Front Cover
 Women in Thailand and history of...
 Muek-Lek: The setting and...
 The women's dairy project
 Project financing
 Project design
 Risk management
 Project results
 Strengths and weaknesses of the...
 Lessons learned
 Women in dairying: The India experience,...
 Back Cover

Group Title: SEEDS
Title: The Muek-Lek women's dairy project in Thailand
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00088783/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Muek-Lek women's dairy project in Thailand
Series Title: Seeds
Physical Description: 20 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Rao, Aruna
Publisher: Seeds
Place of Publication: New York
Publication Date: 1990
Subject: Dairy products and industries -- Thailand   ( ltcsh )
Agricultural development projects -- Thailand   ( lcsh )
Rural women -- Thailand   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Thailand
Statement of Responsibility: story by Aruna Rao.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00088783
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 22842486
issn - 073-6833 ;

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
        Page 1
    Women in Thailand and history of the dairy industry
        Page 2
    Muek-Lek: The setting and the people
        Page 3
    The women's dairy project
        Page 4
    Project financing
        Page 5
    Project design
        Page 6
        Page 7
    Risk management
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
    Project results
        Page 12
        Page 13
    Strengths and weaknesses of the Muek-Lek experience
        Page 14
    Lessons learned
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
    Women in dairying: The India experience, by Kalima Rose
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Back Cover
        Page 21
        Page 22
Full Text

SEEDS is a pamphlet series developed to meet requests from all over the world
for information about innovative and practical program ideas developed by and for
low income women. The pamphlets are designed as a means to share information
and spark new projects based on the positive experiences of women who are
working to help themselves and other women improve their economic status. The
projects described in this and other issues of SEEDS have been selected because
they provide women with a cash income, involve women in decision-making as
well as earning, are based on sound economic criteria, and are working successfully
to overcome obstacles commonly encountered. The reports are not meant to be
prescriptive, since every development effort will face somewhat different problems
and resources. Rather, they have been written to describe the history of an idea
and its implementation in the hope that the lessons learned can be useful in a
variety of settings. They are also being written to bring to the attention of those in
decision-making positions the fact that income generating projects for and by
women are viable and have important roles to play in development.


No. 12 1990
ISSN 073-6833
Copyright 1990 SEEDS

The Population Council provides project direction and administrative
support for SEEDS. Editorial policy is set by the SEEDS Steering
Committee: Judith Bruce (The Population Council), Marty Chen
(Harvard Institute for International Development), Margaret Clark
(The Ford Foundation), Cecilia Lotse (UNICEF), Katharine McKee
(Center for Community Self-Help), Anne Walker (International
Womens Tribune Center), Mildred Warner (Cornell University), and
Ann Leonard (Editor).
Publication of SEEDS is made possible by support of the Ford
Foundation, the Government of the Netherlands, the Population
Council and UNICEF
Statements made and views expressed in this publication are
solely the responsibility of the author and not of any organization
providing support for SEEDS.

The Muek-Lek Women's

Dairy Project in Thailand

Story by Aruna Rao

This issue of SEEDS describes a project that was started in 1985 to encourage
the growth of a new agricultural sector, dairy farming, in Thailand. While the major
aim of the project was to increase incomes of rural families in the Muek-Lek Land
Reform Area in Saraburi Province, Central Thailand, it also sought to integrate
women into dairying activities, and offer these women, whether married or single,
access to credit.
It is unusual for women to have an opportunity to participate in the formation
of a new and highly profitable agricultural industry. The Muek-Lek Dairy Project
is unique in that it has channeled government resources and secured commercial
bank financing to make women the key participants in a relatively new and growing
agricultural sector in Thailand. Primarily the initiative of two prominent Thai women,
a banker and the director of a national NGO, with the support of an international
women's banking organization, the project has had a major impact on increasing
women's income, status, and access to government and private sector resources.

Barefoot and sarong clad, Somchit
walks quickly across her small, dry plot of
land toward the cattle shed where her seven-
teen year-old son is guiding cows into their
stalls. It is 4:00 p.m.-afternoon milking time.
It takes Somchit twenty minutes to milk one
cow; she owns twelve all together. Four years
ago, with a 158,000 bhat (U.S. $6,320) loan
from the Bangkok Bank, under a program
sponsored by the Friends of Women's World
Banking in Thailand, in collaboration with a
number of government agencies and national
nongovernmental organizations, Somchit
bought four dairy cows imported from New
Zealand. Before she started dairy farming,
she planted corn and earned less than
1,000 bhat ($40) a month. Now she nets
over three times that amount.

Women in Thailand
Women comprise close to half the
population of Thailand and about 67 per-
cent are active in the labor market. The
majority of Thai women live in rural areas
and are employed in agriculture, many as
unpaid family labor. However, over the last
thirty years the percentage of women in ag-
riculture has declined from 87 to 61 percent
as women have moved into commerce,
manufacturing and services. In all indus-
tries women are concentrated in the lowest
income brackets. Although female literacy
is high (84 percent), political participation
at the local and national levels is not signif-
icant and women still do not enjoy legal
equality with men in a number of spheres.

