Singapore organisations spearhead ‘Cows for the People’ project in India

October 25th, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

Singapore, Oct 25 (IANS) Two Singapore-based organisations have come together to lend a helping hand to landless farm labourers in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh with a project called “The Village H.E.L.P: Cows for the People.”The Singapore International Foundation (SIF), a social service group, and Singapore’s major television and radio broadcaster, MediaCorp, will jointly implement the project which includes the setting up of a dairy farm to be run by 15 families in Phoolpur village in the state.

In the first phase of the project, the farmers will be provided funds to rent land in Phoolpur, build sheds to house the animals and purchase cows and farm tools. The earnings from the farm would go back to the community to rope in more villagers into the scheme.

The Village H.E.L.P., which stands for “Healing the Environment and Liberating the People,” had in 2006 successfully carried out a land purchase scheme to help farmers in Indonesia buy small plots of land. The profits earned from cultivating these plots were ploughed back to help other farmers in the village to buy more land.

The new initiative to help farmers in Phoolpur, announced on Thursday, would also include professional training for the villagers from veterinarians and dairy experts who will teach them how care for the animals, operate the farm and manage its finances.

The “Cows for the People” project aims at equipping the villagers with skills to be self-reliant, said Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director.

“Through the Village H.E.L.P. project, we will enable the villagers of Phoolpur to establish and sustain a livelihood, not just for themselves but also for future generations to come,” she said.

Most of the villagers selected to benefit from the scheme are daily wage labourers working on other people’s farms. One spin-off from the scheme is that once the villagers begin earning a steady income from the dairy farm, they would be encouraged to send their children to school. With the profits being used to get more poor villagers involved in the scheme, the objective is also to create a positive domino effect for the rest of the families in the village.

The social enterprise project would help “heal the environment and sustain a community that is needy,” said Lucas Chow, MediaCorp CEO.

A MediaCorp subsidiary will be filming the project as a documentary film on how subsistence farmers can break out of grinding poverty and use the initiative to improve the quality of their lives.

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