Originally published on November 5, 2014.
Exasperated and at her wit’s end, Ms. Diluka was so upset about her constant losses in dairy farming that she had nearly given up. In fact, she had just sent five of her remaining cows to live with neighbors when she learned about the USAID-funded DEEP program in 2011.
Hailing from the town of Thasgaswawa, Ms. Diluka started dairy farming in 2005 with about 20 local animals. Like many Sri Lankans, she kept her animals in the jungle, so that they could freely graze there instead of potentially eating up the paddy crops. But, leopards ate eight of her cows in 2006, and several more were killed by disease in 2007. “I decided to lend five of my cows to neighbors, because they were more of a hassle than they were worth, and I was only getting a meager 18 rupees ($0.14) per liter for their milk.” Ms. Diluka recalled, “It was around that time that I met with a Land O’Lakes mobilizer. When I learned about the phenomenal price increase I could get if I joined the MPG in Thasgaswawa, I got excited.”
So, Ms. Diluka brought the five animals back from her neighbors’ land, and she invested another 100,000 rupees ($778), including 20,000 ($155) from a DEEP small grant, to buy three more high producing animals. She said, “The difference in production between the local breeds and the Jersey crossbreeds was phenomenal. Compared to 1.5 liters per day before, my new improved breed cows produce about 6 liters per day each.” Right now, she’s earning 15,000 rupees ($116) per month, but she expects that to rise to 52,800 rupees ($411) within another year. “In the past, life was quite difficult for my husband and me, and we worked hard to make ends meet for our large family. And so, I pawned all of my jewelry to buy our land, and we sold three animals to cover our home’s construction,” Ms. Diluka explained.
Before DEEP, I didn’t really interact with folks from other areas. Now, people are working together and we’re building trust and friendships that we never had before.
Now, that both she and her husband are focused full-time on dairy, Ms. Diluka says that their earnings are sufficient to cover their day-to-day needs. But, if everything goes according to her business plan, Ms. Diluka believes that in two years, she will not only be able to get her jewelry out of hock, but that her family will be living very comfortably on dairy earnings alone. “I found the business development planning sessions I attended through DEEP to be particularly helpful, because I learned how to improve my family’s income. It was through that process that I realized we’d have enough to live on if I could milk four high-producing animals year-round, and sell a total of 32 liters per day,” she said
Through DEEP, she received a wide range of training on animal care and links to veterinary services, which has made a tangible impact on how she now runs her farm. “When I learned about AI, I wondered why I didn’t know about this option before. I decided to register my animals with the local veterinary service – something I never would have done for my local breeds. But disease control is particularly important to me now, having lost so many animals in the past.” For Ms. Diluka, another benefit of working with the cooperative is the interaction it has brought with people she otherwise would never have met. She was pleased to report, “Initially, there were only 35 people at the village level who were part of my cooperative, but now six villages with 106 people are taking part. Before DEEP, I didn’t really interact with folks from other areas. Now, people are working together and we’re building trust and friendships that we never had before.”