History of the Dairy Industry
Milk consumption is not a tradition in
Thailand. Until thirty years ago, cattle were
raised primarily as work animals, and also
for beef and manure. The earliest dairying
activities were started in the 1950s by Indian
settlers around Ayutthaya, the ancient cap-
ital of Thailand, located about 80 kilometers
north of Bangkok. The fresh milk they pro-
duced was sold to consumers in Bangkok.
Today dairying continues to be focused
primarily in the Central Zone because of its
rich agricultural land and availability of
cattle feed for most of the year.
Following the Second World War, the
Government of Thailand established a milk
authority to promote milk production and
consumption. However, increasing imports
of milk and milk products, which were lower
in price and of better quality, undermined
local production. Beginning in the early
1960s, the milk processing industry began
to expand when the Danish and German
governments assisted in setting up model
dairy farms in Muek-Lek. By 1972, there
were eight milk processing factories pro-
ducing pasteurized and recombined milk.
A dairy farming promotion organization was
started under government sponsorship to
support research on exotic breeds, provide
training, and encourage processing and
marketing. Most of the support was targeted
to large farms in Saraburi province. Be-
tween 1976 and 1982, the demand for milk

grew by 25 percent per year as incomes
(particularly of urban dwellers) improved
and more people acquired a taste for milk.
The number of dairy farmers in Thai-
land has increased from 114 farmers with
3450 cows in 1962, to 4000 farmers with
about 24,000 cows in 1986. Imported Hol-
stein-Freisian/Sahival cows have become
the norm for the industry due to their high
yields and adaptability to conditions in Thai-
land. Today milk processing remains highly
concentrated, with five private sector pro-
cessing companies responsible for 90 per-
cent of the country's local dairy production
-which still meets only 20 percent of de-
mand. In 1988, annual imports of milk and
milk products still amounted to about 2,500
million bhat (U.S. $100 million), thus indicat-
ing a significant opportunity for expanding
local production.
As a profitable and rapidly growing
sector, dairying presented a unique oppor-
tunity to increase women's incomes. The
efforts of the consortium of banks, govern-
ment agencies, and NGOs in the Muek-Lek
Dairy Project have enabled 82 poor families
to purchase 500 imported cows, making
women significant players in the emerging
dairy industry.

The Setting and the People
Muek-Lek is located in the province of
Saraburi, about 250 km. northwest of Bang-
kok. Thailand's small but growing dairy in-
dustry is concentrated in Saraburi province.
However, most poor farmers in the region
continue to depend on low return crops
such as maize for family income. Most
families in Muek-Lek were originally squatters
who moved into the area to clear govern-
ment forest land for cultivation. Squatters
and landless laborers in Muek-Lek were
granted user rights to the land through the
government land reform program of 1979.
While some families managed to register
neighboring plots under the names of differ-
ent family members, thereby retaining rela-
tively large landholdings, the mean size of
farms within the land reform area is 30 rai,
or eight hectares.
Prior to joining the dairy project, se-
venty percent of all households in Muek-Lek
earned less than 10,000 bhat ($400) per
year; thirty-five percent earned less than
6,000 bhat ($240) annually-figures that are
substantially lower than for other parts of
Thailand. The annual expenses of most
households exceeded or just equalled their

income, and many were borrowing from
local merchants at an interest rate of twenty
percent. This money was advanced against
crops during the four-month period be-
tween planting and harvesting. Some male
farmers were able to take out loans averag-
ing 5,000 bhat ($200) from the local agricul-
tural cooperative, but this credit was not
available to women farmers.
Saraburi has a tropical, savanna cli-
mate with three seasons: a rainy season
from May to October; a cool season from
November to February; and a pre-monsoon
hot season from February to April. Tempera-
tures range form a high of 32 degrees cel-
sius in April to 16 in December. Only about
twenty-one percent of the land is irrigated;
most of the annual rainfall comes between
May and October. The three consecutive
years prior to 1985, when the dairy project
started in Muek-Lek, were years of drought.
The lowland areas, with poorly drained
clay soils, are planted in rice. Maize, sor-
ghum, mung and soya beans are cultivated
in the hilly regions. In the Muek-Lek area
the majority of farmers plant maize as their
main crop. Agricultural labor is seasonal
and often shared between women and men.
In late March and early April men are respon-
sible for land preparation for the first crop.
Tractors are hired for plowing and oxen are
used for furrowing. Planting is done in April,
mostly by women, and weeding is carried
out three or four weeks later by both women
and men. Generally, Muek-Lek farmers do
not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Harvesting, which is done in July, is also a
joint female-male activity. Land preparation
for a second crop immediately follows har-
vesting of the first. The second crop gener-
ally produces lower yields than the first due
to drier weather. Farmers sell their maize
directly to local merchants. Despite the ability
to plant a second crop, seasonal under-
employment is still a problem for both men
and women in Muek-Lek.

