Another step to quicker, cheaper livestock service
It has been 16 years. But I still remember the day I saw Abdar. A former textile worker, the father of three from Kurigram had taken to keeping cattle. He was struck with sorrow that day and tears rolled down his cheeks. Abdar was about to lose his cow. It was his only asset. The cow was his path out of poverty.
The cow was about to give birth but seemed to have difficulty in her labour. Abdar was desperate and travelled 15 kilometres to reach me, a trained veterinarian. By that time, though, the new-born calf had died. It was already too late when I reached his home. The pain and sorrow I witnessed in Abdar’s family that day still remains fresh in my memory.
Access to livestock services is a major problem for our farmers. The department does not have enough men or money for door to door service. The office is basically based in the sub-district town, which could be up to a day’s travel from the upazila’s fringe. Many farmers don’t want to take the trouble of travelling all this way (some can’t even afford the time or money) to consult about their livestock. And in cases of emergency, like that of Abdar, by the time they do reach the office, the emergency is over.
The grassroots experience made me realise the importance of quick and easy service. Sadly, though, it remained just my realisation for long. I had no clue about how to change things. But an a2i workshop in Rangpur showed me the way. I got this idea of ‘Livestock Service Centre’ there. I started with one centre at Jatrapur Union under Kurigram Sadr. To get around manpower shortage, two local youths were given charge of that centre. They would first take stock of the situation and consult with the veterinary surgeon or livestock officer over mobile phone at the sub-disrict for advice and take care of the problem.
People don’t have to travel to the sub-district town for minor problems any more. Livestock services have become 80 percent cheaper and four times quicker now. Three unions have 95 percent people covered by these centres. The response made me dream even bigger. I now dream of linking those livestock centres with the Union Digital Centre. If successful the consultation would not be limited to phones only. Veterinarians will be able to inspect livestock through a web cam and email prescriptions.
I feel proud that my innovation has got recognition and admiration from the government and the society. Perhaps my biggest, and the most fulfilling, recognition is that the livestock department has replicated the service centre initiative in all eight divisions.
*The writer is the Upazila Livestock Officer, Department of Livestock Services