Breeding business success in Bangladesh: Laheri’s story

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Meet 32 year old Laheri Sarker – a dairy farmer from Bishnupur village of Gaibandha district, northwest Bangladesh. Laheri is an active member of ‘Bishnupur Purba Para Shukher Khani Dairy Milk Producer Group’ – established as part of United Purpose’s Improving Food Security and Livelihoods Project (IFSL) project. By joining the group at a critical time in starting up her farm, Laheri and her husband were able to transform their initially uncertain venture into a thriving business.

Laheri’s husband, 45-year old Mithun, supports his wife to operate their small dairy farm. Between them they also own a small house with a tin roof and a cattle shed. Before joining the project, they and their two children – a 16 year old daughter and 11 year old son – relied predominantly on income from Mithun’s employment operating rice irrigation machinery.

  Laheri Sarker and her husband, dairy farmers at work in Gaibandha, Northeast Bangladesh.

Laheri Sarker and her husband, dairy farmers at work in Gaibandha, Northeast Bangladesh.

In 2010, the couple decided instead to rear cattle. They started with five local breeds but the production of milk was much lower than they had expected. Seeking advice, they attended several training sessions offered by a marketing adviser through the IFSL project. The training sessions included various techniques for improved dairy cow rearing, ranging from breeding techniques and disease prevention. The group also supported producers to gain access to technical, business, and financial services.

  Laheri and her husband receiving information and support from their local business adviser, Mustafizur

Laheri and her husband receiving information and support from their local business adviser, Mustafizur

After consulting with Mustafizur Rahman – a business adviser trained by the project in cattle rearing – in 2015, Laheri and her husband opted to begin modern milk farming and use artificial insemination practices to rear more productive cattle. With the assistance of Mustafizur, the sale of one of their existing cows, and a loan from Grameen Bank, Laheri was able to purchase a younger, more productive cow to breed.

Neither Laheira nor Mithun have looked back. Their farm has grown in size and Laheri now owns a small herd of eight cattle. Milk production on the farm has jumped up and they are producing 31 litres of milk on average per day. Keeping one litre for their family, Laheri and her husband earn around Tk. 1,500 (approximately GBP 15) more per day from the increased surplus.

Speaking with Laheri about her thriving business, it’s clear that her determination to overcome the initial limitations, combined with support of the LSPs, has considerably widened the possibilities available to her and her household:

“One of the biggest constraints that we faced was a lack of access to fair market prices. Along with other producers we had to sell our milk in the local market at a low price.

She continued, 'however, with the suggestion of a business adviser, my husband became a local milk trader, which has provided another income opportunity for my family. 

From the money we get from selling the cows, he established a milk shop with a refrigerator at the market place and begun collecting milk from three nearby milk producer groups … My husband shifted his business from irrigation to dairy milk trading – producers are also happy to get better prices than at local markets.”

  Laheri (left) and another producer group member cutting napier grass for cattle fodder

Laheri (left) and another producer group member cutting napier grass for cattle fodder

Through the profits generated from their business, Mithun and Laheri have been able to make regular payments towards their loan and Laheri’s confidence is soaring. She is also growing cattle fodder and attends producer group monthly meetings to network and share advice and learning with other local farmers. Many other community members are becoming inspired by her success:

“Our dream is to establish a large farm with at a herd of 20 improved breed cows to increase our milk trading business. This will allow us to make sure our children receive a high education and better standard of life.”