DR IRFAN HASSAN
Inevitable never happens, it’s the unexpected always. John Maynard Keynes may have said these words in another context, and in some other setting, but this is what some women farmers in Bandipora have done by putting their enterprise to work — rearing success through sheep farms— exemplifies it perfectly. In a world where the reality of cut throat competition to go up the career ladder is lost upon no one, some women in Bandipora sensed a business opportunity in rearing sheep. And not much time had passed after they ditched other pursuits for farming; that they have seemingly struck gold with their endeavour.
Meet Mumtaza Begum, a 33 year old woman from Watrina Bandipora who successfully runs her own sheep farm of more than 210 sheep. Being an educated woman, Mumtaza always wanted to live her dream of an empowered and fulfilled life. Fate had her drop out of college at a tender age, however, it didn’t put a stop to her passion of exploring a successful career for herself. Of the limited options that she could think of trying her hand at, on account of financial and social constraints, a career in sheep farming fascinated her the most; and it sure held her much promise. Her choice was instinctively driven, for she had an exposure and introduction to the sheep farming as her family was associated with sheep farming on a marginal scale with a mere 10-15 strong sheep. Taking up sheep farming on such a limited scale might appeal some but to the grand dreamer that Mumtaza was, it wasn’t going to break the bread with her. She wanted an increased flock size to kick-start her livestock enterprise and make it commercial. And to do this, she stepped out of her home and sought assistance from the department of Sheep Husbandry Bandipora. She was guided by the department to apply for the then active Subsidy based state sponsored scheme in “Mini Sheep Farms.”
True to her luck and passion, she got selected for the sheep unit under the said scheme in Feb 2019 and was allotted a unit of 50 sheep in the same month. But she didn’t have it all that easy too; to begin with, she faced quite a few hurdles in the beginning which had more to do with the labour intensive nature of the job and her lack of experience than a want of dedication on her part. In fact it was her dedication that saw her fortunes grow by leaps and bounds over the years. And as they say rest is history.
Presently Mumtaza is in possession of a well established and commercial sheep farm of more than two hundred ten genetically upgraded sheep which make her success an inspiration for thousands of farmers particularly women in the district and beyond. Not only has Mumtaza carved a profitable, viable and sustainable enterprise for herself and her family but also created employment opportunities for the unemployed youth by engaging them in the farm. Presently three youths earn livelihood and support their families by working in her Sheep Farm.
“Behind every successful woman is a supportive husband” is what Mumtaza too opines. “A lot of success in my endeavour would never have been possible without the consistent support of my husband. He has always been my motivation and emotional support and has stood by me through thick and thin. Be it procurement of farm inputs, sale of animals, assistance in rearing etc., my husband is always with me. I feel extremely blessed for having such a supportive family. My family has been quite welcoming and resolute to the idea of female entrepreneurship. The supportive role of a spouse becomes much more important for female entrepreneurs with children” says Mumtaza begum.
Every fortune comes with its own set of impediments and the impediments in her journey to success have been negotiated by her with the appropriate support of sheep Husbandry department. “Be it vaccination, dosing, timely delivery of veterinary Healthcare services, awareness regarding feeding and management of livestock or other needful technical advice from time to time, sheep Husbandry Department has always stood by me” says Mumtaza begum.
For genetic upgradation of the livestock, Department has recently provided her with a pure line Australian Merino Ram for which Mumtaza Begum has expressed deep gratitude for the Department and officials. By providing quality seeds for raising fodder in her agriculture fields, department has helped her reduce the over reliance on concentrate feed thereby reducing input costs and ensuring better remunerations.
Mumtaza Begum adopts standard feeding, housing and management practices which have ensured better production parameters like 3.5 kg average birth weight of Lambs, reduced lamb mortality rate, increased conception and lambing percentage. The livestock is managed semi intensively. For intensive/stall winter feeding Oats, paddy straw, hay grasses, root crops, maize grains, rice bran, wheat bran etc are fed as per requirement to different categories of livestock. Most of these feed and fodder ingredients are raised in her own agriculture fields.
Mumtaza makes net annual earnings of more than Five lakh rupees from the sale of about eighty surplus sheep which are mostly sold as sacrificial animals on the occasion of Eidul Azha every year. This is supplemented by earnings from the sale of wool. Farm manure is utilized by her in her own agriculture fields.
“Life has improved significantly for me and my family since I have taken up sheep farming. I feel more fulfilled and satisfied. I work as much as I can and when I can.I have full support of my family. I want to tell all the women that they should use all the opportunities that are given to them to improve their socio-economic condition. It is a special satisfaction when you can prove to yourself and also to others that you can make life better” says Mumtaza.
Her story is a testimony to how hard work, single-minded dedication and unrelenting passion can fire one’s journey to success. But its real value lies in the inspiration it is providing to the unemployed youth. The way she has scaled all odds to showcase the commercial potential of sheep farming is appealing to one and all. Her success story exemplifies the reliability and employment generation opportunities in the sheep farming entrepreneurship.
P.S: There are many other great success stories in sheep farming, especially in farming for germplasm as distinguished for farming for slaughter market. As much as over 50% twinning in flocks, 7 kg birth weight and more than 300gm/day gain on average in body weight on daily basis has been reported from Mr Hilal Ahmed Yatoo’s sheep farm. An ewe was recently fetching over a lac and a rams around 2 lacs. Scores of success stories stand published by the Department of Sheep Husbandry for inspiring new entrepreneurs. Farmers can export to different states earning millions. Let us join hands in saluting them and contribute our bit in helping them grow further. Let us devise new models of helping our farmers by considering directly transferring money a year or so before to farmers and be shareholders in their enterprise or help them purchase good animals so that they establish their farms without dependence on loans they can’t liquidate. We can facilitate identifying trustworthy farmers who need to expand their farms and hope every person who does qurbani or wants mutton at half rate or even free consider helping farmers and himself/herself in this way.
Dr. Irfan Hassan,Veterinary Assistant Surgeon, Sheep Husbandry Department
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.