In the times of drought it is common for farmers in Bundelkhand to anoint their animals' forehead with vermilion, touch their hoofs as a mark of respect, and say a little prayer to them before abandoning them.
The prayer they utter goes something like this: "Oh my dear animal! Please forgive the sin of abandoning you. But the bigger sin would be to keep you hungry and thirsty. Go, wander, and find food/water for yourself. Hope to see and take you back when rains return."
This had become a norm in the region since 2002 as the region got caught in continual drought till 2008. But, the crisis it seems is making at least some people begin to learn living according to the agro-climatic condition of the region. And one such example is about animal rearing. So instead of rearing buffaloes like people in Punjab, people here are going back to original--goat rearing.
"Men had increasingly been abandoning their animals in the times of drought. Cows, buffaloes, donkeys, mules, and even horses were deserted. But if they had goats, then they did not abandon them-because goat manage to survive well on their own by feeding on xerophytic plants (plants that survive even in dry conditions)," said Sanjay Singh, a drought activist who runs Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan. It is this organisation backed up by Oxfam India that is running the goat rearing project in villages in Jalaun under their 'Community coping strategy for living in drought situation'.
No water situation and less fodder for the animals has become a usual condition in this part of India in last one decade. Parmarth and Oxfam are running community coping strategy in fifteen villages in Madhogarh and Rampura blocks of Jalaun district to reduce vulnerability.
Here is an example from Sunderpura village about how life turned secure for a woman who began goat rearing. Sunderpura is situated 14 kilometer from Rampura block of Jalaun (which is 200 km south of Lucknow). The area is attached to the ravine area of Chambal and the village is situated between Pahuj and Sindh rivers. The condition of people in the village of 48 families is poor due to repeated droughts where agriculture, animal rearing and labour are the source of livelihood. And Rajabeti is the woman whose changed life for her family by rearing goats. Rajabeti is wife of Ramsia. Only source of income for Ramsia, a scheduled caste, was agriculture. And it had turned difficult for the couple to survive with their three children in the times of drought. So, Rajabeti did not think twice when the organizations extended a loan of Rs 6,500 to her for goat rearing. "I purchased three goats. They multiplied and six months after I sold the three goats for Rs 14,650. I repaid the loan amount and still have eight goats", said Rajbeti.
K Kannan, of Oxfam said that goat rearing is catching up and it people are understanding that it suits the region more that keeping big cattle.