Developing a regional smallholder dairy strategy for Asia
Low prices and profitability have been constraining smallholder dairy development in Asia for years. However, recent signs of structural change in the dynamics of the global dairy sector are providing optimism that those longstanding problems would be overcome.
The challenge is not to formulate a regional strategy, but the adaptation and implementation of the strategy. To craft a strategy that can be implemented for the benefit of Asia's existing and potential smallholder dairy producers, a few ideas has been introduced:
1) Think globally, act locally. The regional strategy must be framed in such a way that national and sub-national strategies can be nested within it.
2) Focus on the long term. Strategies need to be based on long-term fundamental characteristics of the sector and its external influences.
3) Consider a wide range of scenarios and options. Strategies based on assumed set of circumstances are risky, so it is preferable to consider possible scenarios to explore options for dealing with them. That will help to develop a relevant and flexible strategy.
4) Design for impact. The strategy should make clear who are the intended beneficiaries of the plan, and how their livelihoods will be affected by the proposed interventions.
5) Avoid over-prescriptive blueprints. An over-prescriptive strategy is unwise due to Asia's diversity of climatic, economic, market, regulatory, and social environments.
Smallholder dairy development is an ideal way to generate rural jobs by diversifying into labour-intensive, high-value agriculture linked to a dynamic rural, non-farm sector.
Each country should formulate a dairy agenda with the following characteristics:
Growing political attention to widening income disparities could provide many opportunities to better use dairying as an instrument for development. And the prospects are good due to expanding markets for high value food products, offering a chance to diversify farming systems and develop a competitive and labour-intensive smallholder dairy sector.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.