By SANJAY KHAJURIA
PUNJAB: Acknowledging dairy farming as one of the substantial contributing factors to rural development, Nestle India has been working with local dairy farmers since 1961. This successful long term relationship is based upon the foundation of trust that the Company has built with farmers. While engaging with rural communities, it recognized that village women are the primary caretakers of cattle and play a significant role in dairy farming. As a result Village Woman Dairy Development Programme – an initiative focusing on empowering village women engaged in dairy farming was launched in Punjab. It was subsequently introduced in Haryana and Rajasthan as well.
Cattle-rearing has often been considered as an extension or diversification of agricultural activities for a farmer’s family. Generating additional revenues, it is often the case that the womenfolk of the family undertake this job. This is in addition to the regular household chores. Capitalizing on this opportunity, Nestle India initiated the programme helping rural women to become self-reliant and self-employed.
Collection of dairy milk, 60000 beneficiaries
The potential of the village womenfolk has been converted through appropriate intervention. Their efforts have been channelized to develop a self-sustained economy. Today, Nestlé works with around 100,000 milk farmers collecting about 300 million kilograms of quality milk every year. It touches over 30 districts in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan Nestlé sources from over 2000 milk collection centers. Till date Nestlé has close to 60000 beneficiaries of Village Women Dairy Development Programme.
Continuing to work with small farmers to make dairying a sustainable business opportunity for them, Nestlé India initiated innovative ways of helping farmers transition to larger farms with more cattle, improved genetics, modern facilities, mechanization and transfer of knowledge and technology for better feed and upkeep of animals.
The effort is to improve the economics of the dairy business and improve productivity for the farmers. Priestliness-services team, including agronomists and veterinarians, engage people at the farm level to provide training and technical assistance to farmers to improve quality and productivity of milk while developing sustainable farming practice at the same time.
Education programme for women
The company has developed an education programme especially for women dairy farmers. The objective of the programme is to empower women dairy farmers to produce clean milk and increase milk production. Nestle is educating village women dairy farmers through an all women training team on Good dairy practices including good feeding and breeding practices, animal care and treatment, sustainable agricultural practices.
Some of the key progress made entails milk sourcing from healthy cattle avoiding antibiotics in milk. By supplying milk to Nestle, farmers are benefited in collection centers purchase the entire quantity of milk, however big or small, a farmer has to sell, as long as it meets quality standards, farmers are paid monthly, this ensures regular income which they cannot get from seasonal crops. There is continuous demand for milk throughout the year, making it a sustainable occupation and they are assured of a long term relationship and fair prices.
One of the beneficiaries of the Nastle dairy project Kuldeep Kaur, village-Talwandi Bharo, Jalandhar says,
“As I work in my farm, I can give time to my kids and household work. I run a micro finance self-help group program for women and greatly acknowledge the help and guidance that I receive from Nestlé’s VWDD team.”
“I am also involved in an awareness programme on AIDS and actively participate in educating the poor. I am a recipient of awards from the Jalandhar District Administration, Civil Surgeon of Jalandhar and from the Mother Teresa Foundation.” she added.
She said that the Nestlé Agriservices team has been conducting the Village Women Dairy Development programme in our village since 2008 and they provide us with facilities for cattle care. It is through the programme that I learnt about the importance of de-worming, regular health check-up of animals and good quality feed. Now I save at least one fortnightly payment on treatment for my cows. It feels nice to contribute to my household and look after my kids.
Kuldeep story reverberates how village women are coming out winners exemplifying business acumen and financial empowerment representing growth and prosperity in rural India.
The programme has positively impacted lives of women dairy farmers and enhanced their understanding on how to adopt sustainable dairy farming practices. Farmer training and education has been a key focus area. Farmers are routinely brought for factory visits to educate them regarding the milk cold chain process, thereby sensitizing them to good quality practices in milk production.
The company has aims further plans to work with farmers. They are being educated regarding good quality cattle feed and good quality fodder seeds. Nestlé supports farmers with subsidized milking machines and supports the optimal use of various costly inputs like seed, fertilizer, pesticides and water, which, can be ensured through modern farm machinery. The Company is interested to bring breed improvement support includes providing good quality bulls, imported Semen and Artificial Insemination (A.I.) services. Nestle is aiming for worldwide competence to the doorstep of the dairy farmer through its extension services consisting of over 45 qualified field officers.
Veterinary camps are being organized for village communities, with services and medicines being provided at subsidized rates. Farmers are taught about animal health care and farming practices in an effort to increase awareness. Veterinary officers make farm visits to individual farmers in order to provide services.
The company is encouraging and helping farmers to adopt technologies like Bio-gas. The conversion of farm manure into bio-gas and its use on the farms and domestic homes helps farmers in contributing to their energy needs, reducing fuel and electricity consumption substantially. Farmers are taught silage making which involves the preserving of nutrients through anaerobic decomposition of selected fodder crops like maize, pearl millet, sorghum, oats. Benefits for the farmer include availability of good quality fodder throughout year.
Nestlé do encourages farmers to make Vermi-compost from farm manure. This enriched fertilizer saves cost of the fertilizer for the farmer and is also a good environment practice. Dairying at the household level has now become a domain of women. The products and income from dairying is being controlled by women as they practice dairy farming on a small scale. Nestlé is playing an integral role for village women empowerment and economic well-being, providing them access to training in modern dairying and cooperative management.
( Author Sanjay Khajuria is the Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Nestlé India Ltd.)
(India CSR News Network)