Asia / Crop-Livestock / ILRI / India / Intensification / Interview / Staff

The ‘ILRI crowd’ in Asia: Dhiraj Singh

Dhiraj Singh with Punjabi farmers

ILRI Research Scientist, Dhiraj Singh (forefront), with local Punjabi farmers

Each week on this blog, we meet ILRI staff members, partners and projects in Asia to learn about their work, challenges and the opportunities they face to leverage livestock knowledge in Asia.

Originally from Bihar in eastern India, Dhiraj Singh has now lived in New Delhi for over a decade. Since joining the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in 2006, Dhiraj’s work has been heavily focused on assisting smallholders in India’s immense dairy industry as it continues to remain the world’s largest dairy producing nation.

With you’re work with ILRI thus far being focused primarily on the Indian dairy industry, can you briefly outline for us the key challenges you see facing the industry, and how ILRIs work is addressing these?

Despite India being a vast country characterized by incredibly diverse crop livestock systems and agro-climatic regions, the underlying fact is that the dairy industry here is dominated by the supply of smallholder producers. Whilst we at ILRI support the role that smallholders play, the reality is that they face a lot of challenges in intensifying their production systems to remain competitive in the market.

With this in mind, most of my work with ILRI aims to better understand these challenges, and how milk production, and the marketing of dairy products specifically – can be improved in India.

From my experience, the main challenges currently restricting dairy smallholders in India centralize on a lack of institutional, and infrastructural supports. Specifically I am referring to a need for better roads, stronger livestock extension services, greater education on feeds, and also a more effective regulation on the supply of animal feed prices, which have proven to be quite volatile.

I believe that overcoming these challenges will go some way to meeting the overarching challenge facing the dairy industry in India – the relatively low rate of productivity throughout the sector, be it the informal or formal sub-sectors. The dairy industry here has historically always been typified by an in-efficiency in the marketing of milk, an issue that was somewhat addressed by Operation Flood, but which can still be greatly improved upon.

The major projects that I’ve been involved with which target these issues are:

  1. Pro-poor dairy development in Assam, India
  2. ‘Impact of Trade Policy Reforms and Food Safety Standards on Processed Food Exports from India’
  3. Mitigating feed scarcity for resource poor livestock keepers through the improvement of fodder markets and identification of crop varieties with improved fodder characteristics in selected disadvantaged areas of India
  4. Livestock intensification: investigating impacts on livelihoods in dairy value chains in India and Ethiopia
  5. Generating a framework for strategic improvement and adoption of superior dual-purpose (groundnut) cultivars in mixed crop livestock systems in drought prone areas.

What does the remainder of 2012 have in store for you?

The majority of my time for the next seven months or so will be focused on two particular projects.

Firstly, I will be working on the IFAD-funded Sustainable Intensification of smallholder maize-livestock farming systems in hill areas of South Asia project. Directly impacting India and Nepal, the project which is a collaborative effort between ILRI, and the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT), focuses on increasing the productivity of maize-based farming, with a particular emphasis on the role that gender plays in this sector.

In addition to that, I will also be coordinating the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) household characterization survey in South Asia for four sites – two in India, one in Nepal and the last being in Bangladesh. We will be collecting detailed information on farming resources, productivity, and economics, which will be used to develop forecasting models to measure the impact of climate change, and adaptation/mitigation strategies, upon farming households and the environment.

My remaining time will most likely be spent providing support to the dairy value chain project in Assam, India, whilst also offering support to our partners and my ILRI colleagues on the areas of database usage and data-management where I have strong experience.

For more information on Dhiraj, please view his ILRI profile page

View publications by Dhiraj on Mahider

Learn more about Operation Flood from the National Dairy Development Board

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