Rashmi Kant Nagar
On 1st June, 2023, Shailendra shared a video with me in which a scientist Dr. Satyaprakash Varma is showing (in some agricultural fair held in Rajkot during 24-28th May) how an income of ₹ 8000 to ₹85000 can be earned from one kilogram of Cattle /Buffalo dung. Yes, ₹ 8000- 85000 from one kilo of dung! Don’t believe it, then ask Shailendra for the video link. Incidentally, Dr. Varma himself has become an entrepreneur to make ‘products’ from dung and many dung producers have already joined him as suppliers (gobarwala.com). In short Dr. Varma has created unlimited possibilities to eradicate rural poverty through establishment of ‘Dung’ based industries and has opened new avenues for (rural) development.
These two products are:
1. Nano Cellulose
These two base products can be used in nearly a thousand ways in both agriculture and industry.
My head began to spin as I saw the video. So much income from just one kilogram of Dung! And we have been after Milk for the last 50-60 years! God alone knows how many disputes milk has caused over the years- the latest being the one triggered by Amul’s entry in Karnataka that soon drew-in other southern Indian states- just ‘Cold’ milk generated so much of political heat.
Then there was an altogether different scene during the Corona period. As the cost of milk production rose above average, the market price too rose sharply drawing the ire of urban consumers. They, to begin with accusingly pointed fingers at the milk producers for shortages and consequent price increases, and much more happened. The demand for dairy products rose sharply with the ‘departure’ of Corona; thus the ‘Butter of India’ -Amul too disappeared from market. Angry consumers began to accuse Amul of creating artificial shortage and black marketing. Result- suddenly news of probable imports of dairy products started doing rounds and a new political war began between dairy cooperatives and urban consumers.
Fortunately, at this time, the ‘Gourakshaks’ were not very active otherwise they too would have hogged their share of news headlines. Every small incident would have been twisted (out of context context), overplayed, repeatedly shown on tv channels creating communal tension and offering politicians another opportunity to play their own(dirty) game. We know that whereas on the one hand over the last sixty odd years, there have been innumerable disputes and unresolved court cases over the vexed issue of cow slaughter, on the other hand milk has continued to gain national importance. (On this serious issue, readers are invited to read my article titled; “Cows, Grass and Beef” on Vrikshamandir.com).
So much importance has been given to Milk in our diet (being the only source of essential animal protein in vegetarian diets) that in 1965, National Dairy Development Board was established primarily to increase domestic milk production and provide nutritional security to Indian population. Thanks to this development- establishment of NDDB, unemployed qualified dairy science degree holders like me found employment.
Once my head began to spin (after seeing the video) imagination took wings and the first thing that stuck my mind was, “what if Dr. Varma’s amazing discovery had happened in the 1960s? And now that he himself has established a Dung based business, what new opportunities does this innovation offer in the near future?
I tried to make some guesses. Some of these are listed here under.
1. There would have been greater emphasis on Dung production than on Milk production. That means, Dung would have been the ‘Main’ product and ‘Milk’ a by-product of cattle keeping. (In that case, would I have chosen ‘Dairy Science’ for my masters degree? (On this issue, I have reserved my decision for now. I also doubt if any university would have offered specialisation in ‘Dung production and Processing.)
The full form of NDDB established in 1965 would have been “National Dung Development Board” and its Hindi translation “Rastriy Gobar Vikas Board”? Had that been the case, how many of us would have liked to work for it? For some with specific qualifications in animal husbandry, however, there would hardly have been any other option.
2. Just think, if a farmer gets ₹ 2000/ per kg of Dung as against ₹ 35-40 per litre of milk (my provisional estimate is based on the assumption that the raw material should command at least 25% of the minimum price the processed end product would command), then who would bother to sell milk that ends up as a low value by-product? It’s disposal would have been simple too- if it remains good, sell it; if it turns sour, drain it! Handling Dung would be a breeze since there is no worry of it’s turning sour and it doesn’t require any cold chain either!
3. Another great advantage with Dung production- the animal becomes a productive asset from the day of birth and remains so till death. So, No dry period; animal’s being male or female makes no difference and therefore no farmer would ever sell off an asset that remains productive throughout life!
4. Another interesting outcome of this shift in focus would be – disappearance of the agenda “Save Cow and its progeny” making so called “Gourakshaks” irrelevant and freeing our courts of never ending legal battles on cow slaughter related issues.
5. The impact on industry would have been tremendous too. In fact new possibilities have emerged only now. With both banks and venture capitalists eager to support start-ups, just imagine how much investment dung based enterprises would attract as the investors begin to see ‘gold’ in dung!
6. Ancillary industries (to the main dung based industry) too would attract investments and the most attractive of these would perhaps be the ‘diapers for cattle’ so that pure, admixture free dung can be supplied for processing.
Now let us talk about procurement.
In villages formation of ‘Dung producer’s cooperative societies’ would have gained priority over dairy cooperatives. No village of India would have remained untouched from this immense developmental possibility (as every village has dung producing animals) giving private investors, including the foreigners ample investment opportunities. Who would like to miss an opportunity to make ‘gold’ out of dung in the economy with the world’s largest cattle population that ensures uninterrupted supply of raw material every single day of the year?
There could be three options for Dung processing?
1. A mini processing unit at the village level.
2. A medium unit at the block/ Taluka/Tehsil level.
3. A large unit at the district level.
Meaning thereby that the institutional infrastructure could either be a 3 tier cooperative or even ‘Dung producer’s Company’ with its ownprocessing facility at any of these three levels depending upon capital availability.
These (procurement and processing) options would have naturally created demand for equipment appropriate for the purpose. And therefore attracting investments in new equipment manufacturing enterprises, creating new job opportunities for engineering degree holders (good news for them) and perhaps a diversification opportunity for IDMC ( Indian Dairy Machinery Company) ?
I feel that the sector which would have been affected most by this amazing step towards rural development is the education sector. How? Let me explain.
1. If a person sitting at home in his village can make with least efforts almost ₹20000 per day (by selling just 10 kg of dung), then who would like to break his head with studies? School education (not being very taxing) is ok, but why university education that adds no value to the simple task of dung collection? Therefore adverse impact on university enrolment would be a strong possibility. Moreover, with this kind of income, who would want to seek employment that requires you to put in eight hours of hard work daily? This would make employment exchanges totally irrelevant. The number of students going abroad for higher education too will drop significantly adversely affecting the business of foreign universities. That would mean that whereas on one hand we will save foreign exchange, on the other our banks will see asubstantial drop in demand for educational loans. Few, who still choose to pursue higher education will now be known as ‘scatter brained’.
2. On the research side, there will be extensive research on new topics. For example, which breed produces dung with higher nano cellulose and lignin content? Is Nano cellulose and lignin content in dung directly related to the feeds and fodder fed to cattle? Which feed ingredients increase/ decrease Nano cellulose and lignin content in dung?
3. We will also emerge as the world’s largest producer/ exporter of dung and dung based products. Until now, we are number one in milk production. Now we will be number one in dung business too!
What would that mean? “Gold n Gold from Dung”!
And then, the lines of a new (patriotic) song may be something like:
“Mere desh ki gaayen gobar uglen, gobar ugale sona” ( cows of my country give dung and the dung gives gold!)
……………, Mere desh ki gaayen”.
(These lines have my Copyright-all rights reserved)
For me this is a serious topic. You may either take it as a light hearted entertaining essay or draw inspiration from it to become a ‘Gobar’entrepreneur. The choice is entirely yours.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this article.