Yumnam Premila Devi did not have any source of income. She struggled to meet her daily household expenditure. It was then that she heard about the Youth Volunteer Union’s (YVU) dairy development initiative. YVU is one of the most development-oriented NGOs in Manipur, which has implemented different ground initiatives for the last four decades. Under the aegis of the Tata Trusts projects, YVU began dairy development activities in 2007-08, dedicating it to mobilising the community and introducing dairy as a means of livelihood. As the farmers began showing increased interest, it was deemed necessary to establish a dairy plant to strengthen procurement activities. The plant, the construction of which began in October 2012, was inaugurated in January 2014, with an installed capacity of 2,000 litres of milk per day.
When Premila approached YVU, they gave her financial assistance from the revolving grant set up by the Tata Trusts and from a microfinance company, which helped her buy her first cow in order to set up a dairy unit at home. The milk production averaged 10-12 litres per day. This helped Premila and her husband to repay the loan in 18 months. Soon, they managed to save enough to buy a second cow; with the increase in production, Premila is able to supply 20 litres of milk to the YVU dairy plant very day, generating a daily income of Rs600. She is just one of the many beneficiaries of the Manipur Dairy Initiative.
YVU’s dairy plant is registered as a ‘Producer Company’ which trains farmers to form organisations in the form of self-help groups (SHGs). Ten SHGs of 10 members each were formed, and provided with a revolving grant for the purchase of cattle. In the initial months, YVU got 500 litres of milk a day; now, the average supply is 4,500 litres a day. In the first three months of operation, the YVU plant earned a net income of Rs2,23,505. By February 2015, net income was Rs34,14,027; this shows the profitability and sustainability of the milk processing plant. The plant also provides sustainable recurring income to the 230 dairy farmers, who availed of the revolving grant under the project, and 217 other dairy farmers (who are not part of the grant) who also supply milk to the plant. Each farmer’s annual income averages Rs1,00,000 from only the sale of milk to the YVU plant. Farmers could also use the dung as fuel for cooking, manure for both kitchen gardens and paddy fields.
The aim of this dairy initiative is to ensure sustainable income, and to thus reduce vulnerability to debt, and provide employment to the unemployed youth in the state. Farmers who have engaged in dairy farming are now sustaining themselves with the regular income and living a debt-free life. Women members are using their income to provide for their children’s education. It has also enhanced their standing in the community, increased their participation in village activities and association with government agencies, banks and finance companies. Premila is a shining example of the success of this initiative amongst the village women.
YVU’s success story was broadcast by Doordarshan (the state-owned television channel), Imphal. The 30-minute short film highlighted the activities of the daily project including the activities of the plant. Another film on the plant and the dairy initiative was broadcast by Doordarshan’s North Eastern Regional Channel, Guwahati. Further, a two-and-half-minute clip on the project was telecast on the international channel, Asian News International.