In the village of Sarfali, located in the Babhulgaon taluka of Maharashtra, farming is the primary occupation. About 3-4 families were engaged in dairy activities, but they found it difficult to make ends meet from their surplus milk as Sarfali did not have a dairy centre. The dairy farmers had to travel all the way to Babhulgaon to sell their milk, which was both expensive and time-consuming.
Initiative for milk producers
Things changed in 2018. To support and incentivise families in dairy activities, Tata Trusts set up the Indujaa Women’s Milk Producer Company on 11 July 2018 in Yavatmal district under its Tata Dairy Mission and Sukhi Baliraja Initiative . The initiative was launched in 2008 to alleviate the distress of famers in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
The Tata Dairy Mission had been established to support dairy activities as a means of supplementing rural incomes for dairy farmers. As part of the programme, over 100 villages in Maharashtra were to be provided with the support they needed to enhance milk production. For this, a cadre of 50 Community Resource Persons (CRP) were extensively trained in all aspects of the dairy business—increasing productivity, cattle feed, shed management, etc. These CRPs would then visit each village to educate the milk farmers about various aspects of the dairy business. The CRPs also discussed proper methods of cattle rearing and methods to increase milk production.
Sarfali in Yavatmal District was one of the project villages under the Tata Dairy Mission progamme. In October 2018 at a community meeting, the residents of Sarfali gathered to learn about collective milk production and how it could benefit them as a long-term sustainable source of income. The community was made aware of the concept and working of a Milk Producer Company (MPC). The meeting was a success and a week later, a milk collection centre was set up in Sarfali.
From two buffaloes to a family-run business
When Jivan Khewale, a CRP with Tata Dairy Mission, visited Sarfali, he met Chitra Mahindra Velukar, a dairy entrepreneur who was also an early adopter. He spoke to her about Indujaa Mahila Producer Company.
Chitra became a member but was only able to provide 3 – 4 litres of milk to the collection centre, despite owning two buffaloes. Mr Khewale thought Chitra would benefit from some intervention. He believed that with the right knowledge, she could easily increase the milk yield, as well as her earning capacity. Chitra was made aware of cattle feed and mineral mixtures, which she could source from the MPC for an affordable price. He also informed Chitra about shed management practices, medical treatment and vaccines, which were some of the best practices in dairying.
Soon, Chitra was able to provide 5 – 7 litres of milk every day to the collection centre, which significantly increased her income. On realising the potential of Chitra’s dairy business, her husband, an auto rickshaw driver, decided to get more involved in managing the cattle shed. The next step they took, with the guidance of Mr Khewale, was to artificially inseminate their buffaloes. This helped to improve the breed, leading to an increase in both quality and quantity of milk.
Over time, the Velukars have added more animals to their herd. They now have 15 buffaloes, from which they get 40 litres of milk every day, which they pour at the collection centre. Thanks to the Indujaa Mahila MPC, the Velukar family now earns Rs. 35,000 – 40,000 per month just from their dairy business. "We now plan to expand our business and build a new shed too,” says a happy Chitra. She also shares the knowledge she has gained and encourages other women milk producers to take up dairy as a business.
The Indujaa Mahila MPC won the NDDB Award for Prompting Digital Payments in November 2020 and the Best Small Sized Company by the Agriculture Today Group in January 2021.
Today the MPC includes 10,546 milk producer members and has generated a total turnover of Rs. 87.69 crores (till March 2022).
About Tata Dairy Mission:
Tata Trusts established the Tata Dairy Mission in partnership with Dairy Health and Nutrition Initiative India Foundation (DHANII) which has been set up as a Section-8 company. This project aims to enhance the incomes of milk producers in a sustainable manner, by building their capacity vis-à-vis milk production, animal health, breed improvement and animal nutrition.
DHANII works to improve the livelihoods of milk producers by linking them to the market through milk producer companies (MPCs) that are equipped with the latest technology, infrastructure and assured market linkages. This will help ensure fair prices for milk and milk products. With technical support from NDDB Dairy Services (NDS), DHANII has supported the establishment of five MPCs – Sakhi Mahila MPC (Alwar, Rajasthan); Asha Mahila MPC (Pali, Rajasthan); Shwetdhara Mahila MPC (Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh); Ruhaanii MPC (Mansa, Punjab); and Indujaa Mahila MPC (Yavatmal, Maharashtra).
Read more about Tata Dairy Mission here.