The Black Bengal Goat as a Tool to Promote Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural West Bengal

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Case Study #7-10 of the Program: ''Food Policy For Developing Countries: The Role Of Government In The Global Food System''
Goats are an integral part of rural India's symbiotic system of crop and livestock production and make up a significant part of the livestock wealth of the country. Over the past 25 years or so, the Indian livestock industry has progressed from a situation of scarcity to one of plenty. Although the share of agriculture in India's gross domestic product had been declining since the country's independence in 1947, there was an increasing trend in the value of output from livestock as a share of GDP (GOI 1998). Goats are among the main meat-producing animals in India, and goat meat (chevon) faces huge domestic demand, with no social, cultural, and religious restrictions. Despite the popularity of goat meat, goat rearing has not been conducted as either a large- or a small-scale industry in the state of West Bengal or in India as a whole. Among the 20 well-defined breeds of goats in India, the black Bengal is a dwarf breed, highly prolific, and famous for its superior-quality meat and skin. In West Bengal, it is commonly known as the poor man's cow. India has more than 124 million goats, which account for more than 25 percent of the country's total livestock and contribute more than Rs. 106 billion annually to the national economy, providing food and nutritional security to millions of marginal and small farmers and agricultural laborers (Kumar 2007). A number of factors make the rearing of black Bengal goats a preferred option among marginal and small farmers (those having less than one hectare of land) and even landless farmers, who depend on common grazing and forest lands for fodder. These factors include low capital intensity, prolific breeding, superior chevon quality, early sexual maturity, high-quality skin, low kidding intervals, good adaptability, no religious taboo against consumption, and steady returns (Dixit and Shukla 1995). Under the prevailing traditional production system, however, the productivity of goats is very low (Singh and Kumar 2007). Mortality and morbidity losses due to disease in goats have been high in traditional flocks (Kumar 2007). Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to improving the genetics and productivity of black Bengal goats. Proper marketing and the application of modern technology and advanced management systems in goat rearing could bring about a significant change in the market for goat meat. A coordinated approach might be initiated to increase the productivity of goat production by improving management practices, enhancing nutritional inputs, and minimizing morbidity and mortality from traditional and emerging diseases (such as goat pox, pneumonia, andpeste des petits ruminants [PPR]). To achieve this new approach, national policy makers could transmit scientific guidelines to implementing agencies, preferably at the level of local self-government (panchayats). Bridging the national and local efforts, the state veterinary department, research organizations, and state government should play major roles. Veterinary education institutions can also be consulted on the training of the primary stakeholders—that is, livestock raisers and farmers—in scientific rearing, slaughtering, and processing of goat. Your assignment is to advise national policy makers and state animal resources development departments to formulate a strategy to improve the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers in West Bengal through improved productivity and use of the black Bengal goat and to conserve the related germplasm.
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12 pp.
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Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences
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Subhasish Biswas (2010). Case Study #7-10, ''The Black Bengal Goat as a Tool to Promote Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural West Bengal''. In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), ''Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies.''12 pp.
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