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  • Aishwarya Joshi, Yukta Doshi and Shanmughasundhar

Goats, Women and Voicemail: How goat rearing is empowering women in Theni

The Theni Goat Farmer Producer Company Limited is an FPO in Tamil Nadu has shown resilience by surviving the pandemic and thriving since by leveraging its strong social network and innovative capacity-building programs. The success of this women-led FPO highlights the importance of community-driven development in agriculture.

Building a collective to identify common needs

In Theni district of Tamil Nadu, a women goat farmer producer organization has shown remarkable resilience and success despite the pandemic. While most other FPOs in the state and country were struggling Theni FPO made a profit of Rs 40,000 during these challenging times.

The story of this FPO goes back to 1994 with the formation of an NGO called Vidiyal by the Theni residentKamaraj. The NGO promoted savings and credit among women and in 2000, all 250 Self Help Groups (SHG) pooled their savings together to form a corpus of Rs 14,00,000. This led to the formation of Vanavil, a group dedicated to utilizing the pooled money to improve the livelihoods of its members.

In 2007, a participatory needs-based assessment was conducted in every village to find out the needs of the community. Goat rearing was identified as a common need across all villages. The NGO then decided to utilize the pooled money to improve the livelihoods of its members by providing capacity building and scientific training for goat rearing.

Investing in long-term skill development

The NGO started with capacity building and scientific training for goat rearing long before the FPO formation. To impart knowledge about scientific goat rearing, the NGO designed 2364 audio files of one-minute duration each in the local language. These minute long audio clips consisted of 15 seconds of introduction, 30 seconds of key messages, and the rest 15 seconds used to summarize the message. The audio course was designed to make it easily accessible for the farmers. These audio files imparted knowledge about scientific goat rearing practices such as health and disease management, feed supply, and reducing mortality rates. Members could learn by using their mobile phones to listen to audio messages and voicemails, record messages for discussion and peer review, share the messages with others in their neighbourhood or workplaces, and discuss various aspects of goat rearing.

These audio trainings continued for five years, and only after the NGO was confident that the community had been sufficiently trained, did they decide to form a Farmer Producer Company in 2015 with all the existing SHG members. The transition was natural as the NGO wanted the members to increase their earnings by accessing markets, negotiating prices, and improving their production process by implementing their learnings from the capacity-building program.

Thus, the Theni Goat Farmer Producer Company Limited was incorporated with a total of 1050 women farmers and a share capital of Rs 20,50,000. To ensure the FPO's success, the NGO reached out to the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, for help in preparing a business plan and adopting an interactive method to help the management and staff of the FPO understand the plan.

The company has since been running successfully, making a profit every year and providing dividends to its shareholders for the last four years. The FPO has a turnover of 1 crore and has clocked a profit of 40,000 last year. This success is due to the strong financial management skills that these women shareholders possess as a result of their long experience of managing SHGs, federations of SHGs, and now a farmer producer company.

To ensure the sustainability of the company, active involvement of shareholders is a prerequisite. However, all the 1050 shareholders are illiterate with little to no knowledge of financial planning. So, to further promote learning about the basics of corporate literacy, a mobile-based Massive Open Online Course (Mobi MOOC) was conducted to promote the learning about the basics of finance and company operation for the semi-literate and illiterate women shareholders of the farmer producer company. The course was delivered in audio-format and developed based on the learners' needs assessments, covering topics such as the important roles, responsibilities and duties of the shareholders, the benefits and services the shareholders could get from the FPOs, the importance of a business plan for FPOs, and FPOs supporting the shareholders to sell their farm produce.

Building a flourishing enterprise through innovative capacity building

Theni Goat Farmer Producer Company's tale is one of perseverance, persistence, and innovation. The farmers were able to develop a successful FPO that not only survived but thrived during the pandemic. The FPO being high on member centrality, deeply felt and understood the needs of its members during the pandemic and therefore diversified their offerings and started selling vegetables and other necessities in the nearby area during lockdown. Through their hard work, dedication, and the support of organizations like Vidiyal, Vanavil, and IIM Ahmedabad, the women of Theni have become skilled and knowledgeable entrepreneurs.

The ladies have been able to boost their income and improve their level of living as a result of their training in goat rearing and financial management, as well as their access to modern and innovative technologies such as MobiMOOC. The success of the Theni Goat Farmer Producer Company demonstrates the potential of community-driven development and the significance of agriculture.

Finally, the Theni Goat Farmer Producer Company exemplifies what can be accomplished when individuals work together towards a common goal. The women of Theni have developed a sustainable and profitable business that benefits everyone involved by focusing on the needs of their community and expanding on their existing social networks.


Aishwarya Joshi, Yukta Doshi and Shanmughasundhar are rural management participants of the 42nd batch at IRMA and this blog is an extension of their term paper for the course on Managing Collective Enterprises.


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