The potential of small ruminant farming as a means of poverty alleviation in rural southern India
Small ruminant production has the potential to address the global challenge of greatly increased food production in impoverished rural areas in a manner that is socioeconomically sustainable and carbon efficient. Twenty-six small ruminant landless farmers in three villages in the Kanchipuram District of the state of Tamil Nadu were surveyed with regard to their sheep farming practice and production indices, with the preliminary aim of evaluating the potential of small ruminant farming in alleviating poverty in parts of rural in southern India. The small ruminant farmers reared mostly indigenous Madras Red sheep as a means of generating primary or supplementary income. Participatory interviews were undertaken to enable the completion of a questionnaire pertaining to sheep production over the four most recent annual production cycles (referred to as instances) at the time of the study. When calculating the annual farm profits without taking into consideration the opportunity cost of labour, 83% of annual sheep production cycles over a 4-year period added to household incomes. Further, 23% of the instances that accounted for the opportunity cost of labour, household income was raised above the Indian Government’s defined poverty line solely through small ruminant farming. Management practices were identified, while participating in landless farmer interviews provided an insight into the husbandry, or lack thereof, which resulted in low lambing percentages and rates of high ewe losses, perinatal lamb mortality and abortion. The study showed both the vulnerability and potential resilience of small ruminant farming to natural disaster, in this case catastrophic flooding in 2015. While small ruminant farming generated income in most instances, the way it is practiced creates opportunities for simple changes in husbandry and management that could make it more efficient in poverty alleviation.
KeywordsSheep Poverty alleviation Opportunity cost of labour Husbandry and health management Natural disaster
We are grateful for the help of Prabhu John for transportation between farmers and translations of their responses between Tamil and English; to Dominique Lopez for advice on demographics; and to Andy Hopker for his perspective on the relevance of our work. The study was made possible by the enthusiastic engagement of the fantastic sheep farmers in the Kanchipuram District of TN.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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