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An approach for shortlisting ethnoveterinary practices

D Kumar

Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute, Avikanagar, Rajasthan, India-304 501
(Present and Correspondence address:
NBAGR, Karnal. P.O. Box 129, Haryana, India-132 001)



These days several countries in the developing world started studying ethnoveterinary practices and utilize the acceptable ones in the animal health services. The allopathic practioners are a little bit cautious in adopting these time-tested practices with some reservations that these were not scientifically validated. For the purpose of scientific evaluation, an approach for shortlisting voluminous ethnoveterinary practices has been formulated. Based on two parameters -the scientific relevance score, and percent of traditional farmers using the ethnoveterinary practice- "Shortlisting Grid" has been suggested.

Key Words: Ethnoveterinary practices, farmer, scientific relevance score, shortlisting grid


Ethnoveterinary medicines are used extensively, and quite effectively for primary health care treatment and maintaining animals productive. The knowledge is passed on verbally from generation to generation. Over centuries people have developed their own ways of keeping animals healthy and productive using age-old home remedies, surgical and manipulative techniques, husbandry strategies and associated magico-religious practices. Taken together these constitute what is now known as Ethnoveterinary Medicine (McCorkle 1995). Cost, inaccessibility and other problems like side effects associated with the conventional western animal health care system have encouraged constant dependence on such traditional rural wisdom in this field. Ethnoveterinary practices are often cheap, safe, time tested and based on local resources and strengths. These can provide useful alternatives to conventional animal health care (Kumar 2002). General observations and studies show that the farmers are using several ethnoveterinary practices for curing various diseases. Some of these have enough potential to cure the diseases while others are based on superstitions and mythological religious faiths or there is hardly any basis to be considered as effective treatments. Moreover, there is a mixture of these practices in bulk with the traditional farmers. Studies in rural areas show that most technical persons are aware of traditional knowledge systems but don't use them because these are not properly validated. The task of scientific evaluation and validation becomes tedious under voluminous presence of the practices available with the farmers in the field. The author (Kumar 2000) made a study on identification and documentation of ethnoveterinary practices used by sheep farmers in Rajasthan state of India. In a random sample of 150 sheep rearers of three districts, 182 ethnoveterinary practices used against 17 disease conditions were found. Understanding of the mechanisms underlying such practices as well as to institutionalize their extension to other non-practicing farmers requires systematic explorations. For the purpose of scientific evaluation, modification and optimization of these traditional practices, there is a strong need to develop an approach, which can effectively shortlist the voluminous practices saving the time, energy and resources.


In shortlisting various ethnoveterinary practices, the first step is the identification of the existing practices among the farmers, local healers and other stakeholders. There are various methods employed by researchers for identifying ethnoveterinary practices. These methods are adopted to suit the needs of the particular aspect of research being undertaken. Generally the information is recorded on the basis of observations and interviews. Participatory Research Appraisal (PRA) technique is an important tool for identification of ethnoveterinary practices used by the traditional farmers.

Once the ethnoveterinary practices are identified, using the two parameters; the percentage of the farmers practicing an ethnoveterinary practices; and the scientific relevance score associated with the ethnoveterinary practices; the shortlisting of potential ones can be done.

The percentage of the farmers practicing an ethnoveterinary practice could be easily calculated from the total number of respondents. For the purpose of assessing scientific relevance score, 25-30 scientists / practitioners / extension workers (preferably botanist, biochemist, pharmacologist and veterinarians) who are either involved in the ethnoveterinary practices at field level or have a reasonable experience in this field may be selected. In order to assess scientific relevance of the ethnoveterinary practices, opinion on the possible relevance of these practices is sought on a three point continuum of 'relevant'; 'partially relevant' and irrelevant' with a score of 2, 1 and 0 respectively. Based on this assessment, the scientific relevance score for each practice can be estimated using the index as below:


Intuitively, the practice with high scientific relevance score (more than 0.5) and high percentage of farmers practicing it seems to be quite relevant to be shortlisted. However, to be more objective, one can plot the two variables in the form of 'Shortlisting Grid'.

Plotting the scientific relevance score on the horizontal axis and the percentage of the farmers practicing the ethnoveterinary practice on vertical axis and dividing both the axes in nine equal parts the shortlisting grid with eighty-one combinations can be drawn (Figure 1). To be economical both in terms of time and resources, broadly following five combinations may be considered:

(1,1)= low percentage of farmers practicing the ethnoveterinary practice and low value of scientific relevance score associated with the practice.
(9,1)= low percentage of farmers practicing the ethnoveterinary practice and high value of the scientific relevance score associated with the practice.
(1,9)= high percentage of farmers practicing the ethnoveterinary practice and low value of the scientific relevance score associated with the practice.
(5,5)= Comfortable value of both the scientific relevance score and percent of farmers practicing the ethnoveterinary practice i.e. middle of the path.
(9,9)= high percentage of farmers practicing the ethnoveterinary practice and high value of the scientific relevance score associated with the practice.

A careful examination of the Shortlisting Grid indicates that the ethnoveterinary practices falling in the grid (9,9) are suitable criteria for the purpose of shortlisting. Based on the procedure described the practices falling in the grid (9,9) should be shortlisted at the first instance for the purpose of testing, modification and finally communicating to the farmers. Further, practices falling in the grid (5,5) can be considered, though the practices falling in the grids (1,1), (1,9) and (9,1) find little reasonable basis for shortlisting on this index.

Figure 1.  Shortlisting Grid

Nevertheless (1,9) and (9,1) are the areas where two variables taken are contradictory to each other. In most of the cases, the practices falling in these two grids can be rejected. However, in some cases it needs careful screening. The practices falling in (1,9) grid are those, which are practiced by majority of the farmers, but scientific relevance scores associated are quite low. The probable reasons for this could be- one, the factors influencing the values of percentage of respondents could be superstitious and blindly following a practice even if it yields no results, possibly due to blissful ignorance and orthodox pressures. Secondly, limitation of scientific relevance score-purely opinion based, and liable to influences from varying individual aptitudes. The scientific opinions can be grossly wrong in some cases where due to lack of knowledge of the exact nature of ingredients constituting the natural product remedies and their uptake, absorption and metabolism inside the body. Nevertheless, in these practices i.e. the practices falling in (1,9) grid, observations of practitioners should also be given due weightage until these are rejected under laboratory testing conditions. Likewise, the (9,1) grid depicting reasonable scientific basis finds low adoption among farmers. The various reasons for low adoption among these practitioners may be non-availability of medicinal plants, non-awareness, slow curing effect, inconvenience of preparation and use of herbs etc.



Kumar D 2000 Ethnoveterinary practices in sheep. Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute, Avikanagar, Rajasthan - 304 501, India.

Kumar D 2002 The use and relevance of ethnoveterinary practices in sheep. Indian Journal of Small Ruminants 8(2), 124-128.

McCorkle C M 1995 Back to the future: Lessons from ethnoveterinary RD&E for studying and applying local knowledge. Agriculture and Human Values 12(2), 52-80.

Received 17 September 2005; Accepted 2 March 2006; Published 11 May 2006

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