Planting corn doesn't yield a good in-
come," says Lek. "It also means money only
twice a year, at the end of each cropping
season." "Before we had barely enough to

get by; now we have a little extra," adds
Lamoon. Both agree that the best thing
about the dairy project is that it increased
income and spreads it throughout the year.

The Women's Dairy Project
In 1984, the Thai Institute of Science
and Technical Research conducted a study
as part of a large rural development project
covering a number of sites around the coun-
try, including Saraburi. The aim was to iden-
tify ways to improve the productivity and
incomes of local farmers by focusing on
cash crops such as cotton and animal feed,
or dairying. Dr. Malee Suwana-adth was an
advisor to the Institute at the time. She is
the Executive Director of the SVITA Founda-
tion, a private, non-profit organization that
promotes small enterprise development in
Thailand, particularly among women. Dr.
Malee accompanied the research team to
Saraburi to explore opportunities for small
scale enterprise development.

The team, accompanied by the Muek-.
Lek land reform officer, Khun Kamthorn, vis-
ited a series of development sites including
an ongoing Thai government/Danish dairy
project. This project was experiencing a
number of difficulties, including low yields
from crossbred cows, and lack of local infra-
structure, such as all-weather roads to con.-
nect farms with the milk processing plant
(located 30 km. away). Over several months
the team, along with the land reform officer,
examined the feasibility of different income-
earning activities, taking into account the
farmers access to land and capital, their
technical know-how, and market demand.
Demonstration plots of new crop varieties
and practices were planted for farmers to
observe. When the study was completed,
the team discussed their findings and ideas
with local villagers. These villagers then
continued to meet as an informal working
group to further discuss the various options
the team had presented to them. At first the
working group included only one woman.
Later, with SVITA's encouragement, more
and more women joined in the delibera-
tions. Of all the possibilities for augmenting
income, the villagers chose to begin dairy
farming despite the difficulties faced by
other dairy projects in their region. Dairy
farming best met their needs because it
would provide a steady stream of income
throughout the year and help fill their need
for employment during slack agricultural
periods. They were concerned, however,
about the low milk production of local, cross-
bred cows.
Soon afterwards, Dr. Malee and an as-
sociate returned to carry out a feasibility
study to determine the minimum amount of
assistance that would be necessary to
make dairying profitable for each family.
They also visited several small dairy pro-
jects sponsored by other NGOs in Thailand.
Their findings indicated that profitability
would require the purchase of imported
cows, which yield higher quantities of milk
than local or locally crossbred varieties. But
neither SVITA nor the provincial administra-
tion could provide the necessary funding,
and attempts by the land reform officer to
secure loans from the nationalized Bank for
Agriculture and Cooperatives and the
Bangkok Bank were unsuccessful.

Project Financing
As luck would have it, it was only a
short time afterwards that a prominent woman
banker, Chinda Charungcharoenvej, Senior
Vice President of the Bangkok Bank, called
Dr. Malee to ask if SVITA would be interested
in starting a dairy project. Ms. Charungcha-
roenvej, it turned out, was handling transac-
tions for the Ministry of Agriculture to import
dairy cows. Dr. Malee told her about the
Muek-Lek project idea and explained the
problems of raising investment capital. Put-
ting their heads together, the two women
came up with a financing scheme using the
services of Women's World Banking, an inter-
national organization committed to improving
women's access to credit and financial ser-
vices through loan guarantees to in-country
lending institutions which make loans to
women. Ms. Charungcharoenvej had been
encouraged to develop a program for deliv-
ery of credit for women's enterprises in Thai-
land, and this seemed like it might be the
perfect opportunity to get started.
The two women received a commitment
of five million bhat ($200,000) over a three-
year period from Women's World Banking.
Of this amount, 1.7 million bhat ($66,667)
was immediately deposited with the Bangkok


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Bank to provide a 50 percent guarantee of
the principal needed to start the project.
SVITA joined two other Thai NGOs to form an
affiliate, Friends of Women's World Banking
in Thailand, which deposited 750,000 bhat
($30,000) in the Bangkok Bank as the local
share (25 percent) of the guarantee funds
for credit to women's economic enterprises.
As a result of these guarantees, the bank
bore risk on only 25 percent of the principal
At first the Bangkok Bank was very re-
luctant to get involved in this new and seem-
ingly high-risk area, especially since a pre-
vious dairy project it had funded had failed.
But the Bank was under pressure to meet
its legally stipulated mandate of providing
a minimum of eleven to thirteen percent of
its total lending portfolio as rural credit. And
now the Muek-Lek project had three things
going for it: (1) with the loan guarantee, the
Bank had substantially reduced its risk; (2)
its managers were encouraged by the fact
that SVITA would be continuously present
to organize, supervise, and monitor the
dairy loans and other project activities; and
(3) a senior bank staff member would be
personally associated with the project. So
the Bank conducted its own feasibility study
and finally agreed to match the Friends of

Women's World Banking in Thailand deposit
with an equivalent amount of its own and to
make loans to those women recommended
by the cooperating NGOs at a rate of two
bhat for every one bhat deposited, as
guarantee, in the bank.

