Handbooks on Globalisation series
Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 23: The ‘White Revolution’ and dual dairy economy structures
In both emerging economies and in developed countries dairy farming is a key livelihood affecting animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and social justice. The term ‘White Revolution’ is linked to India, but can be used generically in globalised dairy systems. This is discussed in the context of historic agricultural revolutions and the political-economic food regimes framing them. In the Global North, the industrialisation of conventional dairy farming shows that technological changes are not socially neutral. They shed labour by appropriation of on-farm processes. This is true in USA (where the number of family-scale dairy farms has dwindled by two-thirds in recent decades), and to a lesser extent in Europe. In contrast to conventional confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), certified organic dairy farming – characterised by pasture grazing and bans on antibiotics, chemical pesticides and synthetic hormones – responds to consumer demand for traditional methods. In the Global South, India’s White Revolution was spearheaded by Operation Flood, 1970–96. It was a joint programme by farmers’ cooperatives, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, World Bank and European Economic Community whose surplus ‘butter mountain’ was monetised into infrastructure that helped India bypass the USA as premier milk producer in 1998. In India’s dual economy, cooperative dairying has been a bridge between subsistence farming and the modern cash economy for millions of marginal, landless and women-led farm families. Dairy development projects in Africa, Asia and elsewhere emulate India's gains in child nutrition, education, health, and social mobility.
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