BAIF helps 69,000 villages to increase income levels through dairy husbandry

Dairy farming is a reliable source of livelihood for small and marginal farmers, who are unable to earn substantial income from agriculture. India has the largest cattle population in the world, but the average milk yield is less than 900kg per lactation. This is due to severe genetic erosion, resulting in poor quality animals, poor health care and acute shortage of feed. Such low quality cattle and buffaloes are uneconomical for their owners. To transform this problem into an opportunity, BAIF provides breeding and critical support services at the doorstep of poor farmers to produce high quality animals.

Objective: Dairy farming is a traditional practice and it has proven potential to provide food and nutritional security to the rural poor. As it is an opportunity to convert liabilities into assets, rural families are motivated to cross breed their low yielding, decrepit cattle with genetically superior exotic or native breeds, while conserving elite native breeds. The new born high yielding cows and buffaloes are a reliable source of livelihood, even in drought-prone areas.

Coverage: This is a flagship programme of BAIF, which was started in the early 70’s.  Presently, the programme is benefiting over 4.4 million families through a network of over 2,600 cattle development centres spread over 69,000 villages in 12 states. Each centre covering 10-12 villages in a radius of 10kms is operated by a local youth, who holds a Diploma in Agriculture or Animal Husbandry and is trained to provide services such as artificial insemination, vaccination, minor veterinary care, as well as training in forage production and good feeding practices. BAIF’s Central Research Station at Urulikanchan maintains elite bulls of improved exotic and Indian native breeds of cattle and buffaloes to produce frozen semen, which is then supplied to these centres.  Farmers are also advised on good management practices through a series of training programmes. The milk produced is collected by the local farmer organisations and sold to dairies.

Funding: Initial capital cost for establishing a livestock development centre is around Rs1.5lakhs and the annual recurring cost is around Rs1.25lakhs. The programme is sponsored by the Ministry of Rural Development, Farmers’ Cooperatives, corporate houses and even self-funded by collecting the entire service charge from farmers availing breeding services.

These centres are generally sponsored for a period of 5-10 years.  Subsequently, BAIF continues the services, either with the support of the donors or by collecting service charges from the farmers.

Impact
•    Over 50% of the rural families are benefitted in the operational areas;
•    The programme enables farmers to produce high yielding cows and buffaloes using inferior quality livestock already owned by the farmers without any additional capital investment;
•    Each home-born cow and buffalo is valued at Rs30,000-Rs35,000, and when it comes into milk production at the age of three years, it yields 2,200-2,800kg milk per lactation and generates a surplus of Rs9,000-Rs10,000 per year.  A family can earn over Rs30,000 per year with three crossbred cows and remain above poverty;
•    With high yielding animals, the farmers tend to reduce the herd size and adopt stall feeding, which in turn reduces the pressure on fodder supply and global warming. With increase in dung collection, farmers are encouraged to install biogas plants and take up organic farming;
•    This provides an excellent opportunity for women to earn their livelihood and ensures a nutritional supplement, particularly for their children;
•    The crossbred males are ready for tillage operations and transportation, by the age of 24 to 30 months. Door-to-door services have ensured closer mentoring of the backward farmers.   
•    Presently, 0.8 million cows and buffaloes are under milk production, producing milk worth Rs2800 crores per annum. As the demand for milk in India is expected to rise from 98 million tons to 180 million tons by 2022, there is good scope to expand the programme across the country, while ensuring gainful self-employment and food security for small farmers.

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BAIF’s wadi programme model rehabilitates tribals and small farmers

Over 150 million Indians representing 250 different tribal communities are living on the edge of the forests, struggling for survival. Traditionally, these tribal communities were living in the forests, dependent on rich forest produce for their livelihood. With the rapid denudation of forest resources over the last 8-10 decades, their income from collection of various minor forest produce has been severely eroded, forcing them to take up shifting cultivation, clearing the natural forests and to migrate to cities in search of wages.

