|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, June 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
Milk handlers lax on hygiene
Extension services and globalisation
The focus of agricultural extension efforts is mainly on achieving higher productivity, whether in field of agriculture, animal husbandry or dairy.
Taking stock of the infrastructure today, we would see that extension services are largely in the public sector, while other operators (NGOs, etc.) remain at the periphery without having clear policy enunciation or institutional support. The services also operate largely in an inter-personal mode with select contact farmers—mostly men—without planned and optimum utilisation of the media and other modes.
There is very little involvement of farmers in the technology development and dissemination process. The top-down approach leaves little scope for localised planning and action.
The extension services are also manned by functionaries with low morale, knowledge level and incentives, with limited exposure to recent developments in communication technology.
Prasad et al (1987) has identified the following administrative weaknesses in the transfer of technology programmes:
—The top-down administrative system continues to govern the rural/agricultural development works with the result that rural people have merely been passive recipients of benefits rather than being active participants in the development process.
—Lack of adequate incentives to attract and retain good extension functionaries in the villages.
—Lack of short- and long-term training programmes for upgrading extension functionaries in their professional background and technical qualifications.
—Indifferent attitude of the field-level functionaries towards extension work.
—Non-availability of trained staff, delay in recruitment, frequent transfers and diversion of ill-equipped staff to extension projects.
—Lack of transport facility for the extension staff.
Globalisation of agriculture throws the greatest challenge to identify the suitable extension approach that can provide continuous, relevant, modern technology messages to commercial minded, export-oriented farmers by making use of the latest information technology. Many state governments have opted for one or more of the following solutions to strengthen the extension systems:
—Improving the modus operandi of the existing structure of extension services.
—Administrative decentralisation of services.
—Devolution of functions of regional development authorities that work free of government regulations.
—Transferring responsibility of advisory services to private or quasi-public organisations.
Farming in global environment has brought its own requirements. Farmers have to be trained to be made aware of GATT and its implications. Export-oriented technologies will have to be generated for different agro-climatic zones and enterprises.
The present extension system will have to be reoriented to suit the small farmers. Farmers should be taught to become more competitive. They also need to be trained in agro-processing. The farm education services should also advise farmers on maintaining quality standards of their products.
Farmers should be provided indirect subsidies and extension personnel should see to the equal and proper distribution of the subsidy amount.
Infrastructure facilities like transportation, communication, storage, processing, packing and marketing, etc., have to be strengthened.
Co-operative village management has to be promoted, i.e., the management of village affairs by the local people themselves under the aegis of certain associations or co-operative societies.
Extension services, which were mostly public world-wide until a decade ago, are increasingly being transferred to the private domain. The inability of governments to fund the extension machinery is the real reason behind the search for alternative approaches such as ‘cost sharing’ and ‘privatisation’.
In India, the increasing costs of providing services and the government’s unwillingness to give full support forced organisations in the public sector, such as line departments, research organisations (ICAR & SAUs) and training organisations (KVKs) to identify the services that could generate resources.
Services such as soil testing, input cost of field demonstrations, consultation, etc., are now starting to be charged for. There is a new concept of agri-clinic emerging, meant to provide timely advisory services to farmers in respect of both crop production and marketing aspects on payment. Since these agri-clinics operate at the grassroots level, farmers’ specific problems can be tackled.
Milk handlers lax on hygiene
Milk is regarded as a remarkable combination of food elements. It represents the perfect single food more than most other natural foods. However, it becomes harmful if it is not produced and handled under strict sanitary conditions. Due to the callousness or ignorance of dairymen, germs, drug-residues, dyes and pesticides in milk render it a health hazard. If certain practices are followed strictly and lapses looked into, most problems can be avoided.
Diseased animals and handlers
Milk can also be contaminated with germs of the diseases from which the animals may be suffering, like tuberculosis, foot and mouth, mastitis, brucellosis, etc. Similarly, persons suffering from infectious diseases handling the milk may also give germs to the milk.
Drug and dye residues
Drugs are at times used indiscriminately by dairymen as well as veterinary staff for the treatment of sick animals. Milk containing residues of most commonly used antibiotics, steroids, hormones and de-worming medicines is not fit for consumption. It is fit for consumption only after the "milk discarding time" specified for each drug. Toxic dyes contained in polythene bags lying on garbage when ingested by cows can also contaminate the milk. It is also reported that pesticide contamination of milk is not only excessive but widely spread all over the country.
