Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Vice Chancellor Dr Mujeebuddin Memon Sehrai said though agriculture is mainstay of the Pakistan economy, the role of the livestock sector cannot be ignored, which contributes more to the gross domestic product (GDP) than do crops.
He urged scientists, researchers and experts to develop research projects for the development of community to cope with challenges of climate change, food security and malnutrition.
The SAU VC was speaking at an inaugural ceremony of two-day workshop on MMBs, a mixture of minerals and vitamins to help improve nutrition and productivity of ruminant animals began here on Wednesday at Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam.
The event jointly organized by EU-funded Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh (PINS), Sindh government, Sindh Rural Partners Organization (SRPO) and Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam attracted researchers, community herders, nutrition experts and representatives of Sindh provincial government departments.
The Vice chancellor said that SAU is already working on feed and fodder resources, and Germplasm conservation in animals. He added that the farmer’s awareness, mobilization and transfer of MMBs technology to grassroots level would support arid zone communities to improve the nutrition status of their cattle, and thereby the nutrition of livestock keepers and their families.
The purpose of this workshop was to bring together all stakeholders to discuss the importance of MMBs to improve nutrition and productivity of animals, which in turn will improve human nutrition.
John Ashley, the nutrition-sensitive specialist with the EU-supported Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh (PINS) talked about how he is working with the various component programs within the Accelerated Action Plan (AAP), especially livestock and agriculture.
He said that almost all ruminant livestock in Sindh Province are likely to be under-nourished, due to deficiencies in micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) and protein in their food intake.
This is because the normal diet of rough graze or browse comprises plant material, rich in carbohydrate and fibre but poor in protein & micronutrients, comprising an unbalanced diet, he added.
John Ashley said micronutrient deficiencies in ruminants lead to sub-optimal metabolism/ physiology and hence low growth rate, slow development/time to reach marketable size, low resistance to infectious disease, slow sexual maturation, poor milk yield, sub-optimal fertility rates and pregnancy outcomes etc. Even the quality of meat & milk is poor, lowering nutritional benefit to those consuming it.
PINS is already providing support to the multi-sectorally designed Accelerated Action Plan for the Reduction of Stunting and Malnutrition in Sindh (AAP), being implemented in 24 districts of the province. AAP aims to sustainably improve the nutritional status of children under five (U5) and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) in Sindh, in line with the second target indicator of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No2, which relates to hunger and under nutrition.
These milking animals are an important source of nutrition for minor-age children and their mothers in rural areas of the province.
Zahida Detho, Executive Director of the Sindh Rural Partners Organization (SRPO) in her introductory remarks said “if we want to improve rural economy, we should empower community youth”. She highlighted the issues of rural women and their role in livestock management. She said that women are caring for small ruminants like sheep and goats at small scale level, and MMBs would be beneficial for them. She said all training related to goats and sheep will be successful at the time, when it will empower rural women, who are the natural custodians of herds and grazing fields.
Prof Ismail Kumbhar, a well-known researcher and the MMBs focal person at SAU, appreciated the efforts of EU for facilitating the Government of Sindh’s effort to improve the nutrition status of the Province through technology interventions at grassroots level. He added that this technology would support rural women through improving goat rearing and management entrepreneurial practices at small scale, and transformation of the community through technology interventions which will bring a revolution for poverty alleviation through promoting the rural economy.
Dr. Muhammad Ismail Memon, of Department of Veterinary Medicine at Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam talked on introduction to livestock farming system in Sindh, ruminant nutrition and link with human nutrition. He said that Sindh is major province for production of the crops and higher population of livestock as compared to KP and Baluchistan.
There is sufficient number of small and medium farmers and a large number of these farmers are poor, they keep their livestock for drought and milk and meat purposes.
The population of all major species of livestock cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats has constantly increasing over the years. Growth rate is different for various species, buffalo is higher than cattle, he said.
Other speakers brought a wide range of experience to the workshop – in livestock and agriculture management, entrepreneurship, nutrition status of animals linked to human nutrition. The debate has thrown new light on diverse topics, especially the emerging subject of MMBs preparation.
Community herders, hailing from arid zones, during group work shared their problems about livestock management, loss of vegetation, depleting natural grazing fields and alternative nutrient feeds, which practical hands-on experience drew attention of the other participants in the workshop. The herders’ livelihoods and wellbeing depend on the roll-out of technologies such as Mineral Molasses Blocks, which are guaranteed to improve the productivity, health and profitability of their livestock enterprises.
The workshop observed that herders in desert areas are facing multiple challenges after depleting natural grazing fields and vegetation loss because of persistent dryness and delaying rainfalls over recent years, as the effects of climate change take hold.
At the start of the workshop, a documentary was shown about the importance of MMBs and the step-by-step process of making MMBs, prepared by the SRPO team.