In the hills of Uttarakhand climate change is leading to reduced water from snow-melt being availability for irrigation and more extreme weather events. This is making crop production difficult and some crop land is being abandoned. Men are migrating to find work and many of the women remaining in the villages would like to earn an income from milk production.
The International Livestock Research Institute has adopted an innovation platform approach as a route to dairy development in the hills of Uttarakhand. Innovation platforms are a way to bring together different stakeholders to identify solutions to common problems or to achieve a common goal. They ensure that different interests are taken into account, and that various groups contribute to finding solutions. Used by the private sector for many years to gather information and improve networking among key stakeholders in a particular economic sector, they caught the attention of development agencies at the end of the 1980s. They are now increasingly common in research and development initiatives.
This case study illustrates how the Innovation Platform (IP) approach is being used by the project “Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches” (MilkIT), which is being funded by a grant from IFAD. In Uttarakhand the project is working in two districts, with two village clusters – each of four to six villages – in each district. Initial meetings of the innovation platforms in each cluster identified the following main constraints and issues where interventions are needed:
- Lack of market access and high transaction costs
- Distance to road/ lack of accessibility to road
- Low price for milk from Aanchal, the state dairy co-operative
- Wastage of fodder (estimated at 20-30%) through inefficient feeding systems
- Shortage of green fodder in several specific periods
- Poor availability and high cost of concentrate feed
Jeganath women’s dairy cooperative was formed in February 2013 by female members of a self-help-group (SHG) associated with the Bageshwar dairy value chain IP. Their aim was to sell their surplus milk at a higher price than that being offered by Aanchal, the state dairy cooperative. Milk is now being collected from 7 villages and sold in the nearby town of Bageshwar directly to consumers through a rented shop, and to tea shops. As a result farmers are receiving a price which is 20% higher than for the previous marketing system. Initially, only 35 farmers were participating with 40 litres of milk per day but soon this reached 120 litres from 105 farmers. Each woman is earning Rs600 to Rs4,000 per month and eight members have been employed along the value chain for collection, transport and marketing of the milk, providing each with an income of Rs1,000-7000/month.
The new attractive market for milk has motivated farmers and encouraged them to replace their local cows with higher-yielding cross-bred animals. Dairy is now considered as an important means of income generation and is reducing the migration of some younger people. The initial capital investment for the purchase of equipment (chillers, cans, milk analyser) was supported by a grant and a loan from the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP), which is being supported by an IFAD loan. The dairy cooperative is now being operated independently by its members, and earned a profit of Rs60,000 over the period of 16 months.
The IP as a platform for the convergence of support. IP members include the National Agricultural Bank for Rural Development (NABARD), commercial banks and the local Animal Husbandry Department. These agencies are supporting farmers through credit and subsidy for the purchase of high yielding animals and for the renovation of cow sheds. NABARD has taken the decision at state level to scale up the IP approach in 3-4 more clusters of other districts in collaboration with ILSP. Krishi Vikas Kendras (KVKs), local research and development centres have provided technical support to farmers for the construction of feed troughs, shelters and for the purchase of grass seed.
Initially, it was difficult to attract private institutions to the IP meetings. However after a while private milk traders have taken the initiative to collect excess milk from these clusters at competitive prices in order to supply restaurants and sweet shops with milk. TARA, a private feed company, has also shown interest to enter into an agreement with women farmers for long term supply of concentrate feed at competitive rates. A private agricultural equipment supplier from Haldwani, the local commercial hub, has agreed to supply Mounted Scythe Chaff Cutters (Gujarat model), which are in demand among the farmers for chopping fodder, but are less expensive and labour demanding than standard models found in the plains.
Improved feeding practices can be observed among the farmers participating in IP meetings. These include the construction of feed troughs and the use of chaff cutters to reduce fodder wastage. This helps to decrease the labour needed for collection of fodder from hilly areas and reduces the feed constraint. Feeding of concentrate feed to increase milk yield, cultivation of high yielding dual purpose cereals and planting fodder crops have also emerged as solutions to the constraints in feed supply. Loans from ILSP have been used to purchase concentrate feed directly from TARA.
Impacts: improved livelihoods are becoming apparent as the result of the interventions. Income from dairy production is managed mainly by women and used for household expenses, to pay school fees and to buy inputs. Some households have invested in crossbred dairy animals as well other enterprises such as poultry or in a vehicle for hiring out. Community-based interventions through the IP approach have given people confidence that the dairy enterprise is profitable for women farmers in these hill areas.
This story was first published by IFAD India in its November 2014 newsletter.
It was written by Thannamal Ravichandran, Nils Teufel and Alan Duncan