During the operation of milking, dung sticking to the udders and flanks may get detached and fall into the milk. This is most undesirable as dung carries a large number of bacteria with it. Due to lack of proper space for each animal in a shed, the skin of the udder and hindquarters is liable to be soiled when the animals lie down. The laxity in keeping the sheds free from dung is the reason for this avoidable contamination. If milking is done immediately after the cleaning of the sheds and the animals, the germs present in the air atmosphere can find way to the milk. Also, the hands of the milkers and udders of the cows are usually not dry at milking, again resulting in contamination of milk. Vets should give demonstration on how to clean, dry and disinfect the udder and hindquarters before and after milking. Milkers have also to keep themselves and their clothes clean. Sheds should be kept free of flies using suitable sprays.
Cleaning and sterilisation of dairy utensils to render them germ free is often left to low-paid and uneducated workers unaware of the concept of hygiene. As such, small quantities of milky water left in the cans are sufficient for germ growth. The standard procedure for cleaning utensils should be demonstrated to dairymen by competent persons of the dairy development departments.
Milk in transit
The faulty construction of containers for carrying milk to the doorsteps of the consumers also contributes to the contamination of milk. Containers with fixed lids should be used rather than containers with removable lids as at every point of delivery the lid comes in contact with dirty surfaces. During transit, if milk is not kept at the required low temperatures and is exposed to high temperatures as in summer, multiplication of the already present germs occurs. Dairymen need to be educated on the ideal temperatures for milk. Flies, dust and other atmospheric contamination at every stage of milk handling contribute to the degradation of milk. Flies are the worst offenders because they leave germs and filth on everything they touch.
No matter how many norms and practices are demonstrated to dairymen, these cannot cover all the exigencies that may arise. It is essential that those engaged in the profession of dairy have a keen sense of the responsibilities of their job. In the joint camps held by the Dairy Development and Animal Husbandry Departments dairymen need to be told in simple language the approved dairy practices through lectures, demonstrations and video films.
Siris is a large, broad-leaved deciduous tree of the Asian continent. Its scientific name is Albizzia lebbek and the family Leguminosae-mimoseae. This species also has five siblings, quite akin to one another. They are a light-demanding species and make good shady avenue trees.
Siris is also known by a number of other regional names like sirinh in north-Indian dialects, sirsul in Malayalam, mirith is Assamese, surisha in Bangla, pilo sarcio in Gujarati, etc.
Field characteristics: Siris has dark grey bark with irregular fissures. New leaves appear during March-April. These are compound. The primary rachis, nearly 12-15 cm long, has two large oblong glands near the base and one or more smaller ones between the upper and lower pinnae. The pinnae are in bunches of 2 to 6, 10-15 cm in length. The greenish white flowers appear during April-May. The fruit, 20-30 cm-long and 3-4 cm-wide flat pods, appears during July-August and ripens by October-November, but stays on the tree for quite some time.
The tree puts on fast growth, depending upon site conditions. It attains maturity in about 40-50 years, when the overall height is 15-20 m and the diameter 30-40 cm at breast height. It can have an 8-10m-wide shady crown.
Distribution: Siris is a very common tree of topical and subtropical climate that has hot summers but mild winters. In the sub-Himalayan belt it can tolerate frost to an extent. All areas from seacoast to the Shivaliks and outer Himalayas, up to 1500m, experiencing temperatures between -5`B0 to 50`B0 C and annual rainfall between 60 and 250 cm, is suitable. The species is thus found growing wild as also cultivated, especially in tea gardens, all over Asia.
Utility: The foliage of siris is good fodder and its branches provide good firewood. Mature wood, consisting of deep-grey heartwood, weighing 25-30 kg per cft, is excellent timber for agricultural implements, construction, furniture, cabinets, oil pressing rollers, bus and rail coaches, etc. The bark is a good tanning and dyeing agent and detergent.
Medicinal value: Oriental medicine has several uses for different parts of siris. While seeds are used for treating piles and diarrhoea, the flowers are used for controlling boils, swelling, and eruptions and as antidote against insect bites. The powder of the bark is used for treating ulcers and insect bite wounds. The oil from the seeds is good for treating leucoderma. The gum is mixed with Arabic gum for preparation of nutritious food and aphrodisiacs.
Regeneration: Siris regenerates itself very well from seed. For large-scale cultivation, however, the seed is collected during December-January, stored till June, soaked in warm water for 24 hours during pre-monsoon days and sown either directly in prepared land and or in nursery beds. Nursery plants that are 12-15 months old are fit for transplantation. State forest departments provide nursery plants to interested planters at a Re 1 per plant, but against prior requisition.