Most of the tribals live in remote areas deprived of clean drinking water, medical care, education and communication facilities. While about 20% families are landless, the rest of the families own 0.5-1ha of land, where they grow various food crops, without adequate inputs and appropriate technology. Unable to ensure their food security with the meagre harvests, most of them migrate with their families to nearby towns and work as farm labourers or construction workers for six to eight months, every year. Thus, this vicious cycle of starvation, malnutrition, migration, high rate of birth and child mortality, literacy and exploitation has forced them to live in chronic poverty.

The programme: Realising the plight of these neglected tribal communities; BAIF initiated a comprehensive Tribal Rehabilitation Programme in Gujarat in 1982, focussing on sustainable development, while conserving the natural resources. The goal was to ensure food security, community health, empowerment of women, education for children, functional literacy for adults, prevention of distress migration, and improved quality of life without disturbing their culture and religious sentiments.

The main activity was to promote income generation through establishment of fruit orchards on 0.4ha of degraded land by each family. Other activities included shaping of hilly terrains by establishing series of contour bunds to prevent soil erosion and for moisture conservation, establishment of drought-tolerant fruit crops like mango, cashew, Indian gooseberry, custard apple, etc as main crops, cultivation of seasonal food crops in the inter space between fruit plants and fencing of these orchards by planting saplings of various plant species useful as food, fodder, timber, fuel, herbal medicines, along the boundary. As these crops promoted under the agri-horti-forestry system needed water for ensuring higher growth and yield, water resources were developed from various sources.  These included digging of open wells and bore wells, lifting of water from rivers and storing in storage tanks, revival of natural springs, etc.

While promoting these economic development activities, it was also necessary to promote various community health care activities such as immunisation, development of clean potable water resources through chlorination of open wells, installation of hand pumps for bore wells. Along with this, awareness was created about family welfare issues relating to problems of malnutrition, neglect of maternal and child health and sanitation. These activities kept the participants healthy and enabled them to devote adequate time for development of their orchards. As most of the tribals did not have easy access to Public Health Centres and hospitals for medical treatment and child delivery, local midwives and traditional healers were trained to attend to these cases, while working closely with good doctors and hospitals in the nearby towns. Enthusiastic local youth were selected and trained to work as honorary para-health workers to create awareness and promote preventive health care practices.

Self Help Groups of women and men belonging to homogenous socio-economic segments were formed to plan and implement the programme with mutual understanding and support. Women groups also took the responsibility of organising micro-credit and development of various non-farm enterprises. These people’s organisations took the lead in procuring inputs and to coordinate marketing of their produce as well. Establishment of kindergartens was also initiated by the women groups by training the local girls to manage them. Reduction of hardship, particularly of women, was initiated through easy access to drinking water, fodder, fuel and grain grinding mills. Joint bank accounts were established in the name of both husband and wife to facilitate the women to take up financial transactions independently.

With series of training activities and timely technical support from the project staff, these participants were able to establish their food and fruit crops making good use of the available water resources. While the fruit trees started bearing fruit after four to five years, the income from food crops started from the first year itself. Thus, these tribals, particularly the women, stopped migrating to cities. This ensured good health and instilled confidence in them, while their healthy children could also attend schools.

Financial support: Generally, development of 0.4 ha of land under agri-horti-forestry requires an investment of Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 over a period of four to five years, which has come as development assistance from donors such as government of India, German Development Bank (KfW), NABARD and the respective state governments. Additional investments were made in the form of labour and local agricultural inputs by the participating families.  While they earned about Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 from inter crops right from the first year, the major income of Rs30,000 to Rs40,000 per annum came after six to seven years, when the orchards started bearing fruit regularly.

Various supplementary income generation activities such as establishment of fruit and forestry nurseries, mushroom production, processing of local fruits and vegetables, establishment of goat, poultry and dairy herds further enhanced their income by 40-60%.  In this process of development, the tribal families realised the importance of forests and natural resources in directly influencing their agricultural production. As fruit orchards did not require intensive tillage operations, the programme ensured improvement in soil and water conservation, resulting in a clean environment and improvement in the bio-diversity

Coverage: Presently, this programme is spread over 18 districts of Maharashtra, 10 districts of Gujarat, eight districts of Karnataka, one district of Madhya Pradesh and 15 districts of Rajasthan benefiting two lakh tribal families, who were living in poverty. In about four to five years after joining the programme, the participant families are able to come out of poverty.

