In the past two weeks, I have spent my time here in the new state of Telangana observing and honing my research questions at the Mulukanoor Women’s Dairy Cooperative Union. Mulukanoor is a rural village in the Karimnagar district of Telangana and their dairy cooperative is made up of 20,000 women farmers in a 30km radius from the central milk collecting and processing center. Each farmer has approximately 2-3 cattle and water buffalo that produce an average of 6 liters of milk per day. The Cooperative is successfully growing and is a model that has been studied and repeated because of its progress in helping and supporting small holder farmers. Although country-wide milk production has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, the projected population growth requires that India produce 200-210 million tons of milk per year for domestic consumption by 2020. The current output of about 122 million tons of milk per year has called for improvements in dairy nutrition and husbandry through the work of many organizations including the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) of India and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). In my next few weeks at Mulukanoor, I will be studying the current Ration Balancing Program implemented by the NDDB last year at the dairy cooperative. This program helps each woman farmer to record and adjust the diet of their animals to increase efficiency and improve milk production and profits. I am also planning farmer and veterinary personnel surveys to better understand the challenges faced by this particular district as I study the ration balancing program.
As I searched out these opportunities in the past week, I had some exciting adventures with a visiting Animal Nutrition PhD from Cornell, Maureen Valentine. Being in a rural village was a fun change of pace from the packed traffic of Hyderabad. Although Mulukanoor was bustling as well, walking along the streets and attending some of the meetings of the co-op members was welcoming and personal. After one particular afternoon of walking in the village, we attended a local meeting with visiting Ethiopian farmers (originally, we misheard that they were from Utopia which we found amusing). The day after the this meeting, we were surprised to find out that our picture was in the local newspaper with a short article in Telugu. (Please enjoy the proof of that below)
Many of the farmers that I have met so far have been welcoming and ready to help with the research project and seem to enjoy telling us about their livestock. I am certainly looking forward to getting to know some of them more in the following weeks. I am also hoping to master the art of eating spicy village food by hand with a straight face and doing physical exams of cattle and buffalo in a kurta.