Sosamma Iype, Saviour of the Vechur Cow
Sosamma Iype, retired Professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics from Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), has been honoured with the Padma Shri for her monumental contribution to the conservation of endangered cattle breeds in Kerala. Her arduous and often wearisome journey, which began with bringing back the Vechur cow from the threat of near extinction, never wavered off course.
Dr Sosamma Iype took her Ph.D degree from the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, Karnataka, and went on to head the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the KAU. Though officially retired, she is very active in the Vechur Conservation Trust. Although the Trust was registered in 1999, the first steps towards conservation began during the 1980s itself, with her efforts to save the Vechur cow from the verge of extinction.
Known as Vechur’s Amma, Sosamma Iype grew up seeing Vechur cows in Kuttanad, the reason for her unfaltering love for the breed that eventually initiated the Vechur Conservation project. Besides publishing several articles in research publications, she has written science articles in periodicals, and has now published a book that details the inspiring story of the rebirth of the Vechur cow. The book gives a glimpse of the heartening efforts of Sosamma Iype who dedicated her entire life to the noble cause of saving a breed from extinction.
The Significance of Dr Iype’s Conservation Work
Dr Sosamma Iype was a pioneer in the movement to conserve the Vechur breed in 1988. It was a voluntary undertaking by the professor and a group of eco-conscious students that led to the formation of the Vechur Conservation Trust, the first of its kind in India. The Save Vechur Campaign was a success, and it led to many other groups joining the mission to conserve the breed.
Thirty years ago, during the initial stages of conservation, there were only about 30 cows in Kerala. But now, there are more than 3,000 Vechur cows in the state. The measures to conserve the Vechur cow resulted in an increased awareness regarding the importance of the other indigenous breeds of Kerala. The model was also adopted by other states to focus on their indigenous cattle breeds.
The campaign spearheaded a series of projects aimed at the conservation and sustenance of endangered breeds in Kerala. Besides the conservation of biodiversity, these efforts were also a move against the industrialization of agriculture and cow rearing.
A Journey of Perseverance
The journey towards conserving an endangered breed in Kerala was never easy. Rather, it was gruelling in many ways. Dr Sosamma had to brave several controversies from the time of procuring the cows at the Agricultural University in Mannuthy, Thrissur. Despite all the challenges, the Vechur cow has now attained international fame as an indigenous Kerala breed. Due to the tireless efforts of Dr Sosamma Iype, the Vechur cow is recognized as the 30th cattle breed of India by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Thirty years of perseverance has now finally received the nation’s formal symbol of gratitude.