Programme impact: Safe drinking water ensured reduction of hardship, good health and better quality of life. With focus on literacy, there has been significant improvement in the literacy level while thousands of tribal youth have successfully completed graduation, post-graduation and technical qualifications and are serving in various capacities.

The programme has ensured food security and connectivity with various development institutions such as Government departments, Panchayati Raj and financial institutions. The participant communities have established their cooperatives for processing and marketing of their produce, while also establishing direct linkage with various urban markets.

Greater awareness about organic farming, hygiene, sanitation and clean environment has been leading to sustainable development.

A model has been demonstrated with a unique approach to rehabilitate the tribals while enriching the environment. This programme has been very well accepted by the tribals as well as the policy makers in the country. Thus, various donor agencies including the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, government of India and NABARD have created special funds for wider replication of the Wadi programme across the country.

Benefits of working in rural India — Dr. N.G. Hegde (Trustee & Principal Advisor, BAIF) shares his views

YFI: Dr. Hegde, in your opinion, how can a YFI Programme Fellow benefit from his/her experience of working in rural India?

Dr. Hegde: Working in rural India will be an invaluable experience for the YFI Fellow. S/he can gain a mix of knowledge and skills while working on rural development projects. The take-aways could include:

  • Traditional wisdom and knowledge about conservation, food security, health care, self development and contented life
  • Better understanding about  the problems and opportunities for development of suitable agri-business ventures
  • Knowledge about current problems of the service sector and scope for developing service industries
  • In-depth knowledge and know-how on promoting  rural marketing
  • Awareness & know-how regarding opportunities for promoting micro-financing
  • Know-how to promote eco-tourism through conservation of natural resources and bio-diversity.

On what ails rural development programs — Dr. N.G. Hegde (Trustee & Principal Advisor, BAIF) shares his views

YFI: Dr. Hegde, what according to you are the factors impeding the success of rural development programs in India?

Dr. Hegde: Rural development programs in India face multiple impediments:

Benefits not reaching poor: Although, several development programmes are launched to address the problems of the poor, the benefits of most of these programmes have not been reaching them due to inadequate infrastructure and poor communication, apart from mismatches between the problems at the micro-level and pre-conceived development programmes.

Adverse environmental factors: In the absence of alternative employment opportunities, a majority of the poor are dependent on rain-fed agriculture and livestock development which are uneconomical due to lack of appropriate technologies, uncertainties in agricultural production caused by global warming and exploitation by middlemen.

Lack of guidance: Most of the poor being illiterate or semi-literate, they are hesitant to participate in any development programme. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of dedicated extension officers and field guides who can live in rural areas and guide them;

Structural challenges: As the present programmes are launched in isolation, small farmers are not able to make efficient use of the resources and improve their earning;

Poor planning & implementation: There is significant economic disparity and emotional divide between urban and rural population. Lack of understanding about their problems, result in poor planning and implementation of the development activities;

Availability of finance: Lack of finance and critical inputs for promoting economic activities by the poor;

Weak economic linkages: Lack of effective linkage and fair understanding between the producers and consumers;

Lack of skills/capabilities: Lack of people’s organisations and voluntary organisations to build capabilities of the rural poor and to facilitate various development programmes.

Companies today are looking for people with more rural exposure says Shiv Agrawal, CEO of ABC Consultants

1) What kind of placement assistance will be provided to the SBI Youth for India program fellows to help them re-integrate into mainstream careers?

In ABC Consultants, we firmly believe in a holistic approach to assisting people in their career moves. The assistance provided by us will be personalised counseling through identified and trained counselors internally from within the ABC system. It will include career counseling as well as assistance and guidance in helping the candidate frame his/her CV and coaching in terms of interview preparation. We will also share a candidate’s profile internally among all our offices and endeavor to try and schedule interviews with appropriate clients wherever possible.

2) Will a one-year rural fellowship program like SBI Youth for India be detrimental to one’s career prospects, if one wants to remain in the mainstream?

