Malaysia should support and adopt sustainable indigenous knowledge and practices for livestock husbandry

Malaysia's demand for livestock continues to grow as meat consumption per capita keeps increasing. Per capita consumption of beef has increased from 2.4kg/year in 1985 to 8.4kg/year in 2010 and our self-sufficiency level for beef is 28%.  In Malaysia, poultry and pig production has developed to a stage where it is self-sufficient.
 
To meet the increasing demand, farmers and livestock rearers in Malaysia have to undertake their production with several multiple challenges which are compromising the health of their animals, the incomes of farmers, as also in the long run the health of consumers, forcing small farmers out of the livelihood of producing safe food in sustainable ways:

 • there appears to be an erosion and loss of traditional well adapted indigenous breeds and animal genetic resources;
• a growing scarcity of grazing spaces;
• intensive feeding of animals using processed and pelleted feeds formulated from imported genetically modified corn and soyabean, which have been reported to cause ill-health in animals;
• increasing costs of feeds;
• decrease in immunity of the animals, increase in disease and widespread use of antibiotics to treat animals;
• declining conception rates and increases in reproductive disorders such as abortions;
• unfair competition which local farmers have to face from cheap animal products that are imported from other countries.
 
We at CAP take pleasure in having the Anthra team from Andhra Pradesh, India to visit various farms in Malaysia and suggest and offer their knowledge on alternative medicine for the benefit of our livestock sector.
 
Dr Sagari R Ramdas is a veterinary scientist by profession, co-director of Anthra and a founder member of the organization. Mr Sanyasi Rao is an Ethno-botanist, who coordinates Anthra’s research work on Natural Resources and Biodiversity. He is currently completing his Phd in Botany.

Anthra, started by a group of women professionals in 1995, is a resource, training, research and policy advocacy collective, that works on people’s livelihoods, gender and environmental justice concerns in the larger context of food sovereignty.  Anthra works with historically marginalised communities – landless, small and marginal farmers, notably, adivasis (indigenous people), dalits, pastoralists, especially with women from these communities to strengthen their agriculture and livestock-based livelihoods in ways that are equitous, biologically diverse and promote food sovereignty and livelihood security.

Anthra aims to protect indigenous knowledge with a focus on production and farming systems, crops and fodder varieties, livestock and plant genetic resources, medicinal plants and health care traditions, land and water use. We support viable community-based livelihood enriching interventions rather than mainstream, dominant development paradigms.

Anthra’s core strength lies in being recognized as a pioneer women-headed institution that has worked on the livestock and veterinary science angle of agriculture and food sovereignty issues, while simultaneously being a resource organisation with a strong inter-disciplinary research orientation, that is pro-actively responding to cutting edge issues at the interface of people’s livelihoods and natural resources through a combination of community action, advocacy and strategic policy intervention.  Our work is rooted in innovating with practical solutions to address the concerns of vulnerable communities.

i) Anthra’s path breaking action-research on Indigenous Knowledge and Animal Health

A path-breaking contribution to livestock rearing communities was Anthra’s pioneering participatory action-research on indigenous knowledge with respect to livestock production systems carried out between 1995 and 2003. The research served to socially revalidate indigenous ethno-veterinary health care and animal management practices (including indigenous breeds, shelters, fodders, treatments, management practices), reintegrate and synthesise useful practices into existing farming systems for sustainable, culturally acceptable and viable farming.

A total of 126 disease conditions/symptoms in Maharashtra and 61 disease conditions in Andhra Pradesh affecting livestock (large ruminants, small ruminants, camels, donkeys, pigs, poultry) were documented. Diseases ranged from contagious diseases, diseases of the digestive, respiratory, reproductive and urinary systems, to skin diseases and simple surgical conditions. While a number of home remedies were known to farmers–men and women, certain remedies were known exclusively to specialist healers. A total of 1223 treatments in Maharashtra and 1186 treatments in Andhra Pradesh were documented. Of the total diseases documented, 20% of the critical diseases resulting in maximum loss to the farmers, were prioritized for further validation. The treatments for these prioritized diseases constituted 25% or one-fourth of the total documented treatments. One hundred twenty treatments (20%) were categorized as A, 372 (64%) as B treatments and the remaining 15% treatments were in the C category. Forty-four per cent or 165 of category B treatments were used in field trials between 2000-2003. Nine hundred ruminant cases were treated. Of these, an average 92% of the cases were cured and 8% were not cured. Similarly, 1777 poultry were treated with a success rate of 100 per cent. Finally, a total of 20 treatments for 10 disease conditions in ruminants and poultry in Andhra Pradesh, and 14 treatments in 8 disease conditions in Maharashtra met the set criteria and have been socially validated. These can be recommended to farmers for practical use.
 
ii) Keeping peoples knowledge out of the patent regimes
 
An unintended critical research outcome was that it generated new policy implications on seemingly unrelated yet extremely connected issues such as the need to keep the knowledge and practice in the public domain and free of the international patent regimes of  intellectual property rights,  the need for public support for community conservation of plant and animal genetic resources, the need for strengthening the public veterinary health services and integrating ethnoveterinary knowledge into the latter, the need for democratizing research into agriculture and veterinary science.

iii) Farmers, Livestock Rearers and Consumers in Malaysia can benefit hugely from supporting and adopting sustainable indigenous knowledge and practices of Animal Rearing and Health Care
 
We strongly recommend that small producers in Malaysia be supported to continue to produce safe food in sustainable ways, by adopting and promoting indigenous non-chemical farming practices, drawing upon the indigenous knowledge base of the community with respect to animal breeds, feeding, management, and healing based on herbal and other non-chemical methods.
 
We also urge the governments of developing countries like India and Malaysia who are in the process of entering into bilateral “Free Trade Agreements” with countries like the EU, to review and change their trade policies so as not to compromise the livelihood security of millions of small farmers and livestock rearers, whose production base is being threatened with the dumping of highly subsidised products from developed countries.

Press Statement – 6 June 2011

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