Project Design
To get the project started, the land re-
form officer and SVITA organized meetings
with the villagers to discuss the operational
details of starting the dairy project. From the
outset, women were expected to play a
major role in the project, although all family
members would share in the care and milking
of the cows. This was a logical decision
since women do not migrate for wage work
as men do and the activities involved in
dairy farming are carried out close to home.
Since women already held primary respon-
sibility for family financial management,
SVITA stipulated that the principal borrower
be the woman, with the male as cosigner,
thus reversing the pattern common in Thai-
Although in most households in Muek-
Lek it is the woman's responsibility to manage
household finances, women traditionally

have not been members of agricultural co-
operatives and thus, not eligible to receive
such loans. Under land reform, the Muek-
Lek farmers, both male and female, do not
hold title to their land; thus, they cannot
meet the collateral requirements of the
larger commercial or nationalized banks.
Even if a woman farmer could meet the loan
requirements, however, she would be un-
likely to be given credit because of the
"head of household" criterion which tradi-
tionally means only men are eligible.
The project designers felt strongly that
women should be the loan recipients be-
cause they would be providing the majority
of the labor to the dairy enterprise. In addi-
tion, much empirical evidence exists in Thai-
land to demonstrate that women have better
repayment rates than men.

"Women look after money better than
men do," says Niphaporn, who bought six
dairy cows with her dairy loan. "Men will go
out and drink and forget what the loan was

By making them the principal borrowers, the
project hoped to extend women's financial
management skills to activities outside the
household and make them feel primarily re-
sponsible for repayment of the loan. It also
was hoped that this arrangement would give
women greater say in family decisions con-
cerning the dairy project. (For additional in-
formation on women's experiences with
credit, see SEEDS issues Nos. 3, 6, & 11).
As designed, the project comprised
six components, divided into two general
categories: 1) credit-dairy loans; and 2)
risk management-insurance, training, vet-
erinary services, a feed mill cooperative,
and a mechanism for milk collection.

Credit is often seen as the principal
constraint facing many women's enter-
prises. While access to financing was critical
to this project, it represents only one of many
constraints which had to be addressed in
order to achieve success. SVITA provided
the link between the village working group
and the bankers in carrying out negotiations
on project financing. When the two groups

reached an agreement, the land reform of-
ficer informed SVITA of their decisions.
SVITA was then asked to arrange for the
importation of pregnant dairy cows from
New Zealand which had been shown to be
adaptable to Thai conditions and to yield
twice as much milk as local breeds. Accord-
ing to government regulations, a minimum
of five hundred cows had to be imported in
any one consignment, and each cow cost
25,000 bhat ($1,000). The Bank, in turn, stipu-
lated that a minimum of four cows was neces-
sary per family in order to insure adequate
earnings to repay the loan.
Many families wanted to participate
and 85 in the area applied for loans. Of
these, some owned considerably more land
and were better off financially than others
but, in the end, the Bangkok Bank approved
82 of the loan applications. The project re-
quired the land-cattle ratio noted in the
chart.* The differing loan amounts also in-
cluded other start-up costs such as the cost
of electrical fencing, construction of barns
and water wells, milking machines (for some
farmers), cattle insurance and a mandatory
two-month quarantine of the cows at the gov-
ernment dairy promotion organization at
The annual interest rate on the loans
was thirteen percent, one point lower than
the commercial rate. Repayment was sche-
duled over an eight-year period with a one
year grace period. Subsequent monthly pay-
ments of principal plus interest were re-
stricted to no more than 30 percent of each
family's monthly income. To receive a loan,
each borrower had to open an account at
the Bangkok Bank. Realizing that it would
be impossible for the women to travel 50
km. to the nearest branch of the bank to

make their monthly payments, arrange-
ments were made by SVITA to have the pay-
ments made for them by the Thai/Danish
milk processing plant that would be buying
the milk from farmers. The plant keeps a
separate account for each farmer, deduct-
ing the amount owed the Bank from what is
due the farmer for milk purchased at the
end of each month.

Risk Management
While dairying offers the opportunity
for increased incomes, it carries substantial
risks. The success of this project rests on
its recognition of the inherent risks and its
effective handling of risk with regard to loan
repayment, animal health, women's techni-
cal expertise, access to inputs, and access
to markets for milk. Had any of these as-
pects been overlooked, the project might
have failed as did earlier dairy projects in
the same province.
To protect the investment of the
Bangkok Bank and the individual borrowers,
Ms. Charungcharoenvej was able to arrange
with the Bangkok Insurance Company for
cattle insurance that would cover 75 per-
cent of the per head cost in case of loss.
Up until this time, no livestock insurance
had been available in Thailand. The insur-
ance premium amounted to 1,100 bhat per
head per year. Having the insurance has
proved invaluable, especially during the
first year of the project when 25 cows died
of hoof-and-mouth disease resulting from
poor livestock management during quaran-
tine. This meant that the affected families
could buy another cow.

