Women: The Backbone of India’s Rural Dairy Sector

India’s rural dairy sector serves as a cornerstone of the nation’s agricultural economy, and within it, women play a pivotal role that often goes unnoticed. The involvement of women in dairy farming not only contributes significantly to the sector’s growth but also holds immense potential in empowering them economically and socially. In this blog post, I delve into the importance of women’s participation in India’s rural dairy sector and how it fosters self-reliance while transforming their social and economic status.

Women in rural India are deeply involved in various aspects of dairy farming, from animal care and milking to processing and marketing dairy products. According to the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), women contribute to over 70% of the labor force in the dairy sector. This significant contribution underscores their indispensable role in sustaining the sector’s operations and driving its growth. While on field visits I have normally encountered the menfolk who talk about the value of their livestock etc, but the core livestock care rests with the ladies.

Engagement in dairy farming offers women in rural areas a viable source of income and economic independence. With the earnings generated from dairy activities, women can support their families financially, invest in their children’s education and healthcare, and contribute to household expenses. Moreover, dairy farming provides a steady source of income throughout the year, thereby enhancing financial stability and resilience in rural households. While the men take care of the fields, it is the ladies who keep a tap on the milk!!

Participation in dairy farming empowers women by enhancing their decision-making authority within households and communities. As women become financially self-reliant through dairy activities, they gain more respect and recognition within their families and society. Additionally, involvement in dairy cooperatives and self-help groups enables women to voice their opinions, access training and resources, and participate in community development initiatives, thus fostering their overall empowerment. I have also observed that this changes for the larger farms with over 15-20 animals – where it is the men who are the drivers.

The active involvement of women in the rural dairy sector contributes to broader rural development objectives. Increased dairy production not only meets the rising demand for milk and dairy products but also generates employment opportunities in rural areas. Moreover, initiatives such as the Dairy Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (DEDS) by the Government of India aim to empower women by providing financial assistance and technical support for setting up dairy ventures, thereby catalyzing rural economic growth.

Women’s role in India’s rural dairy sector is indispensable for sustainable agricultural development and women’s empowerment. By recognizing and harnessing the potential of women in dairy farming, India can achieve its goals of inclusive growth, poverty alleviation, and gender equality. It is imperative to implement supportive policies, provide access to resources and training, and create enabling environments that empower women to thrive as key stakeholders in the rural dairy sector. As we strive for a more equitable and prosperous society, let us acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable contributions of women in shaping the future of India’s dairy industry.