A key constraint faced by small dairy farmers is the limited availability of nutritious feed. As a result, animals are not well nourished, particularly in the dry season when fodder runs out, causing lower milk yields. Silage, a storable fodder made by fermenting crops such as maize, has the advantage of fulfilling nutritional requirements of animals when green fodder is not available. Currently, silage is only available in 3% of the agricultural inputs market in Pakistan, the bulk of which is being bought by large commercial dairy farms. Smallholders, who constitute 80% of the dairy sector in Pakistan, are largely not served.
Pioneer has the technical skill to train farmers and enterprises to produce good quality silage. Based on this, Pioneer and MDF are working together to establish a batch of commercial silage producers, who will supply small bales of maize silage to small-scale dairy farmers. Availability of silage will improve the milk yields of dairy animals as well as the quality of milk. Farmers who use silage are likely to sell better quality milk in greater quantities resulting in increased incomes.
Owing to strict socio-cultural norms, female farmers typically have very little access to nutritive inputs, and information about high yielding inputs and best practices. Existing male silage entrepreneurs lack incentive to involve women in the silage space due to logistical and cultural constraints, coupled by weak connections with the female community. These reasons contribute to the general lack of awareness among female farmers and hampers their chances of having access to quality inputs.
To address these issues, MDF has identified three female silage entrepreneurs in Nowshera (KPK), Okara and Khanewal (Punjab) for producing appropriately sized silage packages and promoting it among smallholder female farmers. These female entrepreneurs have strong communal ties with the surrounding farm community and a sound understanding of silage, and will therefore work to create a more socially acceptable environment for female farmers to receive information on best husbandry practices and access to quality inputs. These female silage entrepreneurs will act as implicit role models and set a healthy precedent for leadership functioning within society. The silage making facility will also generate employment for operational purposes. In addition, farmers will be able to earn higher incomes from increased milk yields, and sell their animals at higher prices because of improved health and weight, and potentially increase herd sizes by purchasing more cattle.