oday, India is celebrating its 77th independence day. The entire nation has rallied together with renewed determination to achieve developed nation status by the year 2047. India has a unique distinction of trebling its milk production capacity and doubling its per capita milk availability every 25 years. We are looking at around 650 Mill MT of milk production with around 850 ml of per capita milk availability in 2047. That leaves us with over a 100 mill MT of surplus milk.

A million dollar question is –At whose cost shall we be having this surplus milk ?

I was reading a very good article by Mckinsey – Our future lives and livelihoods: Sustainable and inclusive and growing The article elucidate the relationship amongst Growth, Inclusion and Sustainability.

The three goals we have in mind—growth, sustainability, and inclusion—buttress one another yet don’t always pull in the same direction; we see powerful reinforcing as well as counteracting loops among them (exhibit from the above mentioned article courtesy Mckinsey).

In order to address these counteracting forces , our investments must be directed equally towards inclusion as well as sustainability. Even if it means to get a comparatively lower level of growth. For a country like India , despite progress in some regions, income and wealth are increasingly concentrated at the top. We may not afford to focus just on increasing milk production , scale of processing and cattle population through better breeding. We can see that if we follow the current path of growth, then by 2047 we will end up having a milk surplus equivalent of total milk production in USA today. These actions are poised to result in farmers facing dire hunger and our climate shedding tears of distress.

Understanding Indian dairy eco system

The dairy sector plays a vital role in the Indian food system, providing essential nutrition to millions while supporting the livelihoods of numerous small and marginal farmers. As we navigate the challenges posed by a growing population, climate change, and resource scarcity, the interconnected concepts of growth, inclusion, and sustainability emerge as critical pillars for the evolution of this sector. In this context, the linkage between these dimensions becomes not just a strategic choice but an imperative for the survival of our planet. This blog of mine delves into the harmonious synergy between growth, inclusion, and sustainability within the dairy sector, with a special focus on increasing milk production through gender-inclusive practices.

Growth through Inclusion: Empowering Small and Marginal Dairy Farmers

Growth in the dairy sector does not solely imply maximizing milk production. It involves enhancing the livelihoods of those who toil on the ground, particularly small and marginal dairy farmers, who often face challenges in accessing resources, technology, and markets. By embracing an inclusive approach, we can unlock the potential of these farmers, enabling them to contribute significantly to increased milk production.

Empowering women in the dairy sector is a key dimension of inclusion. Women make up a substantial portion of the dairy workforce, yet their contributions often go unnoticed. When women are given equal access to training, resources (financial), and decision-making, they can substantially improve milk yields and overall farm productivity. Moreover, gender inclusion fosters social equity and enhances the well-being of farming communities.

Sustainability in Milk Production: Nurturing the Environment and Climate

While pursuing growth and inclusion, the dairy sector cannot afford to overlook the pressing need for sustainability. Unsustainable practices can lead to environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, and contribute to climate change. A holistic approach is essential, where milk production aligns with environmental stewardship. As per a study which I read somewhere , has suggested that the climate change in India alone could impact its milk production by 7% by 2030.

Implementing sustainable dairy farming practices, such as agroforestry, rotational grazing, and efficient manure management, can significantly reduce the sector’s ecological footprint. By optimizing resource utilization, minimizing waste, and adopting renewable energy sources, the Indian dairy sector can become a beacon of sustainable agriculture.

The Nexus: Growth, Inclusion, and Sustainability

The relationship between growth, inclusion, and sustainability in the dairy sector is not one of trade-offs, but of symbiosis. By investing in gender-inclusive practices and sustainable techniques, the sector can achieve a harmonious balance that benefits all stakeholders.

  1. Increased Milk Production: Empowering small and marginal farmers, especially women, ensures a more efficient and diversified milk production system. This, in turn, caters to rising demand, improves food security, and enhances the economic conditions of farming communities.
  2. Social Inclusion: Inclusive practices foster gender equality and social cohesion within communities. Empowered women contribute not only to increased milk production but also to broader economic development and poverty reduction.
  3. Environmental Resilience: Sustainable dairy farming practices safeguard the environment by conserving natural resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting ecological balance. This contributes to climate change mitigation and the preservation of biodiversity.
  4. Economic Viability: Growth, inclusion, and sustainability collectively boost the economic viability of the dairy sector. Resilient and environmentally responsible practices enhance long-term profitability while providing equitable benefits to all participants.

The way forward from this independence day onwards

The dairy sector stands at a crossroads, with the imperatives of growth, inclusion, and sustainability converging to shape its trajectory. Recognizing the interdependence of these dimensions is not just a strategic choice; it is a necessity for the survival of our planet. By embracing gender-inclusive practices and sustainable farming methods, the dairy sector can become a model of agricultural transformation that feeds people, empowers communities, and nurtures the environment. It’s time to champion a future where growth, inclusion, and sustainability flourish in unison, paving the way for a brighter and more resilient Indian as well as global food system. At the end we need to ensure that the growth in Indian dairy sector must not come at the cost of poor farmers and silent climate.