The crop sector is heavily subsidised but the country’s livestock sector that contributes around 55pc of agriculture GDP is largely neglected. Uplift programmes funded by international financing agencies or provincial governments are abandoned halfway or have yet to make any significant impact.
In rural Sindh, poor families depend on animal rearing to make both ends meet by selling milk after meeting domestic consumption. These households continue cattle breeding in a conventional way while relying on local wisdom but without training or knowledge about vaccination and modern management.
Unfortunately, a qualified veterinary doctor or easy accessibility to veterinary facilities either do not exist or are not upto the mark.
Both qualified veterinary doctors and trained technicians are vital for dissemination of knowledge for animal rearing, vaccination, treatment and management practices. But in their absence improving per animal milk yield and meat production is low. A provincial government’s institution puts total estimated number of cattle in Sindh at over 32m.
Tharparkar has the highest number of cattle, sheep and goat as compared to other districts. According to the President of Pakistan Veterinary Medical Association, Sindh, with a mere 540 veterinary doctors including 155 contractual ones, no one could hope for desired service delivery in this sector and livestock sector continues to suffer. He says livestock sector is a victim of poor policymaking.
Sindh seems far behind Punjab where the government is working for improving it. For instance, a senior Sindh livestock officer informed that Punjab has around 3,000 to 4,000 qualified veterinarians while in Sindh the figure is just negligible. “We are not able to establish artificial insemination training centres on account of some complex problems.”
Same goes for other local and foreign funded programmes for enhancing milk and meat production through improvement of artificial insemination services and Sindh Agriculture Growth Project (SAGP). Dispensaries and hospitals are dysfunctional. Veterinary doctors were indeed appointed but their services were not regularised or they were sacked. He insists that the facility does not cover more than 20pc of livestock and is largely attributed to inadequate number of veterinary doctors. In view of vets’ shortage, animals suffer from worm infestations especially in coastal districts like Thatta and Badin. The department doesn’t have vets and medicines.
The indigenous breeds of Sindh Kundi (buffalo), Red Sindhi and Thari (cows) are facing genetic deterioration and the government is doing nothing about it, according to the General Secretary Sindh Chamber of Agriculture Nabi Bux Sathio. Similar breeding farms are to be privatised. Only two chillers are said to have been installed in Tharparkar against the target of 153 planned for four years.
The project is completing third year of its working. Chilling capacity of two solar-powered chilling plants has been reduced to 500 litres from 1,000 litres following the consultants’ report that required quantity of milk is not available. SAGP’s project director Nazeer Kalhoro says that by Dec 2017, 450 technicians for artificial insemination would be trained as a parallel force until a training institute is established. By June 2017, the number of chillers would rise to 83, he says.—Agencies