Yogyakarta. The government has started to purchase livestock from residents forced to evacuate from the slopes of the erupting Mount Merapi.
Mujilan, a resident of Hargobinangun village, in the Pakem subdistrict of Sleman in Yogyakarta, on Thursday became the first cattle owner to sell his cows to the government.
“Under normal conditions, the price of a cow could reach Rp 12 million [$1,350] per head. However, with there being a disaster, I was willing to sell the cows at Rp 10 million per head,” he said.
According to Mujilan, it was better to sell than risk his life looking for grass to feed his cattle.
The scheme is part of the government’s effort to help victims of the Merapi eruption while at the same time dissuading the evacuees from returning to the danger zone to tend to their cattle.
Keeping cattle for their milk and meat is one of the primary livelihoods in the area, particularly on the southern slopes of the mountain, which began to erupt on Oct 26.
Over 330,000 people have been evacuated from Sleman and the Central Java districts of Magelang, Boyolali and Klaten.
“Now I feel relieved and I can use the money from the sale of our cattle to survive,” he said.
Mujilan said he hoped he would still have some money remaining by the time the situation returned to normal so he could buy cattle again.
Suswono, the agriculture minister, said the government was opening 54 locations across Sleman district where cattle could be sold to the government.
“On the first day in Tlogoadi, we have bought 45 cattle, made up of 26 dairy cows, 10 non-dairy cows, and 9 calves. I hope the villagers will sell their livestock even though I know that some of them will choose to continue caring for the cows as a source of income. We are not forcing them [to sell their cattle],” he said.
According to the minister, there were 84,691 head of cattle within a radius of 20 kilometers from Merapi’s summit before the eruption. Of these, 10,231 had since been evacuated to 181 shelters, and 2,121 cattle had died.
“We have received 3,807 requests from refugees to buy their cows,” Suswono said.
He said the government had earmarked Rp 100 billion for the “cash for cows” scheme and fixed the price for each head of cattle at between Rp 5 million and Rp 10 million, depending on age and type.
Calves fetch the lowest price of Rp 5 million each, while oxen and non-dairy cows were bought for Rp 22,000 and Rp 20,000 per kilogram respectively.
Dairy cows are bought for Rp 10 million, while pregnant cows sell for Rp 9 million.
Suswono said the cows purchased from the villagers would be put out to pasture outside the 20-kilometer danger zone.
He said that villagers were also free to sell their cattle to private parties.