November 1, 2018

Quality Dairy Delivers Shared Value

By Cody Corrington

Savita woke up every morning to the same routine. As the sun rose over her rural Indian town, Savita and her husband collected milk from their three cows to sell at the market. The process was labor intensive and could sometimes last the entire day. Despite the difficult and laborious work, Savita was often only able to earn 40 to 60 rupees a day, barely enough money to support her family.

Savita’s story is one shared by many dairy farmers throughout rural India. Despite being one of the world’s leading producers of dairy, many of India’s farmers don’t have access to reliable infrastructure, or the training and resources that would help them maintain and grow their family farms. This limits their income, as well as their ability to meet the growing demand for high-quality milk from companies like Abbott.

In 2016, Abbott partnered with Prabhat, an Indian dairy company, and TechnoServe, an international nonprofit focused on business solutions in the developing world, to create a sustainable new approach for working together with small family farms. The dairy initiative provides rural dairy farmers with access to the training, resources and infrastructure needed to produce higher quality milk that meets industry standards. Farmers also learn essential business skills to help them better manage their finances and farms.

In the dairy business, cold milk means cold, hard cash. The program also established 10 village-based milk collection centers that allow farmers access to nearby reliable cold storage, making it easier for them to deliver quality milk and get paid for it fairly.

Empowering women was a vital part of the effort. On many dairy farms in rural India, women handle the bulk of activities like animal care and feeding, but they often have limited decision-making power. Outreach specifically focused on ensuring half the participants were women, and that women received the same technical, business and financial literacy training as men. Beyond strengthening farms, training women lifts up entire communities, as women invest a higher portion of their income back into their family’s care.

After receiving this training, Savita said, “We learned what changes we should make: how to check the quality of the milk; how to take care of the cows and feed them properly. We plan to buy 20-30 cows, making the farm big and modern. We want to increase milk production and deliver 200-300 liters of milk per day. My husband and I are doing this together.”

Through the training for farmers like Savita, Abbott and its partners have already given more than 1,500 dairy farmers a much-needed hand up, allowing farms, families and communities across rural India a chance to thrive. Program results have been dramatic. Farmers’ dairy production nearly doubled, as well as farmers’ income, all without increasing their costs. And the milk had higher levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and fat — providing the high-quality milk that Abbott needs to produce its nutrition products.

As a result of this work, Fortune magazine included Abbott on its 2018 Change the World list, which recognizes companies that are delivering shared value by making an important social or environmental impact through their core business strategy and operations.