently docile animal, is an ideal companion, a source of profit, a contribution to indigenous economy. One or two animals – poultry birds, goat, sheep etc. constitute a worthy possession for the health of the soul. Owning or tending a few sheep will teach you lessons that you can’t learn otherwise and that explains. Ideally we are asked to sacrifice animals owned/reared by us. It gives one a joy known to the chosen few who adopt the practice.

We have yet to try feedlot commercial lamb farming in our State. In six months we could get 30kg live weight according to conservative estimate which sells at not less than 3000. Different input costs including the cost of feed and fodder, medicines, labour, insurance would at the most be Rs. 1000/lamb for 4.5 months, assuming we get 1.5 month old lamb. The cost of lamb production if planned separately (planned in such a way that most of the time we need not feed the ewe and maintain her on only natural grazing) would not be more than Rs. 500 if proper use of labour and space is ensured and could be sold at Rs 1000 with Rs 500 profit/ewe for ewe rearing farmer in the given period. Early weaning will allow new lamb production at faster pace. This farmer will sell the lamb in late November and retain the lamb produced in spring. A farm of 200 lambs will produce at least 180 x 1000=180000 (allowing for 10% mortality) as net profit which means a salary of Rs 15000 which is a good job in our condition besides having provided two jobs to two labourers/farmers for months. Cost realized from droppings and wool will take care of 20-30 % of labour cost. We get around 1.5 lac net profit. Two persons will get employment for six months. Only some space and ordinary shelter is needed. The govt. could motivate owners to go for commercial lamb farming by constructing free sheds for them. Orchard economy could be hugely boosted.

Having gazing facilities or not, owning or not owning land or orchards, living in rural or urban area, belonging to whatever class, one can participate directly or on participatory community basis in the venture.

We need to change the modalities of rearing and trade to make sheep farming profitable for anyone and everyone. In the present mode it is profitable – indeed hugely profitable – for certain sections only. In rural areas where labourers are seeking work, where farmers may have nothing to do and would welcome offer of providing labour services, where fodder is relatively cheap and sheds are available in plenty, partial or complete grazing facilities may be available or orchards are there, sheep rearing is highly profitable and is practized by people on their own. Instead of asking private breeders or investors/entrepreneurs to find land somewhere and engage costly labour and fodder and devote their time and energy and practically assume the role of the farmer we need to evolve mechanisms for partnership between the investor who supplies money/ewes to farmer in the village who has both labour and infrastructure and also ambience and experience available who shall rear them. We create jobs in the process besides empowering everyone and boosting local economy.

In our conditions most farmers are able to produce one kg mutton on less than Rs.50 meaning a net profit of Rs 150 on every kg of meat sold in the market. Producing 100kg meat in a month means a net earning of Rs 15,000 a month. In the present condition all the costs of rearing 100 ewes for the whole year (which uses local shepherd for grazing them) that produce another hundred as progeny making available 90 (keeping 10% mortality) markettable animals giving a revenue exceeding 3 lacs are less than 50,000 for many private breeders (who need not count their own labour for a few months in late autumn and winter as they have hardly anything else to do). If one decides to fully rear and control the enterprise personally two employees who will in the process get round the year job need to be engaged though even one would do sometimes two persons permanently only around a lac. will be needed anyway. Quality rams produced in a unit when used to impregnate local ewes contribute lacs every year when we calculate profits to owners of served ewes by way of increase in body weight, wool quantity etc.

If the government or some credible institution of civil society invests Rs 10,000 from every employee or to begin with employees of sheep husbandry only in sheep farming it can give all of them free (sacrificial) animal for years. Private breeders and contractors will come forward boosting fodder industry, pelt industry and other related industries in the process. Immediately thousands of jobs would be created and billions earned for local economy and optimum use of orchards, grazing lands, and our otherwise wasted fodder resources could be made.

We need to promulgate rational livestock policy that makes far better use of labour and management resources (does away with very small units of less than 5 sheep and pools them in bigger community farms by using some sheep shed for the purpose) will significantly reduce cost of production and attract everybody interested in investing capital in sheep rearing. Shift to mutton production has already taken place at field level and the department is on its way to create better germplasm for the same and creating quality mutton farms. I am hopeful of huge progress as the present govt. does seem to give some attention to livestock sector. Recent sanction of mini sheep farms is an example. Livestock sector is a blank cheque on which the State can write millions if not billions daily and cash it for the State if we wish. The billion dollar question is do we have the will or choose to write it.

I request you not to give zakat in cash this year if you are a sahib-i-nisab. Give the poor ewes/goats. You will make them zakat giver in few years. There would be no need of orphanages if credible institutions started to make one parent/guardian of orphans as owner of 50 ewe unit as this will give them enough money for all expenses. If we decide to give all zakat in kind as ewe units this year we will generate thousands of jobs and significantly reduce the number of applications for zakat next year. In few years if investment in livestock and other sectors for the cause of the poor is done by sincere NGOs and credible institutions there will hardly be any poor, any orphanages, any beggar (beggary could be outlawed and all needy ones provided from the routine collected money of zakat if properly used and invested) left, any girl rotting for want of money to finance marriage, in few years.

The simple tip to revolutionize sheep industry is to facilitate those who have capital only – not much is required anyway – to be a shareholder in sheep bank that rears sheep for him and gives him share of profits. If any NGO, any institution can do this, it will be a great achievement indeed.

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