No, taking part in this programme will offer selected candidates unparalleled exposure to the rural markets. Today, the rural market is being looked upon as a vast untapped hinterland that any company, be it in FMCG, telecom or automotives can ignore at its own peril. With the Metro markets and urban areas being increasingly saturated, most organisations are looking at the rural market as an increasingly important component of their growth strategy and something that will provide exponential growth for them in years to come. However, the major stumbling block for most companies remains people, and more specifically people with strong exposure to rural markets. This is where people who take part in this programme stand to gain a decisive advantage in the employment sweepstakes.

Shiv Agrawal, CEO, ABC Consultants

Thinking of what it will take for you to bring change to rural India? YFI partner NGO, Seva Mandir shares its views

YFI: For a person with no rural management background, what kind of training is required and what essential qualities would help him/her to effectively contribute to rural development projects?

Seva Mandir: The most important quality needed in anyone wanting to contribute effectively to rural development efforts are empathy, sensitivity for the poor, flexibility, openness to learning, and the ability to respect other points of view. The exposure to village life and conditions itself is one of the most powerful training inputs. Spending time in rural settings will give the person firsthand exposure to rural lives, rhythms and realities. At the same time, he or she will also benefit from reading up on existing literature, including what Mahatma Gandhi has written about villages. Last and, maybe the most important, is the recognition that social change is a slow process, and the person should not be impatient for results.

YFI: What challenges should one expect while working on rural development projects?

Seva Mandir: Rural situations expose one to problems for which most other professional training provides little preparation, which would make many qualified professionals feel out of place. The biggest challenge of course is that of the nature and pace of change. Social change processes are complex and slow. While setting up a rural enterprise or planting some trees or running a school are more doable and tangible changes that can be made, the real change in terms of making our society more just and caring takes longer. And the road is not just forward, but it is a series of backward and forward steps. Anyone wanting to enter this field must have the understanding of these deeper processes.

The other challenge is that often education makes us feel that we know better than the poor, and we make the mistake of treating the poor as ignorant and illogical. We also tend to reduce development to just going and telling the poor what is the ‘right’ thing to do, be it in agriculture, education, health, or any such field. Here, one does not adequately recognise the multiple constraints that influence their actions. We expect the poor to change once they are made ‘aware’. This is an analysis, which is very inadequate, and we need to recognise that the poor are also rational and wise. Using technological lenses alone to view development can therefore become a challenge.

YFI: What essential traits are needed to successfully work on rural development projects?

Seva Mandir: Willingness to listen and learn is the precursor to effective management and implementation. The commitment to stay in the field, roll up one’s sleeves and work alongside rural people, and an overall willingness to transcend hierarchies of social class and background, can advance projects and create great personal insight and maturity. At the same time, grassroots rural development requires one to return to the boardroom with a great deal of vision and pragmatism, especially in fundraising, advocacy with civil society and government stakeholders, and the institutionalisation of programs.

India’s rural development challenges — Dr. N.G. Hegde (Trustee & Principal Advisor, BAIF) shares his views

YFI: Dr. Hegde, what according to you, are the primary developmental challenges facing rural India?

Dr. Hegde: Rural India is faced with multiple developmental challenges. The critical ones include:

• Population: Increasing population, causing severe pressure on natural resources and the environment;

• Natural resources: Depleting natural resources, resulting in insecurity of food and employment, compelling over 35-40% of the rural population to live in poverty;

• Pollution: Pollution of the environment and climate change, causing shortage of clean drinking water and adverse impact on agricultural production;

• Employment: Lack of employment in non-farm sector, forcing the landless and small farmers to migrate to urban areas;

• Education: Poor access to education, resulting in low literacy and unemployment of the youth; Low literacy rate, particularly among women having adverse effect on their skills development, employment productivity, family welfare and education of their children;

• Health: Poor health status due to lack of clean drinking water, hygiene, sanitation and drainage facilities; inadequate health care facilities, leading to high child mortality and morbidity; loss of labour productivity, economic loss, indebtedness and poor quality of life;

• Infrastructure: Poor infrastructure for receiving timely information on development opportunities, market demand and prices for agricultural commodities, new technologies, forward and backward linkages, credit facilities and development policies of the government; and

• People’s organizations: Lack of people’s organisations for supporting various socio-economic development activities and governing themselves.