Women in Dairying
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For the dairy industry, it is important to explore how millions of rural women can be brought into the mainstream of dairy development — with access to training and employment at the household level.
SEWA: Empowering women to regenerate the balance of ecology.
Sections At This Level
A Dairy Tale
Traditional Dairy Products
Cow: The Sacred Provider
All About the Buffalo
Buffalo Milk Vs Cow Milk
Women in Dairying
Career Outlook

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 women
The products and income from dairying can be controlled by women
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 development.

The membership in most of India’s 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 members.

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Factors that inhibit the success of women

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 women’s 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.
Low literacy
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 OF’s 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.

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SEWA: Empowering women

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 Women’s Program, the Bhagavathula Charitable Trust’s Women’s Dairy Program and SEWA’s Women’s Dairy Cooperatives.

National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has initiated a special training program for women camera.gif (956 bytes). 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 socio-economic infrastructure.

SEWA’s fodder security system involves eight societies (five women’s 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.

The second stage of the Fodder Security System camera.gif (956 bytes) 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 Government’s Community Fodder Scheme by two of the Women’s 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 women’s organizations camera.gif (956 bytes)

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