As one of its many counter acting measures to Covid-19’s impact on livelihoods and earnings, Sindh government has recently launched a pro-poor social protection and economic sustainability initiative for the province’s livestock sector. That plan surely has its credits and has many a step in the right direction. But given the sector’s contribution to value added agricultural output and its contribution to employment, especially female employment, the province needs to take a giant leap.
Prepared by provincial livestock department, the Rs500 million plan rests on two broad pillars: (a) livestock breed improvement through provision of breeding bulls and by artificial insemination (AI) to poor livestock farmers, and (b) capacity building of poor household youth in the fields of AI for breed improvement, consequently productivity.
Both these are notable steps. The former can potentially yield a manifold economic impact by increasing milk yields, whereas the latter can provide skills and later jobs in a sector that is due to develop over the next decade if indeed (and granted it’s a big if) Sindh government acts in line with the vision it spelled out in its agriculture policy announced two years ago. Refreshingly, both the planned distribution of bulls and AI, as well as capacity building of poor household youth under AI training programme appears well targeted in nature, using poverty score card data.
This is all hunky dory. But if Sindh really wants to develop its livestock industry then it must develop a separate livestock policy. At present, Sindh Agriculture Policy 2018-2030 touches upon a variety of sub-sectors including horticulture, fisheries and livestock, where it reflects on some pertinent themes such grazing lands, milk yields, insurance. But it is a document that is too holistic, and by virtue of it, it is not specific enough for livestock sector, even though Sindh’s Livestock & Fisheries Department jointly made that policy with agriculture department and the planning & development department.
What is instead needed is a sector-specific livestock policy that builds up on the recently finalized programme for breed improvement and extends to a wide range of sector-specific strategic areas of development.
These areas include a robust regulatory environment for commercial farming, for cold chain, certified slaughterhouses, tagging and traceability for livestock and digitize data of livestock, village animal health workers for introduction of minimum set of standards, establishment of FMD-controlled zones, and promotion of packaged by encouraging large- and small-scale pasteurization units. Lastly, it must deregulate milk and meat prices, for without it, there is simply no incentive for market players to pursue competitiveness across the value chain. Dole outs can only achieve so much!