India’s agriculture industry remains a crucial driver of its economy and the backbone of rural households, providing food security and meaningful livelihood opportunities. According to Indian government officials, the dairy sector alone contributes about 5 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It helps sustain over 80 million families while accounting for the largest share of global milk production at 22 percent. Women also play a significant role, comprising 70 percent of participation in the sector.

However, women dairy farmers are often constrained by gender and social norms that limit their authority over critical assets, such as land and equipment. They also lack knowledge of technologies and green alternatives that could help them be more productive and use clean energy. To support national and global efforts to adopt climate-smart technologies and elevate women’s role in growing a sustainable dairy sector, Accion studied the gender-driven challenges faced by women dairy farmers, as well as the opportunities presented by their adoption of green assets, such as biodigesters. Biodigester systems convert organic waste into biogas and by-products that can be used as fertilizers. With support from CGAP, Accion partnered with leading biodigester provider to identify:

  1. The pain points and benefits related to acquiring and using biodigesters. 
  2. Solutions that would help scale biodigester adoption and allow women dairy farmers to realize the benefits of owning one.

The study was conducted in June 2022 in Maharashtra and Karnataka states, which have large numbers of biogas plants and are potential renewable energy hubs. We used qualitative and quantitative research data sets to draw insights from focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with demand and supply-side stakeholders, including women dairy farmers who were existing or potential biodigester owners, dairy cooperatives, financial institutions, and agritech companies. 

Key findings from the research indicate that financial obstacles exacerbated by gender barriers remain significant challenges for women dairy farmers to acquire biodigesters:

Addressing these challenges is critical for women dairy farmers to experience the social, economic, and environmental benefits of owning a biodigester. Our next steps include leveraging insights from this research to anchor a demonstrable ecosystem in India by extending our partnership with and collaborating with agriculture fintech companies Stellapps and Dvara E-dairy. The intent is to develop a new scalable model for bringing innovative, fit-for-purpose financial products to Indian women dairy farmers that have a gender focus and will advance biodigester adoption.

We have facilitated more partnerships in India and built on our work in Kenya. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we explored various funding mechanisms to improve Indian and Kenyan dairy farmers’ access to biodigesters. By driving these initiatives, we sought to strengthen agricultural value chains and help smallholder farmers, particularly women, improve their livelihoods and achieve climate resilience.

Interested in our approach?

Let’s connect to discuss how we can collaborate.

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