1Eight rai is the average land holding in the land reform

A woman holding Could buy With a loan of
10-20 rai (2.5-5 Ha)1 4 cows 158,000 bhat ($6,320)
21-30 rai (5-8 Ha) up to 5 cows 193,000 bhat ($7,720)
31-50 rai (8-12 Ha) up to 6 cows 229,000 bhat ($9,160)

Training courses in animal husbandry
are regularly held by the government spon-
sored dairy promotion organization in Muek-
Lek. With the assistance of the provincial
governor, SVITA persuaded the organiza-
tion to host a special training course for the
farmers participating in the dairy project
during a slack agricultural period. One
member of each family attended, and 70
percent of the participants were women. All
the participants stayed at the training facility
for the duration of the course and the provin-
cial administration covered the cost.

Veterinary Services
The provincial veterinary office at
Saraburi regularly provides services to farm-
ers free of charge. For the first year of the
project, SVITA paid the provincial veterina-
rians to visit the farms of individual project
families on weekends, when they would nor-
mally be off work. This enabled the women
to learn how to treat many common problems
on their own. Now veterinary services are
available on demand, within 24 hours of re-
ceiving the request, from the provincial office
and from the dairy promotion organization.

The one service farmers continue to
pay for is artificial insemination which costs
between 150-300 bhat ($6-$12) depending
on the breed. While it often requires several
attempts before a cow is successfully impreg-
nated, the investment is worthwhile. Farmers
can sell a male calf for 200 bhat ($8) and
a female calf for 3000 bhat ($120).
The Feed Mill Cooperative
To consistently yield large quantities
of milk, the New Zealand cows require en-
riched feed which was not readily available
in Muek-Lek. To produce such feed, the
Muek-Lek farmers set up a feedmill with a
200,000 bhat ($8,000) grant from the provin-
cial government for construction and the
purchase of equipment, and a 100,000 bhat
($4,000) loan from SVITA's Business Devel-
opment Fund to set up the feedmill opera-
tions and for the down payment on a truck.
All the project participants automatically
became members of the feedmill coopera-
tive. The farmers elected a committee of ten
(made up of members of the original village
working group) to oversee general manage-
ment, quality control, and money collection.
From the beginning, the feedmill operations
were entirely in the hands of the villagers.

Initially SVITA provided one of its own
staff to help with the accounts. This person
was later hired by the feedmill to check the
books, first every three months and later at
increasing intervals. The cooperative also
hired a manager to handle day-to-day oper-
ations. During the first year, the cooperative
ran into problems: money was being skimmed
off and diverted elsewhere. In an effort to
revamp, the committee fired the manager
and replaced him with a woman who has
set the cooperative on a sound footing. The
new manager oversees a staff of three: an
assistant and two hired hands who grind
and mix the feed.
In order to spread the benefits of the
dairy project to a wider segment of the local
population, the feedmill buys certain feed
grains, such as corn, on a preferential basis
from local farmers who do not own cattle.
Ingredients such as bran and coconut palm
powder, which are not produced locally, are
purchased nearby.
The dairy farmers buy their feed on
credit twice a month. In 1987, after paying
back the SVITA loan, the feedmill collected
500 bhat from each member to replenish the
revolving loan fund. In its second year of
operation, the mill started paying a dividend

to its members. Its net profit averages be-
tween 10,000 and 15,000 bhat ($400-600)
per year. Thus far, each member family is
getting back a dividend of a few hundred
bhat each year.

Collecting the Milk
An agreement was made with the Thai/
Danish milk processing plant to purchase
milk from the Muek-Lek dairy farmers at the
standard rate of 6.50 bhat per kilogram. But
transporting the milk was a problem for the
farmers; some lived 50 km. away from the
processing plant and few had access to
transportation. Those who owned trucks
saw this as an opportunity to make some
money and offered to transport the milk at
a very high price. Here SVITA, in its role as
project advisor, was able to help the farmers
weigh the alternatives, including the possi-
bility of using the feedmill truck to transport
the milk themselves or taking out a loan to
buy a new truck. Seeing that they might end
up out of a job, the local truck owners de-
cided to lower their price. Ultimately they
were hired by the farmers to transport the
milk at a fair price.

U umi
I I -a EI

Later, SVITA was able to persuade the
processing plant to set up a milk collection
center in the heart of the Muek-Lek area
and to establish twice daily pick ups in their
refrigerated trucks. Now the women only have
to hire transportation to take their milk to the
collection center at a minimal cost of 100 to
300 bhat ($4-$12) per month, depending on
the distance. SVITA also successfully lobbied
the Rural Employment Generation Project,
a public works scheme, to construct roads
linking villages participating in the dairy pro-
ject with the collection center and the milk
processing plant.

