Moo to You Too: A Day at a Bangladesh Cow Fair

cow fair

A single mother and her daughter receive a cow at a livestock fair in rural Bangladesh. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

I don’t know a lot about cows, or any livestock for that matter. Working for Catholic Relief Services and visiting the rural people we serve has been an ongoing education for me.

A few weeks ago in Bangladesh, cyclone survivors who have been working to rebuild their lives lined up, vouchers in hand, for a cow fair. The small female cows (would that be heifers?) patiently chewed straw while the beneficiaries talked excitedly about their plans.

“Today I am looking for a red cow. During Cyclone Sidr, my red cow died,” said Parul Begum, a 58-year-old grandmother in a black burqa. “The wind and waves took everything. My house was completely gone. I’ve never seen such a thing in my life.”

During the storm, Parul struggled through chin-high water to get to a police station that was on high ground. “I thought I was going to die.”

Like everyone in her village of Mahipur, Parul and her family had to start over with nothing. In this poor coastal area, villagers already lacked food, health care, and education. Now many of them were homeless and had lost their livelihoods. Livestock, rickshaws, fishing boats, and tools were swept away by powerful tidal surges.

With funding from USAID and support from CRS, Caritas Bangladesh is giving people the things they need to earn a living. Project Somriddhi (“self-sufficiency”) gives villagers choices about which items to pick, from cows to sewing machines. Almost 6,000 have chosen and received cows so far; over a thousand have picked things like barber shop materials, bicycle carts, or fishing nets. The program has also taught people how to save these items during future floods and cyclones.

At the livestock fair, I talked with Caritas staff about cow care. You have to wash a cow frequently, it turns out, or it can get disease. Why I thought cows were self-cleaning I will never know. And there are certain types of locally-available fodder that Caritas recommends to beneficiaries; contrary to my vague ideas, just eating the dry rice stubble in the fields isn’t enough.

I learned that the cow’s height matters; Caritas staff measured each one carefully and checked its teeth. As a cosmetic issue, color matters too. “My favorite colors are red and black,” said Parul. “And white cows get dirty.”

The cows are a dream come true for many villagers, an asset that will lead to a steady source of food or income in years to come. “The cow will have a baby in the future, so we can drink the milk,” said Parul happily.

OK, that I knew.

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One Response to “Moo to You Too: A Day at a Bangladesh Cow Fair”

  1. Snigdha Says:

    Very interesting! I never knew that Moo is what cow says – I will always think it is hamva all world:) pl continue more on cows:)

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