Balochistan’s Endangered Livestock and food security - BY: Asad Khan Betini

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Local Shepherds and farmers are passing through discontent these days since concerns regarding non-functional veterinary hospitals are growing in balochistan’s Zhob district each day.

Livestock’s fiscal budget (2015-16) has dramatically been amplified from 243 billions in to 328 billions in 2017-18, but yet miserable condition is prevailing and putting setbacks to the livestock sector in Northern Balochistan.

According to official data, there are 6 veterinary hospitals and 70 vet dispensaries across the Zhob district but people of the concerned areas in Union Council Garda Babar, Kibzai, Khosti, Kakar Khurasan, Badinzai told this scribe that no medication is being provided to livestock in order to save them from diseases, resultantly, livestock are rapidly falling prey to various diseases including Congo virus.

Qutab Khan 70, a resident of UC Garda Babar, said in a disgruntled voice, “I am a farm owner and we just gaze our sheep in rangeland, I have not seen any doctor in years to come at vet hospital, I had 366 sheep, now number of them have reduced to 228 in a single year, we slaughter them when small ruminants like sheep get weaker, thinner with symptoms appeared on them. We don’t not understand how to cure them and we cannot take all of them to city at once, because it is impossible to carry all of them to city from a far-flung village, and If we take them to City Vet Hospital Zhob, they don’t bother diagnose any test in disease investigation lab. The Congo virus another curse that has frightened us to refrain eating meat because Congo has taken many lives including FCPS doctor Ayaz Mandokhail, so it is resulting in food insecurity. I strongly appeal government to make our vet hospital functional”.

To ascertain the causes of non-functional vet hospital, this scribe availed the record of employees, it was found that there were total 98 employees posted in the entire livestock department Zhob drawing Rs. 3,923,145,00 each month from the national exchequer, among them there are 19 veterinary officers flanked by 2 deputy directors, 2 senior vet officers besides heap of non-gazetted staff rendering service in the department of livestock district Zhob.

Executive District Officer (E.D.O) livestock Dad Khan Babar told this scribe that “vet hospitals need repair and many staffers are now retired, adding, I have sent letter to higher authorities to address the matter but their response is long awaited and we have 2% quota of medicine which cannot cater the needs of dispensaries”.

The same case existed in Sherani district where vet hospitals and dispensaries almost remain ghost. Livestock is gazed in rangelands and survey reveals that 80% of population depends upon livestock due to lack of education, business opportunities in rural areas but their health area has thoroughly been ignored due to poor planning by the provincial livestock department.

An independent expert Syed Mohammad Sherani said that “there are deficiencies in data, untrained staff and lack of coordination between the livestock keepers and the experts are big constraints for livestock development in Balochistan”.

Small ruminants depend upon rangelands, Zhob and adjoining regions were rich in rangelands except Tehsil Kakar Khurasan located on Pak-Afghan frontier. Rangeland is natural landscape chock-full of plants and suitable for goats and sheep gazing. The rangelands not only serve as habitats for most of the wildlife, but small flocks are completely dependent on rangelands for their food.

Forest & Wildlife department implemented many projects on cultivation of plants to make artificial rangelands as an alternate plan to combat drought since the drought hit Zhob from 1995 to 2005, The department implemented rangeland projects Gosa, Kakhao, Murgha Kibzai, Sur Kach, Gustoi in aftermath of the drought from 2006 to 2017 but mind-bogglingly, Tehsil Kakar Khurasan was ignored.

At least, other Union Councils can be termed rich in the capacity of rangelands but Kakar Khurasan is even below the average line. Not to speak of veterinary hospital even rangeland remains a dream for the people. This region is highly vulnerable social segment lying on the Pak-Afghan frontier who’s people have no access to media. The food security situation has deteriorated.

Azat Foundation has declared Kakar Khurasan over redline due to lack rangelands. Livestock farmers in Kakar Khurasan are facing drought like situation even these days.

The unfortunate Kakar Khurasan was ignored by Balochistan Agriculture Project (BAP) that was recently concluded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with the assistance of USAID for development of agriculture & rangelands. The project covered District Killa Saifullah, Loralai, Mustang, Quetta, Zhob, Musakhel, Pishin, and Sherani Districts.. BAP data claims of turning barren lands into gold however, it couldn’t change the fate of Khurasan.

95% of people in Balochistan have no idea of fodder storage programmes, fodders are crops, and storage programs are actually meant to store surplus fodder for a long period of time in the form of silage, these stored fodders can be used during the winter season to overcome the scarcity of green fodders.

The policies are planned in the cities while the needs of the farmers are not kept in mind. Poor animal production extension programmes are lethal for the livestock production. Policies are applied without taking feed back from the farmers. Usually, the extension workers belong to the urban masses and do not know how to negotiate with the rural people and most of the time they consider the livestock producers as third grade citizens having very poor knowledge about livestock. Animal breeding is the main driving factor of the livestock policy. There is no institution in the province to undertake research on the breeding issues of the local breeds. In fact, livestock improvement is only possible through improvement in the feeding and breeding of the stock and there is no institution to effectively handle these issues in the province. Farmers training facilities are rare in the province and the institutes for the technicians mostly lack knowledge about the production issues of livestock. The technical staff is trained only for animal health services and there is no training for the breeding, feeding and management aspects as well as production extension services.

Animal products like milk, meat and eggs also provide motive power for farm operations and transportation, especially in the poor infrastructure parts of the province. Wool, hair, hides, skins and numerous other animal bi-products also fulfill the needs of mankind. The manure produced by the livestock makes an important contribution to the maintenance of soil fertility. Livestock by-products form precious components of foreign exchange earnings through export of wool, carpets and leather products in addition to cottage industries within the country and a huge set up of market chains. Animals are also considered a financial security and can be converted into cash by selling a few animals to purchase food and other household requirements in the case of crop failure. Animals are also used for bridal dowry, to pay debts and to meet several other emergent situations.

Experts are proposing establishment of a cottage industry on new lines which is another attraction for the investors. Balochistan is the home of many colored sheep breeds. The preference for naturally colored wool products is increasing in international markets. So, establishment of cottage industry on the modern lines, keeping in mind the international demands, will be helpful for the improvement of sheep industry. Camel wool produced in the North Eastern Balochistan is of high quality and has never been used before for cottage industry. New products like camel wool yarn, wall hangings and other rugs made from the naturally colored wool are playing a major role in the conservation of local breeds in international scenario. Leather products have a good market internationally and Balochistan is the main source of producing skins/hides of small ruminants and also a corridor for receiving skins and hides from southern Afghanistan and southeastern parts of Iranian Balochistan via Taftan gate way. This industry can be a good source of earning for the investors and way of consumption for the raw material of leather. Earmarking suitable chunks of land in the command areas of newly built dams like Mirani, Subakzai dam Zhob and Kachhi canal for livestock farming as joint ventures bringing in foreign investment can be considered by the provincial or federal governments. Outcomes will be achieved if livestock department is improved on the modern lines and thwart food insecurity by taking measures and it will only be possible if we functionalize ghost veterinary hospitals and pay proper attention to livestock health. Proper accountability of livestock department is the need of hour.

The writer is chief editor of Nawa-e-Qaisa International based in Balochistan.
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Posted on Mar 31, 18 | 5:48 am