Project Results

"Dairying provides a steady income
that we can depend on," explains Lek. Som-
chit smiles in agreement. "We are no longer
worried about being constantly in debt," she
says. As a result of the project, women's work-
loads have increased by an average of two
hours per day. Previously there were seasonal
highs and lows, but now the work is spread
out more evenly throughout the year. "But
working hard is good," says Lek. "We have
an increased income and we are proud."

Improved Income
Prior to joining the dairy project, many
families in Muek-Lek were unable to escape
a yearly cycle of debt. For families that be-
came part of the dairy project, things have

changed. The figures below indicate that
Muek-Lek dairy farmers have doubled or
tripled their farm income over a two to three-
year period.
In addition, many families continue to
grow corn for the local market, even though
women's participation in field agriculture
has, in many cases, declined as a result of
their involvement in dairying. Additional in-
come is sometimes earned by family mem-
bers who work as casual laborers, both skilled
and unskilled. Sawon's husband, for exam-
ple, occasionally finds work as a carpenter,
earning 80 bhat ($3.20) per day; Lamoon
makes 100 bhat ($4.00) every day, in addi-
tion to her dairy income, by selling home-
made noodles in the village market.
How are families spending their extra
income? For one thing, they are eating better.
The variety of foods consumed has increased
and the quality has improved. Instead of
eating only preserved fish, for example,
families can now afford fresh fish. And in-
stead of eating only two meals a day, they
can now eat three. Most families with school-
aged children also report spending more
on their education. With her extra income,
Chin sends her oldest son to school in
Bangkok. Similarly, Noo is now able to send
both her children to a government school
in Saraburi.
Almost all the families in the dairy pro-
ject have invested in more cattle. In the
three years since the project started, the
number of dairy cows has doubled. Some
families also have used their dairy income
to improve their farms, such as planting bet-
ter quality grass in fields that otherwise
would be left fallow. Many have made im-
provements on their houses; for example,

Activity Income Expenses Net Income
Corn Farming Bt. 30,720 Bt. 20,224* Bt. 10,498
($1229) ($809) ($420)
Dairy Farming Bt. 95,730 Bt. 58,651** Bt. 37,079
2nd Year ($3830) ($2346) ($1484)
Dairy Farming Bt. 122,205 Bt. 73,213*** Bt. 48,992
3rd Year ($4888) ($2928) ($1960)
*Includes cost of seeds, plough and thresher rental
**Includes bank repayment (30% of monthly income), cost of veterinary services,
feed, and transportation

some have replaced bamboo walls with
stronger wooden board and a few have
even constructed concrete houses. Finally,
several of the women have managed to pay
off their entire loan.

Increased Skills

Niphaporn is a confident and articu-
late young mother of two. Her husband, who
suffers from a severe nervous disorder, is
confined to bed. Their children, a girl aged
four and a boy aged two, live with her
mother in Bangkok. Niphaporn sees them
once a month when her mother comes to
the village with medicines for her husband.
Niphaporn's day starts at 4:00 a.m. when
she turns on the electric power generator
and rounds up the cows. In the cool season,
the animals are washed with warm water
prior to milking. In her experience, "if a cow
has just given birth, it gives 22 kg. of milk
a day; but if it has been eight months or
more since it has calved, it gives less than
half that amount." By 7:00 a.m. the cows
(she now owns 16) have been machine
milked and are back out to pasture. Then,
with the help of a hired hand, she cleans
out their stalls. During the rainy season, after

breakfast, she cuts the enriched grasses
which she grows for feed. In the afternoon,
the whole milking process is repeated. Today
Niphaporn is earning more than 3000 bhat
per month, after expenses, from dairying.

Women dairy farmers have expanded
their traditional financial management re-
sponsibilities to include the family dairy
enterprises in which they have a primary
entrepreneurial stake. The women are also
more involved in day-to-day operations and
care of the animals than any other family
member. It is usually the women who milk
the cows, mix the feed, and call the veterina-
rian. Most of the women learned these skills
through the government training course in
animal husbandry. In addition, since the pro-
ject began, the women have gained confi-
dence in dealing effectively with government
As yet, however, the women dairy
farmers do not actively participate in the
running of the feedmill cooperative. "As long
as it's running all right, the women tend to
let it be," says Dr. Malee of SVITA. "For
example, they don't ask questions about
how the money collected is used. But that
may change over time," she adds.

