Women in Dairying
Winner of the prestigious Magsaysay Award, Mrs. Ela Bhatt, highlights
the need for giving women their due place in dairy development. For their empowerment and economic
well-being, women's access to training in modern dairying and
cooperative management is essential.
The employment of women is an index of their economic
and social status in society. In India, women constitute 90 per cent
of marginal workers, with some regional variations. The Operation Flood (OF) program recognizes that:
|Dairying at the household level is largely the domain of
|The products and income from dairying can be controlled
|Dairying can be practiced on a small scale.|
The prevailing dairy scenario presents many dilemmas.
|The first one is that modern dairying is geared to
maximum production as opposed to traditional subsistence dairying.|
|The second is that an expanding national herd of milch and other animals
is dependent on diminishing and degrading common property resources
for grazing and crop residues and other biomass. |
|The third is traditional dairying is largely
dominated by men. All these have to be resolved within the framework of sustainable
The membership in most of Indias 70,000
village-level dairy cooperative societies (DCS)
is heavily dominated by men. The picture is now gradually changing in the favor of women.
Efforts are on to give them their due place in dairy development. Presently, some 2,476 all-woman DCS are functioning in the country in selected
States. Out of 9.2 million total membership in DCS, 1.63 million are women (18 per cent).
However, women constitute less than three per cent of total board
Factors that inhibit the success of
The poor rural households need a whole package of
supporting inputs and services to develop dairying as an effective instrument of household
livelihood. However, as the experience goes, these inputs are not
always easily accessible to poor, rural women. Major factors that hamper the
success of womens cooperatives are:
|Resistance to women as
cooperative members; women are yet to be recognized as
farmers in their own right. In a mixed cooperative, lack of
ownership of land prevents women not only from becoming member but also from
obtaining credit, training, technical assistance. Women also do not
have any say in the decision making policies of the cooperatives and thus cannot
help formulate more policies to help themselves. Concrete strategies have to be devised to
help women get ownership and control over productive assets,
individually and collectively. It will be the single most important factor towards their
empowerment and economic well-being. Some of these assets include a
plot of land, housing, workshed, animals and shareholding of cooperatives.|
|Resistance from the upper
socio-economic section of village community towards the poor.|
|Access to finance (lack of)
: Small-farm household women need timely finance (credit)
for short-term investments to manage their dairy enterprises in an efficient manner. For
example, they cannot meet the needs of cattle feed, fodder and other essential inputs
without ready cash. Facilities should also be made available for timely breeding of dairy
animals and health care. A World Bank study of the OF project benefits in villages
of Madhya Pradesh suggests that the lack of credit for the initial purchase of dairy
animals remains a major constraint to OFs ability to reach the poorest households.|
|Access to training
facilities (lack of) : Women should be imparted training in dairy
husbandry, cooperative management and marketing. There is also a need
for social organization at the pre-cooperative stage to help in the formation of
cooperatives as well as dissemination of the economics of dairy activity.|
NGOs have played a leading role in
cooperativizing the women milk producers. They also assist in making the benefits
of Government schemes available to poor milk producers. To name a few: The Andhra Pradesh Dairy Womens Program, the Bhagavathula Charitable
Trusts Womens Dairy Program and SEWAs Womens Dairy Cooperatives.
National Dairy Development Board
(NDDB) has initiated a special training program
for women .
More than 860,000 women have participated in this educational program.
Still, most women producers do not always have access to training
in modern livestock management.
SEWA is an
organization of 158,000 women workers in Gujarat in western
India. Its experience in the arid zone of Banaskantha district has
shown that among the many inputs, fodder is
the key to milk production. This could also become part of
the larger program of ecological restoration. All the defunct primary
societies in Radhanpur and Santhalpur talukas of the district were
revived, strengthened and consolidated.
A fodder security system - Women take charge!!
To make dairying a significant source of income, it is
realized that a Fodder Security System would have to be developed.
This would provide nutrition to milch cattle, increase their milk yield and thereby the
producers income and stabilize the migrating households to receive benefits from the
security system involves eight societies (five womens coops) who purchase fodder
from fodder-surplus areas during the season, store it in a godown and distribute it on
cash-and-carry basis, all the year round on no-profit, no-loss basis. This scheme
is implemented by women members of SEWA now organized into DWACRA (Development of Women
and Children in Rural Areas) Association. During 1995, eight cooperatives distributed
fodder worth Rs 729,469. For the farm families, there has been an increase in income of Rs
200 to 250 per month.
stage of the Fodder Security System has
been the plantation and cultivation of fodder. The DWACRA Association has got possession
of the (defunct) four fodder farms (350 hectares of land)
from the State Rural Development Corporation. The cultivation of fodder was started here
in right earnest. Two other fodder farms, ten hectares each,
are being maintained under the Governments Community Fodder Scheme by two of the
Womens Dairy Cooperatives. This scheme has provided for 30 per
cent of their fodder need during the first year itself.
Earlier, SEWA used to provide the revolving fund
for the purpose. Now, 35 per cent of the investment is being done by women themselves.
In some talukas, SEWA is also harvesting and helping drinking water supply. Additional employment is generated through home-based craft with
assured marketing. In 1995, the total sales amounted to Rs 9
million. The integrated approach of organizing the rural women into their own
economic bodies like Dairy Cooperatives, Savings and Credit Groups, labor unions and
DWACRA Association has stabilized the families in their own homeland (migration
has declined by about 80 per cent), regenerating their local ecology, and added income and
assets worth Rs 30 million.
The erosion of traditional institutions for managing common property
resources and the failure of new institutions to fill in the vacuum have affected
adversely the natural resource base. The future of dairy industry
lies in regenerating local ecology with the fullest participation of women and womens organizations