Milk has many benefits but it is not often that you hear about how it can foster peace and understanding, crossing the divide between ethnic groups, who were until quite recently at war with one another.

The director of a successful dairy project in Sri Lanka, Selina Prem Kumar, will be touring New Zealand in April, talking up the benefits of this project that has been designed and supported by TEAR Fund, the New Zealand Government and Kiwi expertise to improve milk quality.

In conjunction with New Zealand’s expertise in dairy farming, Kiwi companies QPod and Patton Refrigeration have adapted technology to create a cool chain to improve the quality of milk being delivered to the processing factory which has lifted farmer incomes. A breeding programme, along with education around feed management, and veterinary extension services, have lifted production significantly, and as  a result of the partnership, schools and communities are now receiving a steady supply of milk.
“The results of the Wanni Dairy Regeneration programme have been stunning, raising incomes for farmers involved by 600 per cent.”  says Selina. “Farmers were earning about $40 to $50 a month only a few years ago, but some are now earning around $300 per month. This is comparable to a mid-level government official and 40 per cent of these farmers are women”.
The Wanni Dairy Regeneration programme spans 30 communities and involves more than 2000 farmers. The project encourages Tamil and Singhalese ethnic groups to work together breaking down past prejudices and fosters cooperation.
Despite the success of the programme and the plentiful supply of milk, Ms Kumar knows that economic growth itself is not enough to ensure the wellbeing of a community, so alongside every dairy project she has started a children’s club to protect and nurture vulnerable children affected by war.

“In the beginning the children would paint about their experiences of the war, but through many counselling sessions, they have started painting homes, streams and even the sun.”

Although much has been achieved, the journey is far from over. The Wanni Dairy Restoration Programme has been given a one-year extension from MFAT, and there is still much reconciliation and restoration work to be done in the war-ravaged north.

“My vision, my heart, is to see permanent peace and people living together happily. I have hoped for a very long time that we will have peace in this part of Sri Lanka. I have hoped that the children will have a normal childhood, and that adults are free and have a sense of belonging.”