Strengths and Weaknesses
of the Muek-Lek Experience
The role of outside catalysts in a pro-
ject can be both a strength and a weakness.
The sophisticated framework for providing
credit and minimizing risk which permitted
the successful establishment of the Muek-
Lek Dairy Project is largely attributable to
the crucial roles played by SVITA, the local
land reform officer, and the Bangkok Bank.
Their involvement was responsible for the
sound planning that has characterized every
phase of project implementation. The per-
sonal contacts and drive of Dr. Malee, Ms.
Charungcharoenvej, and Khun Kamthorn
were crucial in putting all the pieces to-
gether into a workable whole.
However, outside support must be
used carefully so as not to undermine
people's ability and willingness to learn how
to control and manage income-earning ac-
tivities on their own. Given the risk factors
involved in dairying, the project sought to
ensure that the financing, training, and tech-
nical and marketing aspects of the project
would not have to be the direct responsibility
of the participants. Rather, the intermediary
agencies brought existing services within
reach of the women farmers and, as much
as possible, integrated project mechanisms
into existing institutions so that they became
a part of the standard operating procedures
of these organizations. For example, loan
repayment is directly handled by the pro-
cessing plant which purchases the milk. It
was designed to relieve the individual farm-
ers of this responsibility.
When SVITA withdrew from the project
in 1987, the Saraburi provincial administra-
tion took over its role as project facilitator.
The day-to-day business of dairy farming
and feedmill management was in the hands
of the farm families. When senior government
officials had to be contacted or outsiders
tried to interfere with project operations, the
farmers were able to call upon the land reform
officer for help. While this project approach
is not an example of a totally "participatory"
approach, evident in other editions of SEEDS,
it was successful in linking women with sys-
tems which could respond to their needs-
credit, technical services, training and mar-
keting-without exposing them to the very
real threat of failure. As a result, poor women

achieved access to governmental support
systems originally designed to serve the
needs of large farmers. It has also provided
a basis from which women can develop the
skills needed to exert greater control over
project management, now that they have
experienced financial success and are
firmly established as dairy farmers.

Lessons Learned
The Muek-Lek project is exemplary in
that it captured a growing industry early to
the benefit of women, before control by large-
scale interests had become entrenched.
The project placed ownership of significant
productive resources, in this case dairy
cows, squarely in the hands of women.
Overall, it offered poor rural women an un-
usual opportunity to learn new skills in a
highly lucrative, relatively young and grow-
ing sector of the mainstream agricultural
1. Women can successfully become
lead beneficiaries in a new industry when
the venture is supported by proper re-

search and planning, and provided with
sufficient technical and financial support
from the government and the financial
community. Dairying in Thailand is a non-
traditional activity for women, as well as
men. The decision to make women the pri-
mary recipients of loans for the dairy project
has insured their opportunity for leadership
in this new field. This is particularly significant
because in Thailand, as in most developing
countries, key productive resources such
as credit are generally unavailable to poor
rural women.
2. The flexible division of labor be-
tween men and women in rural Thailand,
and the relatively high level of under-
employment common during the slack
agricultural seasons, made it possible
for the women to take on the added re-
sponsibility of dairy farming. Because
family members were willing to shift work
burdens and there was seasonal unemploy-
ment in the area, it was possible to intro-
duce and carry out project activities. The
men's willingness to take up more of the
field agricultural activities, as the women be-
came more involved in dairying, made it
possible to handle the increase in farming

3. The minimum land requirement
for keeping dairy cattle, 10 rai or 1.6 hec-
tares, could be met by most families within
the Muek-Lek land reform area. This en-
sured access to the project by the majority
of the poorest women. In other parts of the
world, many families own or control far less

4. A balance must be struck between
potentially high risks and potentially
high returns on investment. Prior to begin-
ning dairy farming, the annual income of
approximately 70 percent of Muek-Lek
households was 10,000 bhat. The four-cow
minimum required by the project meant that
participating families must take out a loan
of at least 158,000 bhat-an indebtedness
fifteen times higher than their pre-project
annual income. Fortunately, the success of
the project resulted in a three-fold increase
in incomes by the third year. Still, the level
of indebtedness is a risk which warrants
serious attention.
5. The risks of a high yield/high loss
venture must be minimized through a
systematic effort to bulid capacity and
skills of participants and provide for in-
surance to compensate for potential
losses. Incorporating appropriate training

for farmers, access to veterinary care, and
project-controlled access to high quality feed
helped the project reduce the risk incurred
through the importation of high yielding
breeds which are generally more susceptible
to local diseases. By providing the farmers
training in animal husbandry and by assuring
on-going provision of veterinary care, the
project was able to avoid significant loss of
livestock. It also was able to institute the
first insurance coverage for livestock ever
to be underwritten in Thailand. In addition,
establishment of the feedmill cooperative,
which is owned by the farmers, insures a
continuous supply of high quality feed.
6. Establishing clear linkages to
marketing channels was another key ele-
ment in the success of the project. Prior to
implementing the project, market links were
firmly established with the milk processing
plant, thus insuring a steady flow of income
to participants. Quick and effective response
to transportation problems, experienced
early in the project, strengthened these link-
ages and, given the perishable nature of
the product, prevented any loss being incur-
red by the farmers. Many income-generat-
ing projects for women in the Third World
flounder for lack of an assured market for the
products they produce.

The author wishes to thank Dr. Malee Suwana-adth and Khun Chinda
Charungcharoenvejj for providing valuable information and for freely sharing their
comments and insights. Also, the author gratefully acknowledges the assistance
of Robert Retka who served as translator during field interviews.

