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4Ps approach to successful dairy farming

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4Ps approach to successful dairy farmingFour years into life as a farmer, Weerasooriya saw an opportunity to supplement crop cultivation with cattle and bought five animals. With the demand for dairy increasing annually, and given that domestic production only meets about 40 percent of annual demand, there’s a significant gap that farmers like Weerasooriya could hope to plug.

Soon enough, however, he realized he might have bitten off more than he could chew. He was struggling to balance growing his crops – cashew, mango, maize among them – with the demands of raising cattle. He found he had little time to collect grass or fodder to feed them.

“I was fed-up with cattle rearing and about to give up. It was a struggle to find roadside fodder throughout the year and it was taking up a lot of my time,” he says.

Enter the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-supported Smallholder Agribusiness Partnership Programme (SAPP). With Chello Dairies – one of Sri Lanka’s most respected dairy brands that began life as a small-scale domestic enterprise – SAPP works with 500 rural smallholder dairy farmers across 5 districts (Rathnapura, Matale, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Kurunagala) to enhance their on-farm productivity, which leads to higher incomes. The cornerstone of this partnership is the “4Ps” approach – that is, the producer-public-private partnerships approach.

What distinguishes the 4P approach from older public-private partnership (PPPs) models is that it is focused on enhancing the well-being of small-scale producers. A 4P arrangement ensures that smallholder producers are respected partners, and equips them to negotiate with public and private actors.

4Ps approach to successful dairy farmingWhen, three years ago, Weerasooriya heard about the SAPP intervention with Chello Dairies, he started to focus on mechanizing his farm to save time and fulfil his duties as both cattle manager and crop cultivator. A chaff cutter/grass chopper and a milking machine from a partial grant via SAPP eased his path. He learned to cultivate quality fodder on his premises so he could save on travel time while hunting for roadside grass, which is anyway of poorer quality. The milking machine allowed him to save even more time, while also enhancing the keeping quality of the milk and reducing the spread of disease. From 30 litres, his daily yield has gone up to 50 litres.

“With SAPP and Chello Dairies’ support, I learnt how to grow quality fodder in my land and prepare silage with chopped fodder,” Weerasooriya says. “I started raising cattle so that dairy could be my secondary income. But now that my daily milk yield has increased and we’re getting such a good price for the milk, it has become my main source of income. I can happily support the education of my children.” Weerasooriya plans to expand his cattle shed with more animals in the future.

With the 4Ps approach, issues such as recognizing local communities’ tenure rights (to land, water and forests), the role of women and environmental issues, price-setting mechanisms, enforcement of contracts, regulatory issues, payment modalities, ownership and coordination, can all be identified and addressed from the outset, for better deals in which everyone is genuinely committed to a long-term partnership.

“We always believe that building close relationships with farmers is the way forward for our business sustainability. SAPP has given us a platform to strengthen our bond with them. We are leading the implementation of this project together with our farmers’ network and it has provided a fresh perspective to our entire business,” says Sameera Herath, manager, milk procurement and dairy extension, Chello Dairies Pvt. Ltd.

That the company managed to continue the collection of milk amid travel restrictions and lockdown in Sri Lanka during the COVID-19 pandemic is a sign of this commitment. Farmer payments went out on time, ensuring stable cash flow for small dairy farmers, allowing them to continue their household activities without disruption.

4Ps also create opportunities to scale up development results. Given the excellent results of the partnership with Chello Dairies, SAPP is now partnering with the Market-Oriented Dairy (MOD) project (funded by United States Department of Agriculture and the International Executive Services Corporation). Together, they will focus on doubling the existing daily milk production of select smallholder dairy farmers.

NOTE: In commemoration of World Food Day, these stories of rural communities who are playing a role in helping to improve local agri-food systems towards better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life for all, are compiled in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

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