Web and mobile technologies have been introduced such that Sri Lanka’s dairy farmers can achieve self-sufficiency in milk production.
The project, called e-Dairy, is part of the effort by the country’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) to improve livelihoods of the rural community, which accounts for 70 per cent of the county’s population.
There are around 230,000 dairy farmers across the country, working mostly on individual basis or in small farms. Attracting new investments as well as young entrepreneurs to join the sector has been difficult, and the industry has never been developed as a viable enterprise at all the levels.
The government also discovered that 53 per cent of the country’s milking cow population have not been giving milk because they are not pregnant, according to Reshan Dewapura, Chief Operating Officer of ICTA. The low pregnancy is due to artificial insemination and breeding services, which are not often available in time due to lack of communications between the farmers and the public sector service providers.
“It is well known that the insemination has to be carried out within a 12 hour period at the right time to ensure the pregnancy but this opportunity is missed due to the lack of communications and reaching the service provider just in time,” Dewapura said.
Therefore services could not reach the small farmers in time, resulting in inefficiency and loss of productivity. The production of milk increased only by 17 per cent between 1998 and 2008. As a result, dairy products in Sri Lanka’s market often come from milk imported from other countries.
Thus the ICTA attempted to bridge these gaps by ‘introducing mobile enabled information and communication systems through SMS and touch button computers,” Dewapura told FutureGov.
The computers are installed at milk collection centres where farmers gather every morning to sell their milk. The system offers a number of ‘just-in-time’ services, including artificial insemination to make their cows pregnant. Farmers can also request services such as animal health without delay.
Dewapura believes if a dairy farmer gets a calf each year, through this e-dairy programme he or she will be able to get an addition income of LKR30,000 (US$262) per year.
The project is first deployed in the Northwestern Province to evaluate the performance, and the ICTA expects the milk production to increase by 50 per cent within two years’ time. Further deployment in Jaffna, in the northern tip of the Island where similar cow rearing pattern takes place, is also being planned. For that the government is looking for a suitable partner for funding at the moment.
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