Sathya standing in front of her Feed Shop

Dairy is seen as the next best livelihood after Agriculture in the Cauvery delta region-(Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu). Price of milch animal feed and milk determine the economy of dairy. Constant increase in feed price affects the confidence of community involved in milch animal rearing. Concentrate feed are mostly sold in towns by big retailers who are mostly men. This restricts a rural women who is distantly located to go and purchase these concentrate feed which are also not available in the form of credit. 

A small retail feed shop was recently initiated in the Vengudusamuthiram village located in remote part of Tamil Nadu, India. Sathya was busy in dealing with clients who have come for purchase of animal feed. Her husband-Hari Krishnan was sitting inside the shop and writing the accounts thus managing the cash flow. Bags of Feeds (different type-wheat flour, rice bran, rice flour, pelleted feed, powder feed, maize flour, tapioca flour, etc.) were arranged across the small shop owned by Sathya.

CARE India along with Partner NGO (REAL-Rural Education and Action for Liberation) and Tamil Nadu State Government supported dairy project conducted a Participatory Rural Appraisal exercise in this village and identified that there is an immense potential for establishing a small Feed shop which is otherwise present only in the nearby town which is 5 km away from the village. To break gender stereotype of men owning feed shops the Dairy Value Chain Project requested the women members to show their willingness to establish such one shop in the village. Women members were reluctant to take up this task fearing that this involves high level of mobility to purchase the feed stock and also higher amount of risk if the feeds are not sold.

The project oriented women members in the village on the importance of feed shop in the economy of milch animal rearing and also the initiative in breaking the gender stereotype of only men owning it. Understanding the depth of challenge involved in promoting such initiative the project along with Federation leaders again oriented the husbands of village women on the support that the structure like Federation can lend for women owning and managing such feed shop.

Though Sathya showed confidence in such initiatives her husband –Hari Krishnan was still in doubt about the challenges she would face in mobilizing animal feed in his absence and the client base or market for such initiatives. In the meantime SHG Federation oriented Sathya husband that Federation has a system to buy the stocks at lower rate than the market price in town and also the process of orientating to the women shg members –clients about the importance of good animal feed rationing and the market availability of this feed at lower rate through small feed shop. Further for good cash flow management of the feed shop the project also oriented Sathya and her husband about keeping accounts separately for credit and cash purpose. Following this the SHG Federation helped Sathya and her husband to get 2 tonnes of feed shop from the nearby town at a much lower rate.

Sathya now owns a small feed shop serving the poor milch animal rearers in having good access to the animal feed. Sathya with a smile in his face says “When the project came with an option to set up feed shop owned by women I felt that it is a dream mission as no women is involved in it. But the federation’s help to buy feed stock and the project orientation to my husband and the SHG members-clients have really helped me to greater extent to own this feed shop which is always a men’s forte. “

CARE’s effort to break gender stereotype like establishing feed shops owned by women members always request higher level of efforts from different front-like building knowledge/skill of women, strengthening their self-confidence, working with government systems/ market actors and engaging with men, husbands/ other significant members in the family, bringing together women in collectives and strengthening peer support through collectivisation.

Ramakrishnan Balaji