Women stand to gain as ruminants go rental

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Milk is an Indian success story, though the sector continues to face numerous challenges. Dairy animals play a huge role in the country’s agriculture. A new initiative aims to help dairy get digital and leasing a cow become an easy option. Female smallholders could benefit in several ways. 

There is an important “gender component” to the Indian milk sector: Indo-Swiss food company Innoterra estimates that about 80% of Indian dairy farmers are women. “Very, very few of them, however, actually own the cattle they milk”, comments Rajendra Jog. He is the CEO of AEGF, which has recently begun a partnership with Innoterra

“At the Agri-Entrepreneur Growth Foundation, we open the door for smallholders to a wide range of income opportunities”, Rajendra adds. “Our link-up with Innoterra’s Platform Division enables the farmers we serve to benefit from new digital tools in the hitherto low-tech, but now fast-progressing dairy market.” 

Through the Agri-Entrepreneurs originally established by the Syngenta Foundation, AEGF currently has access to about half a million Indian smallholders. In the pilot phase of the partnership, Innoterra plans to empower about 100,000 of them. “Our ‘360°’ approach will provide smallholders with digital services such as access to inputs, advice, traceability tools, and market insights”, says Dinesh Poduval, Chief Operating Officer of Innoterra Platform. 

One special aspect of the partnership addresses the issue of cattle ownership. “Buying a cow is far too expensive for most smallholders”, explains Rajendra Jog. “Our program enables them to lease a dairy animal for a year. The ‘Cattle on Demand’ package includes feed, medical support, insurance, training, and advice.”

Smallholders are thus spared the need for capital investment, and the usual worries about animal ill-health. Furthermore, Innoterra buys the milk – whether cow or buffalo – and thus ensures a reliable income for the largely female farmers. Innoterra Platform facilitates the purchase process through a network of aggregators. Agri-Entrepreneurs identify the smallholders best able to benefit from the scheme. ‘Cattle on Demand’ is now starting in the state of Maharashtra, with the aim of involving the first 200 farmers by the end of March.