Moga (Punjab): Devinder Singh, a farmer, stands proudly at the entrance of a milk collection centre at Kaonke Kalan village near this dusty Punjab town as officials of the global food, nutrition and wellness giant Nestle arrive to inspect it.
For Devinder Singh, 62, and scores of other farmers in the area near the famous Sikh shrine, Nanaksar Gurudwara, the association with Nestle ranges from a few years to decades. These farmers no longer depend only on agriculture for their livelihood.
Thanks to the ongoing encouragements of Nestle -- a household name in India with brands such as Maggi, Cerelac and Lactogen for products like noodles, ketchups, milk supplements and chocolates -- more farmers are taking to dairy farming in Punjab.
"I got associated with Nestle precisely on Aug 22, 1970, and it's been like this ever since. Some 75 farmers from the village and nearby areas sell around 1,000 litres of milk to this collection centre," Singh told IANS.
His son, Hardeep Singh, is a second-generation farmer to be associated with the multinational company. The family has a medium-size dairy with more than 15 cows and buffaloes. Hardeep, who is qualified in dairy farming, even helps other farmers set up dairy farm units.
"Nestle started started manufacturing operations in India in 1961. Moga was the first unir. We started with 511 litres milk from 180 farmers. Now, we collect nearly 1.4 million litres of milk from over 71,000 farmers daily," Nestle's Moga unit factory manager Satish Srinivasan told IANS.
The company, which has eight manufacturing units in India, encourages farmers also look at cow-rearing. "Earlier, the farmers preferred buffaloes. Now, 76 percent of their animals are cows. We even help them in breed improvement," Srinivasan pointed out.
Teams from Nestle, including scientists and vetenererians, have a direct interaction with the farmers and their families to ensure that raw material like milk and other products supplied to the company adhere to international standards.
"The level of trust between farmers and our company has been built over the years through direct interactions. Most farmers have years and decades of association with us. We deal with those who have 2-3 animals, 15-20 animals and 50-100 animals," said Kamalbir Singh Deol, regional manager for fresh milk procurement and dairy development.
Scientific and medical interventions have also helped with farmers responding positively. "Nestle helps the farmers not only with fodder, but also medicines, seeds and good quality semen at cost. The results are encouraging," said scientist Arvind Malik, a doctorate in animal nutrition.
Officials said Nestle's social initiatives here are routed to its long history of working with communities -- be it with farmers in Switzerland or in other countries. That's what has enabled it to deal with some 2,300 collection centres in Punjab and neighouring Haryana and Rajasthan.
(Jaideep Sarin was invited by Nestle to its establishments at Moga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)