Harnessing mobile learning for sustainable dairy farming in India: A journey of empowerment

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In Pudukkottai, a village nestled within South India’s Theni district, resides Mrs Saroja, a 57-year-old farmer and a member of a women’s self-help group (SHG). Her journey as a lifelong learner for over 13 years epitomises the transformative power of continuous education, particularly in bolstering self-sustenance and economic resilience.

Mrs Saroja’s primary venture is backyard dairy farming – one she embarked upon in 2009 with a modest loan of 50,000 rupees procured through her SHG from the local branch of the Indian Bank. The loan facilitated the acquisition of two cows and a basic cell phone, the latter unlocking the doors to a mobile learning programme. The programme bridged her knowledge gap in dairy management, enabling her to successfully manage the dairy and repay the loan ahead of the stipulated five-year period.

The Commonwealth of Learning’s (COL) partner, Vidiyal, played a central role in facilitating the loan and mobile learning process. The mobile learning programme, delivering daily voice messages, has been pivotal in imparting knowledge on diverse aspects of dairy management – from maintaining bovine health to adapting feeding regimes for optimal milk yield and adopting traditional treatment methods. Moreover, the initiative empowered this dairy farmer to cultivate fodder crops by leasing an acre of land, half of which is also utilised for paddy cultivation.

At present, Mrs Saroja’s thriving backyard dairy comprises seven cows, yielding an average of 20 litres of milk per cow daily. This translates to a monthly income of approximately USD 250 per cow and an annual income of approximately USD 3,000 per cow. Additionally, the sale of cow dung adds to her yearly earnings. Given the income levels in the local economy, this return can be considered well above the poverty line.

To date, Mrs Saroja’s prudent financial management, coupled with the income from the dairy, has allowed her to invest in dry land food crops, construct a new dwelling and adequately address her husband’s medical needs.

Mrs Saroja’s narrative demonstrates the impact of mobile learning in enhancing agricultural practices and, by extension, livelihoods. Her story is a testament to the synergy of communal trust, financial credibility and the indomitable spirit of lifelong learning in improving livelihoods. This confluence of factors has elevated Mrs Saroja’s living standards and set a laudable precedent for sustainable, community-driven development in rural settings.

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