During the December 2014 MilkIT project (Enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches) workshops in Tanzania, we caught up with two Indian participants who had been invited in their roles as significant stakeholders in dairy development in the state of Uttarakhand. Conversations revealed they planned to take up several innovations and products of the project.
Since one major aim of the project is precisely to have its outputs taken up ‘at scale’ by other agencies, the opportunity to explore their interests in the project was too good to miss.
B.K. Bhatt works as Program Manager for Agriculture-Horticulture in the Integrated Livelihood Support Project (ILSP) financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He works for the Uttarakhand Gramya Vikas Samiti one of three agencies implementing the ILSP for the Rural Development Department of the Uttarakhand state government in India.
He summarized the aims of the UGVS- ILSP as up scaling food production through market access as well as market and innovation linkages. Within this wider scope, dairy value chains are one of the subsectors that the project focuses on. He says this is because dairying ‘provides a lot of income for small farmers – at their doorsteps.’
The project works through ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ in many villages that provide a range of animal health and husbandry services, including, of particular relevance to MilkIT, support of fodder banks. So far, the project has worked in 11 districts and 41 blocks.
He first encountered ILRI’s Thanammal Ravichandran – local MilkIT project facilitator, when he was posted to Bhageshwar. “I was very much happy and I went with her to the various actors and stakeholders in order to get convergence across the different departments. My project also financially supported the cooperative where MilkIT was working, to upscale the activities and strengthen the dairy cooperative.”
Collaboration and convergence were what initially attracted him. He could see the local innovation platforms operating in some locations, bringing different actors together. “This was a great thing because every department is working in isolation; they do not come together on a single platform.”This is what, he says, MilkIT offered: “Bringing together the technocrats and market players, with a lot of motivation!”
“Everybody was working in their own direction, but MilkIT united everyone and brought together all the different information.” It was particularly useful that the platforms also connected with research; they were also a conduit to new technical information.
Beyond its convening power, Bhatt also saw that the platforms could help his project to promote technologies to communities, things like forage chopping and animal health improvements.
He recognized the potential of the innovation platforms to create ‘convergence’ among different actors and to bring technologies into the reach of farm communities, especially women.
Looking to the future, now that the main research phase of MilkIT is ending, he reflected on what brought the projects together and how to build on the connections built.
Livestock development platforms
“The MilkIT project is leaving a footprint that we will try to carry forward – we share the exact same technical agenda.” In the coming period, the ILSP will set up 100 ‘Integrated Livestock Development Centers’ (including the existing 64 ).
Each will ideally be linked to dairy cooperatives (Aanchal of the Uttarakhand Co-operative Dairy Federation) as well as other actors like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. He says he would like them to be more like the MilkIT innovation platforms, taking on some of their roles and helping to converge all the various schemes in each location. Each centre is run by a local community member, normally a paraprofessional (or para-veterinarian) with some technical skills, and, perhaps now, with some facilitation training to help ensure the envisaged monthly meetings of actors are effective.
Ultimately he wants the communities to be uplifted through better technologies and improved market linkages.
MilkIT, through its platforms, helped trial and test some practical, low-tech feed interventions and prove their usefulness. He wants these to be scaled out and put into practice, where appropriate, in all the districts where the UGVS- ILSP works.
While less tangible, he also sees a lot of benefits provided by the platforms themselves as places where all the various actors – community, government and market – can interact and especially converge around the important work that has to be done.