28 October, 2021

Ensuring a sustainable livelihood for milk producers

Women-led milk producer companies, supported by the Tata Trusts, give dairy farmers a new impetus

Mrs Yashoda Devi has added 6 more animals to her herd since her association with Shwetdhara in 2017
Mrs Yashoda Devi has added 6 more animals to her herd since her association with Shwetdhara in 2017
Mrs Yashoda Devi has added 6 more animals to her herd since her association with Shwetdhara in 2017
Mrs Yashoda Devi has added 6 more animals to her herd since her association with Shwetdhara in 2017

When Mrs Kiran Yadav’s husband who was working as a taxi driver in Mumbai, had to return home due to the Covid-induced lockdown, the couple had to think seriously about how to increase their income. Mrs Yadav, who lives in Binaika village, Patti block, Pratapgarh district, Uttar Pradesh, began by selling one litre of milk a day, for which she earned Rs33 from a private vendor. That wasn’t enough to run a household.

Similarly, Mrs Yashoda Devi, who hails from Rudrapur village, also situated in Pratapgarh district, was often disappointed because the milk she got from her two cows wouldn’t meet the government’s quality standards for safety and hence she was unable to get a good price for the milk.

Mrs Yadav and Mrs Yashoda Devi are among the several milk producers across the country who are either unable to meet government quality standards due to lack of adequate know-how or aren’t paid fairly by private vendors.

So, when the Shwetdhara Milk Producing Company (MPC) was established in Pratapgarh, the milk producers in the district breathed a sigh of relief.

For the people, by the people

Mr Rakesh Singh, who leads the Rural Upliftment portfolio of the Tata Trusts in Uttar Pradesh, shares, “The Tata Trusts set up the Shwetdhara Milk Producer Company, in April 2016 in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh. This MPC is a part of the larger Tata Dairy Mission (an initiative of Tata Trusts) which formed the Dairy Health and Nutrition Initiative India Foundation (DHANII), with technical support from NDDB Dairy Services (NDS). The project is aimed towards enhancing the incomes of milk producers in rural communities in a sustainable manner. This is achieved through the setting up of MPCs, which are run by the local village members.”

Shwetdhara MPC is run by ten board members, of which seven are producer women, two are expert directors, Mr Rakesh Singh, Tata Trusts and Mr BN Singh, NDS, and one is the chief executive officer, Mr Lakhvinder Singh. The members – from the directors to the village functionaries and most importantly, the milk producers/suppliers – are trained regularly. The trainings and workshops range from exposure visits to ‘Producer Awareness’ to ‘Dairy Management and Infertility training/ camps’, etc., and are aimed at capacity building, skill development and raising awareness in matters such as milk production, animal health, breed improvement and animal balanced nutrition.

Grassroots impact

On the process of milk collection to milk pourers getting paid, Mr Singh explains, “The milk producers bring milk daily to the milk pooling points (MPPs) in their respective villages. Each sample is tested by dairy-appointed helpers (Sahayak), and a slip mentioning the quality, quantity and the amount that is owed is handed over to each milk pourer. The payment is decided upon the quality of milk. Once the milk reaches the vendors, the requisite amount is credited directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. The payment cycle is every ten days on the 3rd, 13th and 23rd of every month.” He adds, that this transparent system ensures trust and accountability between the milk pourers, MPP and MPC.

Mrs Devi shares her experience about the ‘Ration balancing programme’ and the ‘Clean milk production programme’ training that she undertook, “I got the know-how of how to enhance the fat and solids-not-fat (SNF) content in the milk. Since then, I have been able to add 6 more animals to my herd and now earn Rs16,000-18,000 per month, while earlier I used to earn Rs2,500 per month.”

Mrs Yadav, too, saw a marked improvement post her association with the company. She is now earning Rs 46 a litre, increasing her income by more than 30 per cent. She began saving Rs600 every month and has now added a buffalo to her herd. After attending the ‘Dairy Management Training of animals’ workshop organised by the Shwetdhara team, Mrs Yadav, shares, “I began selling 9 litres of milk as against the 1 litre that I used to sell before 2016. Now I make Rs12,500 every month.”

Mrs Yadav and her husband learnt about the viability of the business during lockdown
Mrs Yadav and her husband learnt about the viability of the business during lockdown

They are not the only beneficiaries. Shwetdhara MPC has helped several women producers enhance the quality of the milk produced by their livestock and thereby, reap better financial benefits.

Growth and sustainability

Mr Singh says with a gleam of pride, “Today, Shwetdhara MPC is over 5,400 members strong, and the total milk pooling points (MPP) in the area have increased from 43 MPP in 2016 to 102 MPP in September 2021. The company achieved breakeven in 2019, and total paid-up capital is Rs79 lakhs.”

The value per litre of the milk too has increased due to the enhanced quality of the milk produced, and as of 2021, the total producer payments have crossed Rs70 crores (from December 2016 to September 2021).

The women-led producer company has transformed the economy of villages in Pratapgarh and allowed milk producers to pursue their businesses with ease. The continuous income helps them sustain their livelihoods throughout the year.

For more information on Trusts’ Tata Dairy Mission, please click here

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