Bringing women farmers to the forefront
Livestock farmers in rural Pakistan provide sustainable support to their household income.
“While growing up I saw myself as a farm girl, and throughout my life I have lived as one—I know no other identity. Farming is in my soul; I cannot imagine a single day without seeing my land.”
Rising with the sun and working long after it sets, Buwa Lashari, mother of five has dedicated her life to her children and her livestock. Hailing from the village Izzat Khan Lashari, Mirpur Sakro Sindh, Buwa takes pride in rearing livestock and taking care of her family farmland. For Buwa, feeding, cleaning and rearing livestock has always been parallel to the role of a mother.
This is not unique to Buwa, the majority of rural women living in interior Sindh identify as farm girls, and are primary caretakers of livestock. However, they are not identified as such and are not paid for the arduous hours of labour they put in every day. Khuda Dini, from the village Abdul Qadir Khan Lashari is also the care taker for her family’s livestock. She ties her cows’ legs with a fitted rope and then demonstrates milking one cow after another—her dexterous hands milking so swiftly that one cannot help but admire her. Whenever the cows wince, she exclaims “Amaan,” a loving expression mothers often use with their children.
This is just a glimpse of the dedication with which rural women take care of their livestock, a major source of sustenance and revenue if and when these women have access to markets. Buwa Lashari and Khuda Dini have just had their livestock vaccinated, and received trainings on animal health and nutrition. This is the first time they have received any formal guidance on how to better take care of their livestock, to make feed which will make their animals healthy, and produce more milk. ‘’Despite taking care of animals all my life, this is the first time I am getting educated on the proper ways to feed them,’’ says Khuda Dini.
Livestock makes a substantial contribution to the agriculture sector, a major part of the Pakistani economy. Women in rural areas are the driving force of this sector, working tirelessly behind the scenes to take care of farm animals and crops, with minimum to no formal training or recognition for their work.
Rural women were especially disadvantaged in the COVID-19 pandemic, a problem aggravated in rural areas of Sindh. With a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, they face many struggles in their daily lives. Strict social barriers, spread of misinformation, and a lack of access to critical technologies to improve their work and personal lives hinders their economic and social advancement. Despite this, rural women have been working harder than ever as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under government imposed lockdowns.
During this period, rural women felt particularly vulnerable, as the transportation halt meant a shortage of feed for their livestock, and limited ways for them to sell their cow’s milk to buyers from the cities. Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (G) project rolled out a COVID-19 emergency work plan, focusing especially on rural women; from animal feed and seed distributions, livestock rearing trainings, to information sessions on following the Standard Operating Proceduresand government finance schemes, the project has been working to alleviate the care burden and better redistribute this work between women and men in identified districts of Sindh.
In addition to being trained in livestock health and nutrition, the recipients also get seeds, animal feed, and techniques on how to sell their produce in the markets. Similar to Khuda Dini and Buwa, most of the women trained under the programme are eagerly learning how to get better crops and healthier animals, and to sell the excess produce from their livestock and farmland to generate income for their families.
The Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Trade Centre. The objective is poverty reduction and sustainable, inclusive growth through development of rural small and medium-sized enterprises in select districts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan. The project’s outcome aims to enhance the productivity and profitability of SMEs involved in primary production, service provision, and value addition in and around selected clusters of production.