Originally published on November 4, 2014.
A widowed mother of three girls, it used to be a struggle for Seethai Velayutham to have sufficient time with her daughters, since she was forced to spend so much time laboring in the local paddies in order to make ends meet. But when she got a small grant from Land O’Lakes through the USAID-funded Dairy Enhancement in Eastern Province (DEEP)
project for 27,000 rupees ($208), she was able to add one improved breed cow to her small herd of seven local breed cows. Seethai also learned how to improve production through DEEP’s training modules, which enabled her to refocus her livelihood and how she spent her time. “I’m now getting 10 liters a day from the three cows that are currently milking, compared to maybe two liters a day that I would get from two,” explained Seethai. But more than just the enhanced production she’s achieved through trainings on animal feeding and care, she’s now earning substantially more money for her milk.
In the past, Seethai has no choice but to sell her milk to a middleman for approximately 30 rupees ($0.23) per liter, and was unable to request a higher price. But now that she joined a cooperative formed through DEEP – which is selling raw milk for the major Sri Lankan agribusiness CIC to process into yogurt – she’s earning 48 rupees ($0.37) per liter. That means she’s earning 14,400 rupees ($111) per month from dairy compared to 1,800 rupees ($13.88) a month before – which makes a tremendous difference in her quality of life.
DEEP enabled her to boost her income while having more
Although Seethai was interviewed during the “lean season” of scarce water, which impacts milk production, she said she has already ceased working in the paddies, and is making ends meet exclusively with her dairy income. She is also in the process of securing a loan with other members of her cooperative to buy another improved breed cow – with the MPG serving as her guarantor – something that would have been very hard to successfully secure on her own. Seethai is also involved with seettu, a Sri Lankan version of a Rotating Credit and Savings Association (ROSCA) that is popular among women. While seettu does not provide Seethai with any interest on her money, when her turn in the rotation comes, she plans to use the bulk sum she will receive to continue expanding her herd.
“I grew up in the middle of the war, and I don’t have much of an education. I am working to provide a better life for my daughters,” she explained. Seethai’s goal of truly making an impact on her daughters’ lives seems more tangible now that she’s able to spend more time at home, and nurture them hands-on. “When I was doing labor work, I would come home late and the kids would have to wait for their meals. Now I’m able to spend more time with my daughters, and make sure they grow up right. And I don’t have to beg from anyone to achieve my dreams.”