A milk revolution by women of Sundarbans

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Sundarban Cooperative Milk and Livestock Producers’ Union has achieved an impressive target with Prompt’s AMCS (Automatic Milk Collection System) and BMC (Bulk Milk Cooler) Smart Box.

Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest, enchants numerous visitors including geologists, travel enthusiasts, wild ornithologists, photographers and nature lovers. They are captivated by the enthralling beauty its flora, fauna and natural landscape offers. However, deep within this archipelago the residents face intimidating challenges. The delta region, lying in the low coastal zone is highly vulnerable to floods, cyclones and soil erosion. The uncultivable saline land has compelled the men to migrate to other places in search of occupation. This inevitably left the women and children behind in these poverty-ridden remote areas, struggling to earn a livelihood.

Assessing the gravity of the situation, NDDB (National dairy Development Board) extended its technical assistance to these women. With their resilience and dogged will, they proved themselves as entrepreneurs in this otherwise hostile environment. These women under the brand name ‘Sundarini’ brought forth the organic milk revolution with the initiative taken by the Sundarban Milk and Livestock Producers Union. Around 5,000 women from 70 villages carry milk from their cows to Milk collection centres (VDCS) where it is weighed and tested for quality.

Prompt’s AMCS have proved to be a boon at these milk collection centres in enhancing efficiency and assuring transparency and accuracy. Earlier, the Milk societies used manual machines to test the milk quality. Excel sheets were used to manage the milk collection data which was then sent to the union for payment. This entire process was not only time consuming but also prone to errors and inaccuracy. Another problem that was faced was regarding the quality of milk being affected due to delay in submission, when it was transported by boat from the remote areas.  The dairy too faced many obstacles in payment of milk bills to the individual bank accounts. The manual data process too required additional work force to complete the payment process.

Prompt’s AMCS has accelerated the entire process right form the accurate weighing of the milk to the fair payment to the members.  It guarantees transparency between the farmer and the union. The fat and SNF testing machines (Milk Analyzer) test the quality of the milk and leave no room for uncertainty or assumption. The farmer gets instant SMS of their deposited milk. With the help of the cloud, real-time milk collection can be monitored and accessed. Managing Director of Sunderban Milk Cooperative, Ambika Prasad Mishra explicitly explains, “This screening immediately makes the cooperative’s milk of superior quality. Dilution with water or other kinds of adulteration is not just discouraged but those who indulge in it are liable to be disqualified from supplying milk to the cooperative,”

Introduction of a cooperative has saved these women farmers from exploitation by traders or middlemen who would buy milk at lower prices and then sell it at higher prices. The real owners felt despondent but could not balk until the cooperative extended its support.

Prompt’s BMC Smartbox has also been installed at one of the clusters, which monitors the milk temperature and quantity, thereby retaining the quality of the milk. This system of automatic milk collection process enhances productivity and in turn profitability. More milk is now being procured in less time. Digitization has empowered these otherwise economically challenged women with fair and timely payments. The prerequisite condition for every women member to connect to a public sector bank and no joint account being allowed, helps women in more than one ways; The money automatically gets transferred to her account where she is the sole beneficiary and the cashless transaction saves her from the misuse of money.

However, managing the entire process is a herculean task in these adverse conditions. In the monsoon season, during the torrential rains, it is certainly not easy for the Prompt team members to travel and provide services in these forested areas. The dedicated team braves the hostile conditions, be it the weather or the geographical landscape.

Prompt’s response to these exigency services has provided exemplary results. Both the milk union and the farmers have benefited from the digitization of milk procurement process. Prompt has a significant role in providing automation and instant testing facility at village level, farmer’s database in Central Server System and cashless Payment through individual bank accounts. Apart from cow milk and ghee, honey and rice are also sold under the aegis of the brand, ‘Sundarini’, for which they have received a NPOP certificate from the government of India.

The once marginalized women are now entrepreneurs and it gives Prompt great pride to have been part of this drive which is not merely organisation of milk sector but the start of a movement in the right direction.

Success Story written by:

Jaya Vyas, MA in English Literature (Miranda House, Delhi University) is a content writer and editor. She has authored multiple books.

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