Headed for sustainability

 
How big a difference can a water buffalo bring in the lives of rural poor? Well, it is bigger than what you think. “Most of the families in our community could not afford milk. But now, we are able to provide milk for our children as well as sell the surplus milk. Our children’s health has been better ever since we were enrolled in the project,” says Sujata from a village in Guntur.

“We had a lot of debts. We had no means to cater to the needs of our children. But thanks to World Vision, our lives have been better since last few years. We could send our children to a private school nearby,” says Paranjothi, another woman in the village.

“We could lease a plot of land and cultivate green gram and maize. We are now saving money for our children,” says another group of women from the community.

“My children enjoy drinking milk every day. My younger son was identified as malnourished before few months. The habit of drinking milk has improved his health,” says Joshna, a young mother of two.

World Vision India started Water Buffalo Project in Arpana Area Development Programme (ADP), Andhra Pradesh, in 2012, for a period of five years. The project supported marginal farmers through dairy intervention as a livelihood opportunity to create an alternative income source. The initiative supported 413 vulnerable families in 16 villages of Guntur. The goal of the project was to improve the economic status of the marginal, small farmers and landless households to ensure quality of life for children, families and communities.

The households identified under the project were given a locally available cross breed Murrah buffalo with calf. The households were trained on buffalo care and management, fodder cultivation and artificial insemination. Linkages to the Animal Husbandry department was promoted to avail their services. A Milk Producer’s Cooperative society was formed where all the 413 households were members. They were also linked to the local players in milk production. A quantitative survey conducted by World Vision India among 200 beneficiary families revealed an increase in the annual household income of 99.32% of the families. It was found that 78.38% of the households were earning INR 1666 to INR 3333 per month.

Moreover, 75.68% of households said that they were able to repay their debts through the income generated after they have joined the Water Buffalo Project. Around 59.46% households said that they have invested in savings, where as 58.11% said that they have invested in children’s education. Similarly, 32.43% have constructed toilets, 6.76% have invested for house renovation or to build a new one, 6.76% have purchased a vehicle and 6.76% have purchased livestock from the income.

The data also shows a high enrolment rate in schools. It is found that in the households who are continuing with the project, 96.47% of children aged 6 – 18 years are enrolled in school. Moreover, 54.55% of children aged 3 – 6 years in the households who are continuing with the project are enrolled in ICDS/Anganwadi. However, the figure has not captured the data of children who have joined private play schools and kindergarten. According to the field staff, almost 100% of the children aged 3 – 6 years are in any form of the pre-school (Anganwadi or Play school).

Furthermore, there has been a considerable improvement in the health of children. It was found that 95.2% of households are feeding milk products to their children. As per the findings, 29.05% of households who are continuing with the project, are able to pay their children’s health costs without any assistance from others and 84.46% of the households are able to provide well for their children. “Provide well” means providing two sets of clothes, a pair of shoes and a blanket for sleeping for all the children aged 5 – 18 years in the household.

The project also saw an increased participation of women. Women are now able to contribute to the household income, which has increased their confidence. Now they are trained properly on Livestock care and management, and most of them are managing their livestock well. The project had a Monthly Monitoring System, which was developed for proper management and decision-making.

The Water Buffalo Project has significantly contributed to the needs of the most vulnerable households by bringing them together under this project and providing them income opportunities through this initiative. The Milk Producers’ Cooperative Society constituted as a part of the project, becomes the foundation for its sustainability. The Cooperative Society is formed and managed by the beneficiaries of the Water Buffalo Project, who came together for the mutual benefit of all the members.

Arpana ADP worked in Guntur from 1996 to 2017. The project reached out to 9733 households, covering a population of 73541, including 25857 children.

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