Sustainable Dairy Farming

Cornerstones training conducted by Hambantota Coordinator
Cornerstones training conducted by NGO leader
Differently able family engaged in dairy farming in Hambantota
Dairy farming in Matara
prog_012_05Constructed biogas unit in use

In the aftermath of the Asia Tsunami of December 2004, one successful attempt of SLCDF in helping the tsunami affected was the 5-year project with Heifer International U.S.A./Nepal. Project activities began in Hambantota District first in June 2005. Due to the conflict situation then prevailing in the country could not pursue the project in the originally intended other district of Batticaloa. Matara District was identified as the alternative and soon the activities started there in June 2007.

All the activities were successfully completed and the project is now closed. The participating families continue integrated farming including dairying activities towards sustainability through the use of the Heifer Cornerstones principles. SLCDF network of CBOs, NGOs and DCs continue coordinating and monitoring the activities of this model project.

Under this project a total of 660 participants have been trained in Cornerstones and dairy management including ‘pass on’ participants benefiting from the gift of the first born female calf by “original” participants. Currently 400 families (230 original families and 170 pass on families) are involved in dairy farming as a livelihood.

The participant families mainly used the new income generated through the project for their day to day needs and invested for children’s education, redemption of old debts, improved health facilities and better housing too. Some even acquired new assets, a little land, a three wheel auto rickshaw, agricultural equipment, household appliances and furniture. Over 50 families invested in increasing their herd. The project also brought about enhanced trust relationships and social cohesiveness among the village community and families.

Children, pregnant and lactating mothers consume fresh milk, around 3/4 to 1 ½ litres per day by each family. Children drink their cup of milk before setting out to school. Practically all participants grow their own vegetables not contaminated by agro-chemicals. They use it for family consumption and sell the surplus in the neighbourhood or at the local market. Milk and vegetables from their own homestead ensure the prospect of a more balanced diet which can lead to the reduced incidence of malnutrition or under-nutrition, among marginalized segments in these communities. 80% of participants have chemical free home gardens and have achieved enhanced biodiversity in these locations.

The soil texture of these homesteads has been improved with the recycling of fallen leaves, refuse and cow dung. There is reduced soil erosion as well with systematically grown home gardens.

Ten biogas units have been provided to participants by the Provincial Department of Animal Production and Health. This energy is used for domestic cooking and sometimes lighting a bulb or two.

The project has been implemented through group activities and these participants have been sharing their knowledge, skills, and experience through the mechanism of group meetings. The social capital built up through the project is of great value to the farming families in ensuring sustainable development for themselves and their communities. This group process has encouraged them to solve their own problems within the community to a larger extent, without depending too much on external agencies.

Over 50% of the participants are women and the project has brought about an increase in the capacity of women to engage in personal and community development.

The project, linked with academics along with their students from the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Ruhuna and established a Resource Centre cum cattle breeding centre in the University campus, providing necessary expertise to the community of dairy farmers.

Well over 30 families with differently abled persons have been included in the project and now they contribute significantly to the family economy. They have all found in the project an ideal fit for their special circumstances.

The Heifer Cornerstones concept has been introduced with success in seven other districts in Sri Lanka – Galle, Kalutara, Kurunegala, Batticaloa, Moneragala, Kegalle and Polonnaruwa.

Our dairy network of around 20 NGOs and over 40 CBO partners in Matara and Hambantota will be continuing their programme activities in a sustainable manner through the ‘Passing on the Gift’ process.

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