Pakistan could be making millions through its cattle industry but lack of exploration and investment has left cattle farmers with little to show for the gold mines they’re sitting on.
Kaloi is a small town on the edge of Tharparkar. In 2007, construction of a cattle colony began there but by 2016 there was nothing left. The buildings were dismantled brick by brick to be taken away and used by locals wanting material to build their own homes, while the iron and steel were sold off as scrap metal to earn a pittance. What resulted in the profit of a few thousand rupees could have been worth millions.
There are millions of cattle in rural Pakistan and they’re all a huge resource waiting to be explored. The export of milk and halal meat alone are industries worth billions of dollars across the world. Reports from international donors and agencies say this resource is not been taking advantage of and is something that could be a game changer for Pakistan. They have blamed this on a lack of centralisation and adoption of the latest trends in breeding, feeding and extraction of milk and meat.
The Sindh government tried to remedy this by staring a cattle colony project in 2007 in the desert districts of Tharparkar and Umerkot. It wanted to formalise the sector and create a central market for cattle and fodder. Later, this project was expanded to include Khairpur.
The government planned to provide sheds and other facilities like water and fodder stations to cattle owners in the deserts and connect them with private investors from big cities to extract milk and its derivatives like cheese and yoghurt along with meat from the animals using the latest technology and trends. It would have taken advantage of a previously unexplored resource in an undeveloped area and created jobs.
But while construction started in 2007, none of the cattle farms are functioning today. In the best cases the buildings constructed for the cattle colonies have started to crack and in the worst people have altogether dismantled the structures. Visiting the sites today, you would never believe a cattle colony once stood there.
The budget for these cattle colonies have been increased and decreased multiple times over the years but in 2012 the final cost estimate was set at Rs1,441 million (Rs1.4 billion). Interestingly, this was also the year in which locals at all three sites say that the last development work was done.
According to the Sindh government’s budget books, it spent Rs60 million more on the project in 2012-13 and has been spending money on these projects since then.
The same books state that between 2012 and 2017, the actual expenditure on these projects has been more than Rs775 million. But residents of Kaloi say they haven’t seen any progress on the project after 2011. Residents of other areas say no work has been done since 2012.
Officials of Tharparkar’s Livestock and Fisheries Department and the newly appointed department secretary feign ignorance of the existence of any cattle colony in Kaloi. Locals insist that there used to be a cattle colony spread over 50 acres, in whose place today lie small heaps of bricks and foundations overrun by vegetation.
The secretary, Aijaz Ahmed Mahesar, said the non-functioning cattle colonies in Khairpur, Umerkot, and Naukot have not been handed over to them yet. Constructing them is the Works and Services Department’s job, he said, adding that he can’t do much other than ask them to hand over the properties.
No water at the sites is delaying the completion of the projects, said Mahesar, adding that his department has been working for “years” to arrange water for these schemes but has not been successful.
While different departments in the Sindh government continue to pass the blame onto each other, there is little accounting for the millions already spent on the projects and the sorry state they’re in today.