Born on November 1, 2000 Chhattisgarh is one of the youngest states of Indian Union. The State is committed to the welfare of its people by building up a dynamic and progressive economy with social justice and equal opportunity for all. About 80 percent of State’s population lives in rural areas, largely dependent on agriculture and allied activities for livelihood. The State thus accords high priority to agriculture and rural development.
The Chhattisgarh economy has grown at an annual rate of over 8% during 2000-01 to 2004-05 (at 1993-94 prices), benefiting millions of poor in the State. The percentage of the population below poverty line has declined drastically from 45 in 1999-2000 to 41 in 2004-05. The rural poor comprise 79% of the total poor in the State.
Agriculture (including crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry and mining) is the main source of livelihood for the rural people in the State. The sector contributes about one-third to the State’s gross domestic product (GDP), and engages over 70% of the labour force. The sector grew at an annual rate of over 6% between 2000-01 and 2004-05. Agriculture is practiced on 35% of the geographical area, and is largely rainfed. Rice is the main crop occupying about 70 % of the area, but has poor yields. The rural economy in the State is dominated by small farmers (<2ha) comprising over 75 percent of the total farm households. The average size of land holdings in the State is 1.4ha, and is likely to decline with increasing population pressure. Under such a scenario, crop production alone cannot provide an adequate livelihood to the majority rural population.
Livestock could emerge as an important source of income and employment for the rural poor. They act as a buffer against income shocks of crop failure which is a frequent phenomenon in Chhattisgarh. Livestock provide a continuous stream of outputs and thus income from livestock helps consumption smoothening. Species like poultry, goat, sheep and pigs are of short-generation interval, have a high prolificacy rate and require less land, investment and operational expenses and are better suited to the resource endowment of the poor. Cattle and buffalo are an important source of manure and draught power, which are vital to improving crop production and environment.
Chhattisgarh is rich in livestock wealth. In 2005/06 it had 81.5 lakh cattle, 18.9 lakh buffaloes, 21.2 lakh goats, 2.1 lakh sheep, 5.1 lakh pigs and 71.7 lakh poultry birds. Livestock sector contributes about 23 percent to the value of agricultural sector output. A majority of the rural households possesses one or another species of livestock. The distribution of livestock holdings is more equitable as compared to land, indicating that the poor have more opportunities in livestock production than in crop production (Box 1). Livestock however are low-producing. Milk yield of cow as well as of buffalo is about half of the national average. Low yield is due to a lack of adoption of technology, feed scarcity and inadequate animal health services. For instance, only 3% of the in-milk cows in the state belong to crossbreds, much less compared to the national average of 22%. Similarly, the livestock units per veterinarian in the State are about 36000 as compared to the national average of about 8000.
Nevertheless with appropriate technological, institutional and policy support livestock sector has considerable potential for growth and thereby could be an important pathway for poverty reduction. Rapid economic growth as being witnessed in the State, is causing a shift in the food consumption basket in favour of livestock products, which offers considerable scope to raise livestock production and productivity.