Bangladesh has countless number of rural families and women that keep one or two cows each. They keep them in small sheds alongside the house, providing them with bits of grass and other green fodder that is locally available. Twice daily a milker will come to the home to milk the cows and bring it to a local shop to sell milk or make sweets out of it.
These women dairy farmers have health problems with their cattle and marketing issues that need improvement. Solidaridad Bangladesh is working on this within the so-called SAFAL project in the Khulna and Jessore regions.
Over the past three years Dutch Farm Experience has strengthened this project by providing a monitoring methodology called the Wheel of Animal Production and Wellbeing. This is a tool in which the topics to be addressed in animal health is presented to the (often illiterate) women cattle owners, so they can participate in the strategic choices for a dairy support program.
Integrated animal health monitoring
This is done by placing beans on a wheel drawing which indicates the various issues to be addressed in dairy farming: (1) Diseases, (2) Feed & Nutrition, (3) Breeding, (4) Parasites, (5) Fodder, (6) Water, (7) Special Care, and (8) Housing. In the SAFAL program is was decided to also add (9) Marketing and (10) Service Providers.
In 2014 this methodology was introduced and the indicators for each item were identified, adapted to Bangladesh reality through intensive discussions with groups of farmers, the animal health service providers as well as veterinarians of the program. In 2015 the methodology was piloted in 7 Producer Groups of around 60 farmers each. Combined with strategic actions of the SAFAL program in animal health, it turned out to be a huge succes, for farmers and project staff alike.
Motivation for change and improved milk quality
Farmers indicated that the methodology improved awareness about all aspects of dairy management, facilitated to prioritize the problems and take collective action. With SAFAL project support all aspects of the Wheel had been improved over the past 2 years. This resulted in better animal health, improved productivity, reduced management costs and higher incomes. According to project support staff the methodology helped to identify the root causes of the animal health problems, to adapt the project activities to the reality of each community, and improved relations between the project and the communities.
Moreover, milk quality is improved with reduced use of chemicals such as antibiotics, when health status of the animals improves and herbal recipes are available in case of health problems, such as udder infection. Dutch Farm Experience is now supporting SAFAL in upscaling the methodology for the entire target group of 300 Producer groups around Khulna and Jessore in 2016-2017.