At first sight, Kamyabpura is just one of the 17,000-odd village-level dairy societies constituting the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation’s (GCMMF/Amul) vast supply network. With a difference. All the 73 farmer members of the society, contributing roughly 1,800 litres of milk daily, are “Momna”: Gujarati-speaking Muslims.
“We are from 30 families belonging to the Momin Shia sect,” says Imdad Hussain Parbadiya, secretary of the Kamyabpura Milk Producers’ Cooperative Society, which supplies to the GCMMF-affiliated Banaskantha District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union.
In 2013-14 (April-March), this “exclusively” Momna society at Bhagal Pimpli village in Palanpur taluka of Banaskantha bought 5.67 lakh litres from its members and paid them a total of Rs 1.48 crore.
“Our society was formed on October 1, 2009. Earlier, we were part of the Bhagal Pimpli society,” says Parbadiya.
The original society, which procured over one crore litres and paid out Rs 2.72 crore last year, has members across communities: Choudhary Patel, Rajput, Thakor (OBC Kshatriya), Prajapati (potter), Panchal (blacksmith), Mewada (carpenter), Rabari (pastoralists), Garasia (Scheduled Tribe) as well as Muslim.
“Out of our 250 members, 17 are Muslims,” says Kanesh Kumar Prajapati, secretary, Bhagal Pimpli Milk Producers’ Cooperative Society.
So, why a separate “Muslim” milk cooperative within the same village? “The existing society was a little far from where we stay. Also, since we were pouring quite a lot of milk, it made sense to start our own society,” says Parbadiya.
Haribhai M Patel, Manager (Dairy Husbandry) at Banaskantha union, says the Kamyabpura society is very viable and well run. “The proof is that they have fully repaid our loan,” says Patel.
Its success is also representative of a larger trend of organised dairying attracting people drawn from all communities in Gujarat. Out of the Banaskantha union’s 1,374 village societies, about 40 are now headed by Muslims.
In 2011, the Kamyabpura society constructed own building costing Rs 18.5 lakh. Three-fourths of this was financed through a three-year loan at 9 per cent interest taken from the Banaskantha union.
The Kamyabpura society has also invested in a 3,000-litre capacity bulk cooler that chills the milk collected from its members to 4 degrees Celsius before it is dispatched to to the union’s dairy at Palanpur. The Rs 7.18 lakh funding for the cooler was substantially covered by a Rs 5.22-crore subsidy under a Central government scheme for clean milk production.
The biggest farmer-supplier to the Kamyabpura society is its president, Mohammadbhai Naseerbhai Parbadiya. He along with his wife, two sons and daughters-in-law — each of whom is a member of the society — contributed 1.23 lakh litres in 2013-14, earning Rs 31 lakh.
“Till a decade ago, we were growing regular crops on our small holdings (mustard, castor, wheat and bajra) or custom-hiring our tractors for ploughing and levelling others’ fields. There was hardly any income,” recalls Mohammadbhai.
Today Mohammadbhai’s family has 48 cows, 17 calves and two buffaloes. Their entire 7.5-acre land is dedicated to cultivating fodder crops: hybrid napier-bajra, maize (African Tall variety) and oats.
“We are full-time dairy farmers. The best thing about this business is that we get paid on the 1st and 16th of every month. Also, there is no need to go to the mandi; the dairy union buys all our milk from the society at an assured and steady price,” says Mohammadbhai.
Among those attracted to dairying now are people such as Abdul Rashid Nazir, who supplies an average 300 litres per day to another village society, at Semodra in Palanpur taluka. Admitting that the work is not easy, involving investing a family’s entire labour and managerial resources, he says, “You can’t take leave because the animal produces milk all through the year. But in the end, there is paseene ki kamai (reward for hard work).”
Nazir, who has an electrical workshop at Vadgam now handled by his son, started his 55-cow dairy farm in 2010.
Shersiya Ayub, from Tokariya village in Palanpur, is even newer: An “auto consultant” specialising in purchase and sale of second-hand jeeps, he has since mid-2013 been supplying 150 litres per day from his eight cows and 10 buffaloes to the Banaskantha union.