Women empowering women to uplift dairy farming


Visiting New Zealand farmer shares expertise with local dairying women.

As Sri Lankans continue to enjoy the goodness of milk, demand for dairy is growing by 13 per cent per year. However, currently the local industry can only meet 30 per cent of this demand.

In addition, the fact that the agricultural sector employs 30 per cent of the Sri Lankan workforce, but contributes just 9 per cent of the national GDP, tells us that the productivity of this sector has an immense potential to grow.

In time for International Women’s Day in March Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka held a women’s networking session to empower local dairy women and recognise the contribution they are making to the industry, as well as the unique potential they hold to uplift the industry even more.

Marloes Levelink, a Fonterra shareholder who has been in New Zealand dairy for 15 years, shared her insights and expertise with eight Sri Lankan women from dairy farming families who supply Fonterra with fresh milk. This was part of her three-week visit, which is one element of the Co-operative’s dairy development programme that aims to help uplift the local Sri Lankan industry.

Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka Head of Extension, Training & Partnerships Mik Harford said like their counterparts in New Zealand, local women in dairy are vital in running their families’ farming businesses.

“Women often play substantial roles in the dairy farm, while also balancing multiple commitments such as managing the household, children and sometimes even other businesses.

“Every day we work with dairy farming women through our training programmes, discussion groups and farm meetings. We encourage these women to find their voice in this environment and when they do, they bring unique perspectives that we can use to grow as an industry,” said Harford.

Women often play substantial roles in the dairy farm, while also balancing multiple commitments such as managing the household, children and sometimes even other businesses.

Mik Harford, Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka Head of Extension, Training & Partnerships

At the session, local dairy women highlighted key challenges they face in their day to day farming activities including the irregular supply of quality feed and water, the need for veterinary services and the need for better time management when considering household and farming commitments.

In discussing these roadblocks, Ms. Levelink shared simple solutions and ways of working that help her and her fellow New Zealand farmers to increase their farms’ production and quality. She covered areas such as effective approaches to managing livestock and improving cattle health, farm productivity, and additional income opportunities from the existing herd.

 “From my visits to farms around Sri Lanka, it is evident that women play a crucial role in local dairy farming, and there is great potential for them to further enhance the industry. As a woman in dairy myself, I understand some of the common challenges we all face, such as the unpredictability of the weather, as well as combing the farm business and the household activities.

“ Women can play an active role in not only identifying the challenges faced by her farm and family but collaborate with other farmers in the community to find practical solutions. It is important to instill the self-confidence and knowledge necessary for women so they can support their families in a sustainable way, in turn making them contributors to the dairy industry ” said Levelink.

Managing Director of Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka and the Indian Subcontinent Sunil Sethi said the session was all about women empowering women – sharing their knowledge and insights to uplift the dairy industry.

“This fits within Fonterra's farmer development commitment, where we draw on our Co-operative’s experience in New Zealand and work closely with Sri Lankan farmers to find solutions that work locally. This enables them to make an even greater contribution to their businesses, and ultimately the industry and economy,” said Mr. Sethi.

Ms. Levelink was selected as one of four New Zealand farmers to visit local dairy farms and provide hands-on training to both farmers and Fonterra’s Supplier Relationship Officers in areas such as animal feeding, animal health and welfare, milk quality and production and running the farming business.