Nepal | July 03, 2020

Women and livestock: Let’s recognise their roles

Dr Kedar Karki
Share Now:

Despite women’s involvement in livestock production, their contribution is still under-appreciated in Nepal. It is time to recognise the important role livestock play in tackling poverty and empowering women

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

The livestock sector plays an important role in Nepal’s economy and is an important sub-sector of our agriculture. The livestock sector is also providing employment opportunity to unemployed and underemployed rural people. The development of this sector has hugely contributed to women empowerment.

Women have been involved in livestock production since time immemorial, especially in our country where domestic animals have been an integral part of the family farming system. Although livestock production patterns differ in different ecological zones and social systems, women’s role has always been central when it comes to care and management of farm animals.

Women make significant contributions to the rural economy. As per Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics, the rural share of total population in the world is 49.4 per cent whereas, in Nepal’s context, it is estimated to be more than 70 per cent. As most of the active population in rural areas has been in foreign employment, rural agricultural as well as livestock management have come under the shoulders of women.

However, the nature and extent of their involvement differ with the variations in the agro-production system.

The mode of female participation in agricultural production depends on the land owning status of farm households. This role ranges from managers to landless labourers. In overall farm production, women’s average contribution is estimated to be 55-66 per cent of the total labour. On an average, women work at farms for 9.9 hours a day against 5.8 hours a day by men, and about 50 per cent of total income is earned by women.

Depending on the region and crops, women’s contribution varies, but they provide pivotal labour from planting to harvesting and post-harvest operations. In general women in tribal and indigenous community households enjoy more decision-making power than in many other Nepali households because of their greater contribution to household incomes.

Increasing women’s access to land, livestock, education, financial services and rural employment would increase their productivity and generate gains in terms of agriculture productions, thereby ensuring food security, economic growth and social welfare.

Achieving gender quality and empowering women in agriculture is crucial for agricultural development and food security. Efforts should be made to promote equal access to resources and opportunities to ensure that agricultural policies and programmes are gender-aware and to make women’s voice heard as equal partners for sustainable development.

Within pastoralist and mixed farming systems, livestock plays an important role in agriculture, especially in high hills and mid-hill areas. In many countries, livestock is one of the most valuable agricultural assets and represent a source of income and wealth accumulation as well as an important source of resistance to shocks.

Draught animals are also the main power for ploughing, land clearing and transportation in many regions. Besides supplying valuable animal protein in the form of milk, meat and egg, livestock also provides manure for crops and vegetables.

So the development of the livestock sector will result in the development of rural economy, particularly in reducing the poverty amongst the weaker sections.

Rural women play a significant role in animal husbandry and are directly involved in most of the operations relating to feeding, breeding, management and health care of livestock.

Women’s involvement in livestock production and development has been a long-standing global tradition. Livestock plays an important role in supporting women in improving their financial situations as they are heavily involved in livestock rearing.

In rural areas, women are engaged in various tasks from dawn to dusk. They share responsibility with men and children for the care of animals. Particular types of activities are more associated with women than men. For example, women often have a prominent role in managing poultry, piggery and dairy animals and in caring for other animals that are housed and fed within the homestead. When tasks are divided, men are more likely to be involved in the construction of houses, herding of grazing animals and marketing products if women’s mobility is constrained.

The influence of women is strong in the use of egg, milk and poultry. These situations vary by culture and context, but in general, men are responsible for keeping and marketing large animals such as cattle, horses, buffaloes, while women tend to control smaller animals such as goats, sheep, pigs and poultry.

Livestock ownership is particularly attractive to women in societies where access to land is restricted to men. While the role of women in small-scale livestock production is well recognised much less has been documented about women’s engagement in intensive production and market chains associated with large commercial enterprises.

Despite women’s involvement in livestock farming, their contribution is still under-appreciated. It is time to recognise the important role livestock play in tackling poverty and empowering women. Economically empowered women will mean a fair and equitable society.


A version of this article appears in print on June 11, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

TUTH. Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj

49-day-old infant diagnosed with Covid-19 passes away in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU: A 49-day-old infant diagnosed with Covid-19 passed away on Wednesday evening at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), where he was receiving treatment. Ministry of Health and Population, in its regular press briefing, confirmed the passing of the baby. The infant -- resident o Read More...

PM advised to reach out to rival NCP faction

Kathmandu, July 1 A day after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was asked by Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Standing Committee members to resign from both the posts of prime minister and party co-chair, the PM was advised by his aides in the party to reach out to the rival faction. Oli held a meeting Read More...

Nepal could witness yet another huge locust invasion

Kathmandu, July 1 The Locusts Information Centre has warned that a large swarm of locusts is likely to enter Nepal from India over the next couple of days. According to the centre, the swarm of locusts is headed towards Darjeeling from Bhagalpur and Motihari in Bihar. As the swarm is likely to Read More...

Hunger strike by youth activists enters sixth day

KATHMANDU, JULY 1 Iih, 26, who initiated ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign demanding effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government, has been on fastunto-death in a sattal (rest house) at Patan Durbar Square as his hunger strike entered the sixth day today. Iih has been joined by Read More...

‘Citizenship bill not inclusive’

KATHMANDU, JULY 1 Although the constitution is progressive in terms of citizenship issues it does not guarantee equality. Even after five years of the promulgation of the constitution, necessary amendments have yet to be made to Citizenship Act-2006, as per the provisions of the constitution. Read More...


Mexican president to hold first meeting with Trump, Democrats unimpressed

MEXICO CITY: Mexico's president and his US counterpart Donald Trump will hold their first meeting on July 8 in Washington, officials said on Wednesday, sparking complaints from Democratic lawmakers, who saw it as a political stunt with elections looming. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ha Read More...

Twitter removes image tweet by Trump over copyright complaint

Twitter Inc has taken down an image tweet by the US President Donald Trump on June 30, in response to a report from a copyright holder. Twitter now displays the message “This image has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder,” in place of the tweet. News website Axio Read More...

Gunmen kill 24 people in attack on Mexican drug rehab center

MEXICO CITY: At least 24 people were killed in an armed attack on a drug rehabilitation facility in the central Mexican city of Irapuato, Mexican police said on Wednesday, underlining the challenge the government has in fulfilling a pledge to stop gang violence. Police in the city in Guanajuato s Read More...