Knowledge to action: Enhancing traditional dairy value chains in Assam, India

The aim of this project is to create both demand for locally-produced, quality milk in Assam and capacity to supply it. This will be done through out-scaling of capacity-building methods and tools, and through up-scaling of policy processes of proven success in East Africa.

These knowledge and policy inputs will help fill gaps identified in a recent comprehensive study carried out by ILRI and partners, where organized marketing of milk in Assam was found to be relatively insignificant and traditional (or informal) markets for fresh liquid milk and dairy products account for most of the market opportunities for farmers. Milk and milk products are consumed by most households, both rich and poor, and consumption is increasing; milk sales are an important livelihood strategy for rural households most of which are poor, and 82% of which keep cattle. Milk processing and trading provide a livelihood for large numbers of vendors and processors. Hence, enhancement of the traditional milk value chain can simultaneously improve the welfare of large numbers of poor farmers, intermediaries in the milk chain and consumers. Women have the major role in care of cattle and in making household decisions about purchase and consumption of dairy products; they will be the major beneficiaries of interventions at the start and end of the milk value chain.

The study found that most urban consumers are not satisfied with milk quality and safety, while most producers and milk chain intermediaries are unaware of hygienic milk handling. The high costs of informality and poor linkages between actors further constrain dairy development. Moreover, given increased consumer demand for safer milk combined with potential regulations in the horizon aimed at mandating safety standards, informal sector participants’ livelihoods in the dairy sector are under increased threat.

Expected impact
It is anticipated that enhancing dairy quality and capability of supplying milk, while simultaneously improving linkages and decreasing transaction costs, will lead to a demand-driven production system which will further stimulate investment in production technologies (e.g. artificial insemination, feeding, credit and veterinary services) that are available but under-utilized. The initiative aims to overcome the above knowledge, policy and institutional barriers to improving the traditional milk marketing in Assam through two inter-linked strategies clustered around knowledge management (out-scaling) and policy engagement (up-scaling).

The improvement is expected to result in significant livelihood benefits to those engaged in the value chain as more consumers purchase larger quantities of safer and higher quality milk, and farmers and traders see both their markets increase, costs decrease and losses from milk spoilage and wastage go down.

Expected outputs
Out-scaling: Knowledge management and dissemination outputs
Output 1: Training materials and tools from East Africa adapted to the Assamese context
Output 2: A majority of milk value chain actors have improved skills and incentives for the practice of skills
Output 3: Increased consumer demand for and confidence in milk quality and safety

Up-scaling knowledge to action: Processes, policy and stakeholder engagement outputs
Output 4: Evidence on impact and cost-effectiveness in order to promote continued and extended adoption
Output 5: Attitudes, behaviour and institutions shifted toward pro-poor dairying

Department of Dairy Development, Government of Assam
College of Veterinary Sciences, Assam Agricultural University
Centre for Humanistic Development
Fellowship for Agri Resource Management and Entrepreneurship Research (FARMER) – a local NGO
Brihattar Guwahati Gopalak Sangstha (BGGS) – a dairy producers’ and traders’ association
Catalyst Management Services – a national-level NGO
BASICS Limited – a national-level NGO