Sustaining livelihoods through small animals


Valasaguttapalli is a village in the drought prone area of Madanapalli taluk of Chittoor district in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The village comprises of seventy eight households. On an average each farming household has 3-4 acres of dry land. Very few have bore well facility for irrigation. The major crops grown are ragi, jowar and groundnut with some red gram and castor as inter and border crops. Farmers having irrigation facility grow rice for household consumption.

The farmers have been facing a lot of hardship as the region is affected with drought for the last eight to nine years. With highly inadequate rainfall, the water levels in the bore wells have decreased. With a scarcity of fodder too, farmers were forced to sell their cattle.  Without any alternative livelihood options and huge debts to be repaid, migrating to irrigated areas and cities like Bangalore, had become a regular phenomenon. The village also owes its name Valasaguttapalli (Valasa means migrate) to this peculiar feature of migration.

During the year 2000, this village was identified by Chaitanya, an NGO, for implementing AMEF’s development programme. The NGO mobilised the communities and succeeded in forming a ten-member group. The group was also supported with a revolving fund to tide over their problems of consumption and repayment initially. Gradually the group took up various activities promoted by AMEF. Initially farm based activities like soil moisture conservation, bund formation, biomass production etc., were taken up by the group members after getting convinced of the need for rejuvenating soils. After two years, when the group members succeeded in improving the production of their lands and learnt to work together as a group, component of small animals to supplement their livelihood was introduced.  By then, the group had already got into the habit of saving regularly.

Initially two farmers of the group took loan from the group’s savings, to purchase a couple of sheep.  Sheep were preferred over goats as they could graze on the dry grass, twigs and crop residues during peak summer months. Farmers were also of the opinion that having too many goats would lead to degradation of tree base. In sheep, local breed/variety were preferred as they are more resistant to diseases when compared to cross-bred ones.

Looking at their success, others who expressed interest in buying sheep, were linked to nationalized banks for loans, with land as collateral security. Besides, non-group members having land assets also availed loans from nationalized banks to purchase sheep. Landless laborers accessed the Mahila Bank run by the NGO. Thus, around fifty six families in the village were able to access loans to purchase sheep and also some included goats for rearing.

Generally sheep, which are seven to eight months old are bought by farmers by paying Rs. 1,000/- to Rs.1,200/- per sheep. Twice a year, each sheep reproduces one kid at a time. Very rarely two kids are born. Presently, each family has around 20 to 30 sheep. The sheep are taken out for grazing. One person per family is completely engaged in sheep rearing. Usually, it is the women, children or aged persons who take care of the sheep. When the number of sheep is only two or three in a family, then they are sent along with their neighbors for grazing.

Farmers have begun to make a living by sheep rearing. Investments have been minimal while the earnings have been substantial. Sheep are sold when they are 6-7 years old, the price of each ranging from Rs.800/- to Rs.1000/- . Within the span of these 6-7 years, each would have multiplied to 10 more sheep. Also, rams are sold when they are less than a year and half old.

Farmers are also using the sheep manure as a  fertiliser. Droppings from the sheep are collected from the shed where they are stalled during the night. A tractor load of droppings could be collected from 20 sheep, once in two months. While some farmers use the sheep droppings on their own lands, some of them, particularly the landless, sell it to the irrigated farmers. It fetches a price ranging from Rs.700/- to Rs.1000/- per tractor load, depending on the demand.

Small animals did give a lease of fresh life to these inhabitants. But, the farmers who were still owning some of the cattle and bullocks did not know how to overcome the scarcity of fodder.    At that point, Chaitanya, the NGO, enabled them to think of alternatives to retain the cattle instead of selling them. A strategy was thought of to lease out an acre of land with irrigation facility to grow fodder crop to sustain their animals. One of the group members came forward to lease out his land, which had a bore well. The economics of the arrangement was worked out. Group members were willing to pay the landowner for utilizing the land to grow fodder. The land was divided into ten parts and each farmer would take care of his portion of land. They commonly decided to grow maize as the fodder crop. Even today,  they are still holding on to the piece of land, which provides the much needed fodder to the cattle.

Farmers started believing that having 20 sheep is equal to owning two acres of irrigated land.

Having achieved success individually, the group has started inspiring others in the development of the village. For instance, the group motivated other villagers in renovating the farm pond. The group with its thrift and savings habit has attracted a bank loan to the tune of Rupees one lakh.  Thus, Valasaguttapalli has become a model village where the name Valasaguttapalli, now, no more means what it was earlier meant to be.

  1. Sudhamani, Documentalist, AME Foundation, #204, 100 Ft. Ring Road, III Phase, II Block, III Stage, Bangalore – 560 085; email:



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