Interview with Dilshad Mohd of Solidaridad India

4th June 2024

Integrating India into the global dairy sustainability movement

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By fostering a continuous improvement approach, the SDP facilitates mutual growth and sustainability across the dairy supply chain, ultimately benefitting farmers, dairy processors and dairy buyers.

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In 2022, members of SAI Platform’s Dairy Working Group initiated a project to integrate India into the global dairy sustainability movement, in collaboration with Solidaridad India, a local dairy processor, local authorities and dairy farmers. We recently caught up with Dilshad Mohd of the Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre, India to hear more about the results of taking this value chain approach when integrating on-farm sustainable practices.

Can you please provide some insight into the context of the dairy industry in India?  

Dilshad Mohd: India is the world’s largest milk producer, reaching an impressive 230 million tons of milk in the fiscal year 2022-2023. The dairy sector has flourished in recent years, maintaining a steady growth rate of around 4%, even as other areas of agriculture have slowed. This industry is a cornerstone of India’s economy, providing livelihoods for millions and contributing to the nation’s nutritional security.

However, the sector still faces significant challenges, such as high production costs, low productivity, limited mechanisation, and restricted access to finance. Despite these hurdles, the dairy industry remains vital to the rural economy and continues to be a beacon of growth and stability, underpinning the livelihoods of countless families across the country.

What were the challenges and opportunities identified that led to this project being initiated in India.

Dilshad Mohd: The project aimed to address challenges including reproductive issues, hygiene concerns, and suboptimal feeding and housing practices. Education on nutrition management and increased access to technical advisory on breeding were the opportunities identified that catalysed the collaborative effort.

What were the main objectives that the project set out to achieve

Dilshad Mohd: The project aimed to enhance various aspects of dairy farming operations with a focus on productivity, animal health and welfare, fertility and nutrition. In conjunction, the positive impact on GHG mitigation, that could be achieved by addressing problems associated with cow comfort, low lactation yield, breeding management and nutrition balancing, was estimated.

Adopting a model farm approach, seven model farms were identified across the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh provinces, with a vision of achieving a 20% production increase for the model farms and 10% for others. Additionally, the project aimed to introduce high-yield fodder, provide silage training, enhance genetic practices, and advocate for water conservation measures.

How was the SDP Framework used to engage smallholder farmers on these priorities?

Dilshad Mohd: The Sustainable Dairy Partnership (SDP) provided a structured approach, enabling the local processor to navigate the complexities of sustainability while focusing on key areas of improvement.

By leveraging the SDP, Solidaridad was able to assess, prioritise, and address critical issues such as animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and economic viability. Through collaborative efforts and a shared commitment to sustainability, the SDP facilitated the development of baselines, targets and KPIs, driving meaningful progress towards achieving sustainable dairy production practices.

What were the outcomes of the project? How are these outcomes creating sustainable value for farmers?

Dilshad Mohd: The project achieved significant results with a 15% increase in milk production at the model farms and a 9% increase at the non-model farms. Prioritising cattle welfare led to an 86% reduction in subclinical mastitis cases, while efforts to enhance fertility resulted in reduced insemination counts and quicker pregnancy diagnoses for the 950 animals impacted by the project.

The model farms demonstrated that the introduction of loose housing offers a one stop solution to many problems. The move away from ties housing resulted in better productivity rates and lower levels of mastitis cases which in turn led to reductions in antibiotics usage, animal stress, water usage and GHG footprints.  

Overall, the project resulted in a reduction of GHG emissions measured by the Cool Farm Tool, and the experience gained through the implementation of the model farms will be scaled up to impact 2000 farmers and approximately 10,000 animals in a later phase of the project currently under development.

Lastly, what advice would you have for other dairy processors using the SDP with smallholder farmers? 

Dilshad Mohd: The SDP provides processors with a valuable tool to support their suppliers in focusing on what matters most, whether it’s improving animal welfare standards, implementing environmental practices, or enhancing economic viability.

Through technical advisory and knowledge exchange, processors can work closely with farmers to address their specific needs and challenges. By fostering a continuous improvement approach, the SDP facilitates mutual growth and sustainability across the dairy supply chain, ultimately benefiting farmers, dairy processors and dairy buyers.