In Rajasthan, we support dairy farmers with loans to buy buffalos in a region where families would rather send a son to a private school instead of sending both a boy and a girl to government schools.
Dairy farming is not dependent on weather and has consistent demand and by providing only women with funds, we can empower them like never before.
We found that while Saheli Samiti, our Impact partner in the region, has the drive to make a difference, it still has a lot to learn.
In the three villages that we visited — Kumaheri, Nangla Bhadoriya and Kolua Ka Pura — women are in the grip of the local dudhiya, or the milkman, who was usually the only source of funds for the purchase of cows or buffalos in the past.
Even though we had disbursed Rs 30,000 to each borrower so that they can buy buffalos, it was not enough. They would borrow the rest from the dudhiya and the repayments would be carried out by providing milk.
They would be only allowed to keep 2 litres of milk for their families and the local dudhiya group would collect 7–8 litres. Even if they had excess milk, the milkman would only offer Rs 18 per litre whereas with dairy federations, they could get Rs 28–30 per litre.
That’s an immense amount of revenue lost.
Many other women did not want to be in the grip of the dudhiya so they took loans to buy cheaper cows or buffalos but these were usually either pregnant or unable to produce milk (one of them was duped by her own brother).
These women had just accepted their fate in the past. With their husbands working as labourers or as migrant workers in Gujarat or Mumbai, the women could not find any other way to provide for their families.
But we have become an alternative.
We have communicated the problem to our Impact partner and told them to ensure that Rang De loans are used for income generating purposes and to request for a larger loan amount so that these women have enough funds to buy the buffalos outright.
These women need to be paired with dairy federations that offer them a guaranteed price. Saheli Samiti social workers also need to keep in touch with the women so that they can prevent them from buying unusable animals.
Without such research and information gathering, it would be difficult for rural organisations to learn how to improve their operations.
Compared to a few years before, the grip of the dudhiya has reduced considerably but we know a lot more needs to be done.
Even if our partner wanted to show us only success stories, we made it a point to go and meet the women who were expressively unhappy and heard their stories.
The villages we went to were 10–12km away from Dholpur but villages like Saipau that are 25kms away have even more difficulties. We are especially keen to provide low-cost loans and mentorship via Saheli Samiti to facilitate development for rural women in far-off areas.
“Bangalore kaha hai?” (Where is Bangalore?) the women in Shepur asked. When we told them that it was more than 2,000km away, they could not believe that someone had travelled so far to listen to their problems.
Although there has been minimal impact and we know it will take a long time for these women to lead better lives, we must remember that these households get to consume fresh milk and this is very important for the health of the household.
We firmly believe the region will improve over 4–5 years as we have seen similar challenging conditions in other areas where Rang De loans have been distributed.
Getting women to escape the cycle of debt is definitely a challenge but one that we will never shy away from.
Impact team member Farheen Ali visited Rajasthan in March 2016. You can invest in nearly 221 dairy farmers who have applied for microcredit across India on the Rang De website.
We regularly carry out field trips to ensure that Rang De loans are making the desired impact on the poor communities we seek to empower. You can see the upcoming field trips on our Field Trip calendar and join us or you can sign up for audio evaluations by filling up the form here.