A SELCO Foundation Initiative
Inclusive Sustainable Energy Solutions are a Combination of Technology, Financial and Social Innovations
(made in Sanjhi)
Showcasing the story of a Dairy Farmer who faced several challenges for his and his family’s livelihoods. But with decentralized innovation of a solar-powered milking machine, was able to continue to generate income, as the production of milk fell into an ‘essential service’ despite the lockdown.
In a small village lives a family of two farmers and their two children. Though the family lives on a 3 acre piece of land, they were unable to cultivate anything beyond a small vegetable patch, due to the repeated failure of the borewell. 3 years ago, they shifted to dairy farming and now have 12 cows of which 8 are milk giving and the rest are calves. The mother also works part-time at a garment factory in a neighbouring village, which provides the family extra income. Though dairy farming continues to be their main livelihood.
In January 2020, the father suffered a serious accident, severely injuring him in the head and stomach. He was unable to help the mother with their dairy farm and was not able to take up any other job because of his physical condition. Overnight, the full responsibility of the dairy farm fell on the mother. She had to give up her garment factory job and give her complete attention to milking the cows and procuring fodder, along with doing her regular household chores and taking care of her husband.
In December 2019, during a Self Help Group meeting, the mother became aware of a solar powered milking machine that was helping farmers milk their cows on time. It was also easy to use and hygienic for the cows. She hoped that investing in such a product would help reduce the drudgery and dependence on labour to run the dairy farm. Now, given her husband's condition, a solar powered milking machine would be even more critical. With financial support from a local micro financing institution, she went ahead and bought a milking machine. She also took up a solar lighting solution, which would enable her to milk the cows before sunrise, as power supply in the region is very unreliable.
The installation of the machine was closely followed by the COVID lockdown in the region, which completely sealed off the various districts from each other. Despite the lockdown, the family was able to continue to generate income, as the production of milk fell into an ‘essential service’. Being a decentralised and independent unit that didn’t require any external labour, the mother was able to run the dairy farm un-disturbed. Despite his physical inability, the father too was able to operate the milking machine. Thankfully, the restricted transportation didn’t pose an issue to the mother as the collection centre was just 1km walking distance away.
On the flip side, the lack of availability of quality fodder from their usual supplier and disruption of seed supply from the federation had affected the quantity and grade of milk that the cows were able to produce. Soon they had to find alternate sources of fodder, which were more expensive. The reduced output and lowered nutritional value of the milk, also means lowering of the income of the family.
“I was hesitant in adopting the milking machine initially because it felt like an expensive prospect. However, I would not have been able to practice my livelihood today without it. After my husband’s accident, I have to manage all the work myself and without the machine, it would have been impossible. Due to the lockdown, milk collection centres are only open in the morning and evening between 4.45-6.00 AM. With such odd timings, my family cannot help and I cannot hire labour because of the lockdown. The intervention has been very helpful to us.” - Shilpa Chandrashekar, Dairy Farmer
Dairy farming in India is a decentralised ownership, employing millions. Innovations for such livelihoods need to be decentralised and customized. At the same time, ‘innovation’ needs to rely less on technology, and more on processes around ownership models, financial models, supply chains and service delivery models, which allow for sustained impact. To ensure their families well-being and prosperity, in the face of multiple disasters dairy farmers need to be able to rely on sustainable business set-ups and robust local networks.
Sanjhi by Mohan Kumar Verma
Mohan Kumar Verma, born in 1971, is based in Mathura. He knows that he belongs to a very minuscule tribe of craftsmen who are still chiselling paper into objects of art. He, being a fourth-generation artist, is trying to conserve and revive Sanjhi, the art of hand cutting stencils from paper to create patterns on the floor. He started this art when he was just 11-years-old.
Growing up amidst a family that carefully crafted beautiful designs, it was a natural progression for him to pick up the tools and start learning all by himself. Now in his 40s and having seen Sanjhi fading into oblivion, he has now started designing using mirrors, frames and more intricate forms that are in sync with the aesthetics of modern times. He hopes to create a platform one day for the young to learn the craft. Moreover, he even decided that he should mould the art in various forms to create a contemporary version for art enthusiasts.
Sanjhi Art from Mathura, is a truly unique craft form that features exquisite designs and intricate picture motifs, cut into paper. Craftsmen use specially designed scissors to accomplish this process. The term Sanjhi is derived from the Hindi word sandhya, the period of dusk with which the art form is typically associated.