Women in Dairying: the India Experience
by Kalima Rose

Unlike the experience in Thailand,
dairying is a traditional occupation in rural
India, performed largely by women in some
75 million households who daily feed, water,
bathe and milk the family cattle. Dairying
also provides wage and in-kind income for
poor women who care for the cattle of large
dairy producers and, for landless and mar-
ginal families, income derived from the sale
of milk helps bridge gaps between seasonal
agricultural labor.
In 1969, the National Dairy Development
Board (NDDB) of India initiated a massive
program called "Operation Flood" designed
to expand marketing opportunities for the
rural poor while, at the same time, creating
a larger source of milk for urban areas through
the establishment of village milk coopera-
tives. Built into the program was an extensive
network to transport milk from village to pro-
cessing centers to market, thus shifting
much subsistence milk production to com-
mercial production while, at the same time,
insuring fair rates for producers. The pro-
gram worked on a model of one to four cows
per household and was considered "low-
risk," since rural families already owned cattle
and knew how to care for them. Yet while it
is women who actually care for the cattle,
the program initially targeted men to join the
village cooperatives and to occupy all the
management positions from local to district
to state level. The men, therefore, also col-
lected the payments and managed the
Women's entry into the NDDB move-
ment began in 1978 when the Self-Em-
ployed Women's Association (SEWA) of
Ahmedabad, in Gujarat State (also home of
the NDDB), lobbied the Dairy Board to ex-
tend training to village women in the areas
of animal husbandry, dairying, and coopera-
tives. The aim was to enable women to as-
sume decision-making roles in the dairy
movement while, at the same time, gaining
some control over income earned. As a
union of women who work in the informal
sector in both rural and urban areas, SEWA

was able to link assetless women with the
nationalized banks to get loans to buy cat-
tle, while the NDDB developed training ma-
terials for illiterate women and helped or-
ganize women's cooperatives. Although for
the first four years they met resistance from
vested interests and from men who were
reluctant to allow women to control re-
sources, the women's cooperatives eventu-
ally became stabilized, giving women their
first economic and decision-making roles in
the dairy sector.
In 1983, the Dairy Federation of the
state of Andhra Pradesh and the Ford
Foundation created a state-wide program
targeting formation of women's coopera-
tives. Women extension staff were trained
to organize the all-women co-ops, which
now number 225 and include 16,000
women. Beginning in 1986, similar initiatives
were begun on a large scale in Bihar, one
of India's poorest states, where existing
cooperatives had been plagued by corrup-
tion. There are now 125 co-ops in the state
with 6000 women members.
By 1990, some 25,000 women had
been organized as members of over 500
all-women cooperatives in India. Experi-
ence shows that women's cooperatives
tend to be more stable than those controlled
by men and they produce more milk than
men's coops under similar conditions.
The most important elements for suc-
cess of the cooperatives have been well-
developed networks for delivery of training
and support services. Some cooperatives
have tapped the nationalized banks for
loans and subsidies under the Integrated
Rural Development Programme, while others
have had greater success by creating their
own revolving loan funds which are not sub-
ject to the delays, security demands, and
inflexible payment schedules imposed by
Due to women's previous exclusion
not only from business and financial control,
but also from access to basic literacy and
numeracy skills needed to manage accounts,

management by women has been an enor-
mous challenge in rural areas and has re-
quired extensive training. Management and
administration of women's dairy coopera-
tives is done completely by women, except
in Andhra Pradesh, where 80 percent of the
co-op secretaries are men.
In recent years, the NDDB has begun
to solicit the active participation of women
in the dairy movement and has appointed
two women to each of its five-person teams
of extension workers. However, NDDB is not
promoting formation of all-women's cooper-
atives but rather participation of women in
mixed co-ops. Many women-in-development
activists still feel that all-women cooperatives
are a better strategy: Mixed co-ops currently
have only ten percent women members
and, as women are generally conditioned
to defer to men in public, mixed societies
are less conducive to women taking control.

Some observers believe that the
NDDB may come around to promotion of
all-women cooperatives, but whether they
do or not, all cooperatives still face the issue
of self-sustainability. Outside donors to the
state federations continue to support the
costs of organizing women's cooperatives
and the salaries of women extension work-
ers. Once a cooperative is established and
registered (two to three years), it becomes
self-supporting, but women extension work-
ers still continue to provide valuable sup-
port. However, even if the state programs
were not to continue covering the cost of
female extension workers in the future, the
existing co-ops should be able to continue
on their own.
While the examples noted above are
all progressive steps that have been taken,
more still needs to be done to acknowledge
and promote women's roles in the Indian
dairy industry.

Design: Ann Leonard
Typography: Village Type and Graphics
Photos: Kim Retka
Printing: Graphic Impressions, Inc.

We invite your comments and your ideas for projects which might
be included in future editions of SEEDS. If you would like additional
copies of this issue or would like to be included on the SEEDS
mailing list, please write to:
Ann Leonard, Editor
P.O. Box 3923
Grand Central Station
New York, New York 10163 U.S.A.

PO Box 3923 Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163

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