The achievements of women dairy farmers in contributing to India’s ‘White Revolution’ are perhaps the greatest cause for celebrating the Women’s History Month in March.
That this has happened despite around a majority of dairy farmers owning only small landholdings typically households with two to five cows is also a testament to the success of the dairy cooperatives models that were at the heart of Operation Flood.
The approach made it possible to enhance backward and forward linkages in the dairy value chain, paving the way for freeing small farmers from the clutches of middlemen, and guaranteed minimum procurement price for milk.
A study by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) indicates that 93% of women farmers who receive training alongside financial support succeed in their ventures, compared to the 57% success rate of those who receive financial aid alone.
Institutionalising such inputs, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) now organises farmer’s orientation programmes across the country, under which women farmers are trained in scientific best practices on animal health, fodder quality, clean milk production, and accounts management.
- Operation Flood, known as the ‘billion liter idea,’ as conceived by Dr Verghese Kurien is the world’s largest agricultural dairy development programme.
- It aimed at making the dairy farming India’s largest self-sustaining industry and the largest rural employment provider.
- Launched in 1970, Operation Flood gave dairy farmers autonomy over the milk production in the area.
- Over 700 towns and cities in India were linked by the National Milk Grid, bridging the gap between milk producers and consumer.
- Prior to the White revolution, the situation was different in India and the country was dependent on imports to meet its dairy-related needs.
- Milk production and distribution was concentrated in hands of few wealthy farmers and rural businessmen which resulted in cartelization and deprived the grassroot farmers and villagers to reap the economic benefits of milk production.
- The Anand pattern experiment at Amul, a cooperative dairy, was the pioneer behind the success of the program.
- This model was replicated nationwide with rigorous efforts by National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to give a boost to the co-operative sector in milk production.
About National Dairy Development Board (NDDB):
- The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was founded in 1965 to replace exploitation with empowerment, tradition with modernity, stagnation with growth, transforming dairying into an instrument for the development of India’s rural people.
- The National Dairy Development Board, initially registered as a society under the Societies Act 1860, was merged with the erstwhile Indian Dairy Corporation, a company formed and registered under the Companies Act 1956, by the NDDB Act 1987, with effect from 12 October, 1987.
- The new body corporate was also declared an institution of national importance by the Act.
- Since its inception, the Dairy Board has planned and spearheaded India’s dairy programmes by placing dairy development in the hands of milk producers and the professionals they employ to manage their cooperatives.
- According to latest data, there are more than 1,90,000 dairy cooperative societies across the country, with approximately 6 million women members.
- A study conducted on Women Dairy Cooperative Society (WDCS) members across Rajasthan showed that with the income generated through dairying, 31% of the women had converted their mud houses to cement structures, while 39% had constructed concrete sheds for their cattle.
- Importantly, women-led cooperatives also provide fertile ground for grooming women from rural areas for leadership positions.
- In many instances, this becomes the first step for women in breaking free from traditional practices.
Opportunities in dairy sector:
- The Indian dairy industry is expected to register 15 per cent compounded annual growth till 2020 and emerge as Rs 9.4-lakh crore industry.
- Dairy products are a major source of cheap and nutritious food to millions of people in India and the only acceptable source of animal protein for a large vegetarian segment of the Indian population.
- Increase in income and rising standard of living has led to growing demand for dairy products like butter, cheese, paneer, yoghurt, ice cream, etc.
- The growing demand for dairy products also raises the prospects for associated industries like milk processing, packaging, logistics, restaurants and eateries and exports.
- Dairy farming is a viable and profitable alternative to crop production in rain fed and drought areas which are a frequent feature in India owing to climate change.
- Organised dairies are likely to see spending of Rs 140-billion over the next three financial years according to credit rating agency CRISIL.
The dairy sector assumes significance on account two reasons:
It has to do with the socio-cultural affinity towards cows and dairy products in large parts of the country.
As an industry, it employs more than 70 million farmers. Recent years have seen the rise of women-led dairy unions and companies.
- The NDDB has played a proactive role in setting up women-led producer enterprises like Shreeja Mahila Milk Producer Company, which was started with 24 women and now has more than 90,000 members, with an annual turnover of approximately Rs.450 crore.
- Last year, Amul Dairy released a list of 10 women dairy farmers who became millionaires by selling milk to the company.
- For instance, Navalben Dalsangbhai Chaudhary from Vadgam earned almost ₹88 lakh by selling 2,21,595 kg of milk in 2019-20, and Malvi Kanuben from Dhanera earned about ₹74 lakh by selling 2,50,745 kg of milk.
- Another major challenge in this sector is information asymmetry among farmers.
- Statistics indicate that small and marginal farmers have access to only 50-70% of the resources that large and medium farmers have.
- The presence of collectives in the form of cooperatives and milk unions plays a significant role in enhancing the knowledge and bargaining power of women.
Innovation in organisational structures has also spurred consistent growth in this sector.
These testimonials of individual women dairy farmers are all the more remarkable for the fact that many of them have not had a formal education, but through the process of dairying and working with larger collectives, such as milk unions and cooperatives, they have mastered the nuances of finance and marketing.
In keeping with our ethos of ‘Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan’ the marriage of rural farming with the latest innovations in technology will usher in unprecedented transformation in our dairy industry.
Need of the hour is for us to identify ways in which we can enhance the return on investment for our farmers.