Transforming the Animal Husbandry Sector in India
Taking a user-centred approach to a nationwide mission that aims to eliminate animal malnutrition and diseases, alleviate farmer poverty and increase production and exports.
Public Sector • Impact Sector • Animal Husbandry
The Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairying set out to introduce radical changes in the sector so that farmers and livestock could benefit from an organised system of accessing government services and assistance.
The directive from the top was clear: take a farmer-first approach rather than a top-down method to define what needs to change. That's why Design had a seat at the table alongside bureaucrats and technocrats right from the beginning.
The livestock situation in India is unique because roughly 85% animals belong to small or marginalised farmers – which means that a single farmer owns only a few animals unlike other countries where large scale animal farming is the norm.
This is one of the reasons why the sector remains fraught with inaccurate animal census, slow epidemic detection, overworked veterinary staff, and policy inertia.
Cattle and buffalo population global rank
India ranks first in cattle & buffalo population in the world.
Milk production global rank
India is the largest producer of milk (22% globally) and buffalo meat, 2nd largest producer of goat meat and 3rd largest producer of poultry.
Share in Indian economy
70 million farmers are involved in the sector. 10 million more people are indirectly involved.
Cattle ownership – small farmers
85% of animals belong to small or marginalised farmers.
In the face of increasing policy complexity and rising citizen expectations, there is recognition that large-scale problems need new models of thinking and cooperation that enable solutions to emerge through experimenting, adapting and then expanding on what works.
My job was to help a team of powerful people think from the users' point of view so that the most worrisome problems could be discovered. Following which, the right policy reforms could be made and digital public goods could be built to bring a technological, human (+ animal) centered transformation in the sector.
First, a vision for the future needed to be communicated to the cabinet for approval. The proposal, drafted with a user-centred mindset, got approved and was launched as the National Digital Livestock Mission Blueprint in Oct. 2021. This helped secure the necessary budgets, team and resources for the road ahead.
I helped visualise and prioritise the scope of work into near-term goals that we called the Pilot programme and a more future-facing Long Horizon programme.
An 18 month Pilot programme was initiated in Uttarakhand to run experiments on policy, services and observe reactions to all the changes we were proposing.
A significant feature of the programme is the Design Lab to help teams ideate and prototype new services. The Lab even has a mobile component to it, where we propose to procure and modify a vehicle to prototype services in the remotest of farms.
Long Horizon programme
A nationwide mission with a longer term impact to the sector. I was able to convince the Ministry to conduct user research as an important step of the process. So far, field visits and remote interviews of hundreds of farmers, vets and officers from around the country have been conducted.
This programme focusses on three main provocations:
Being Better Informed
How might we create a system that facilitates a smooth and secure exchange of information between all the parts of this sector; from animal caregivers to government policy-makers, to banks and insurance companies?
Creating user friendly digital tools for govt. officers, vets and farmers, can make information gathering and dissipation more widespread and faster, leading to better outcomes for the entire sector.
Farmers are wary of getting their animals tagged due to various reasons ranging from mistrust of the government to ego and pride. How might we convince farmers to get their animals tagged?
Subsequently, how might we use the 'Pashu-aadhaar' database to conceptualise and deliver more animal-centric government services?
Ideation on topics such as Artificial Intelligence to read semen straws and muzzle scans for animal identification is currently underway.
Impetus to Commerce
How might we extend the ecosystem to encourage private sector players to invest in this sector so that eventually farmers and farm animals stand to benefit?
Once enough accurate data has been collected, creating a platform of digital instruments, APIs and apps can enable interested businesses to access data easily and build offerings with it. Misuse and exploitation in the resulting marketplace can be checked by exercising control over the platform when needed and introducing regulations that favour farmer and animal welfare.
Progress / Outcomes
User Research conducted
A week long field expedition + many online interviews were carried out by the design team to learn about the ecosystem and the context of actors in it.
Pilot Programme and Design Lab launched
The pilot programme was launched and the Design Lab was inaugurated in Dec. 2021 by the Joint Secretary of the Ministry.
NDLM Blueprint launched in Oct. 2021
NDDB oversees the NDLM programme. A systems integrator and a management consultancy were awarded contracts to execute the plans laid out in the blueprint.