For the last ten years, Babytai Wagh, a farmer from Malegaon village in the Washim district of drought-prone Vidarbha region has survived all the agrarian crises and faced life with courage, thanks to her “ATM”. 

Her husband Mukund ended his life in 2012 as he was unable to pay the debt after consisted crop failures. Babytai shouldered the responsibility of the family and educated her kids and settled them in their lives.

“This is because of ATM. We call our cattle an ATM. In my case, goat rearing and dairy has helped me face all the crisis. My goats are my ATM” she says.  

Dairy is a supplementary activity to agriculture but has the potential to generate additional income and employment opportunities for the rural households. It has helped to curb farmer suicides say experts.   

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“The number of farmers suicides in western Maharashtra is comparatively less because of the dairy sector. Almost all districts in the western parts have well-established dairy businesses. In the case of crop failure or unseasonal rains and droughts, farmers can sustain on dairy income” says farmer Vishwas Patil from Kolhapur.  He said cattle work as farmers’ ATMs as not only farmers can earn from milk but can sell the animals during any financial emergency. This is seen as a better alternative than farmers going to private money lenders during financial crisis.

Denmark support

Taking the cue from dairy farmers, the State government now plans to expand the dairy sector with support from the Denmark government. Ambassador of the Royal Danish Embassy in India Freddy Svane has said Denmark will be setting up a Centre of Excellence in Dairy in Maharashtra. He said he has discussed this with Maharashtra’s Minister of Animal Husbandry Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil. The ambassador spoke to Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday. The State has over 13,235 co-operative dairy societies and 79 co-operative dairy unions.

“Denmark is a leading country when it comes to the milk industry. State’s dairy business will get help and farmers would be able to earn more income if experts from Denmark guide them,” said Vikhe Patil while talking to the Copenhagen delegation.  

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Strengthening the “ATM”

The State government has already started a special project in collaboration with the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to increase milk production in 11 districts of Vidarbha and Marathawada regions known for agrarian distress. This project includes a fodder development programme, supply of quality cattle feed, supply of cattle feed supplements (mineral mixture) and veterinary services such as AI service at doorsteps, vaccination, eradication of ticks and flies and infertility.

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The average daily collection of milk by the government and co-operative dairies was 0.50 lakh litre and 40.43 lakh litre respectively during 2020-21 in the State and 0.39 lakh litre and 41.74 lakh litre respectively during 2021-22 up to November.

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