Women in rural Unnao bring colour into their lives by making paints out of cow dung
A paint manufacturing workshop operated by 20 women in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh has so far sold 1,200 kilogrammes of paint made from cow dung. For the women the enterprise has raised their self esteem and given them economic independence.
Sumit Yadav 31 July 2023 1:52 PM GMT
Unnao, Uttar Pradesh
If Mithilesh Singh were to make a list of the unforgettable moments in her life, what happened in March 2023, would top the list.
“I have always been dependent on others for money. But all that changed when at the end of the month in March 2023, I took home Rs 4000, earned by me for my work. It was unforgettable, what I felt” the 37-year-old from Amretha village in Unnao, told Gaon Connection.
Mithilesh is one of 20 women who work at the government-run Annapoorna Prerna Mahila Laghu Udyog workshop in Nawabganj, Unnao, that makes wall paint and distemper out of cow dung. They are paid Rs 200 each per day.
Earlier this year, in March, the Jai Durga Swayam Sahayata Samooh Self Help Group of which Mithilesh is a member, set up the paint manufacturing unit under the aegis of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).
“The paint made here uses no heavy metals or chemicals and is non-toxic. It is also a lot cheaper than the chemical paint available in the market,” Arvind Kumar Soni, block mission manager, NRLM, told Gaon Connection. The paint is sold under the brand name of 'Prakratik Paint' which literally translates into natural paint.
According to him, the paint being made by the women here could lower the construction costs, and the raw material needed to manufacture it, the cow dung, was freely available in the villages.
According to Ashok Kumar, district manager, NRLM, “A sum of Rs 902,900 was given by NRLM to construct a building for the workshop where the paint is produced.
“In addition a sum of Rs 2,000,000 was loaned to the SHG by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission with a subsidy of 35 per cent. This money procured the machines and other equipment needed to run the workshop,” Kumar told Gaon Connection.
Twenty women from the Nawabganj Block operate the six machines that are installed in the factory. They first remove pebbles, grass etc, from the cow dung and weigh it. Then they transfer the cleaned dung into a storage tank that has water in it.
The motorised storage tank churns the cow dung and water for 40 minutes, before that mixture is led into another enclosure where it is turned into a uniform paste-like liquid. The liquid is heated at a temperature of 100 degrees celsius for half an hour, after which it is bleached. It is after this that colour is added to the mixture, and the largely natural paint is ready to be marketed.
“Three women from the Nawabganj Block were sent to the Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute in Jaipur, Rajasthan, where they learnt how to make paint out of cow dung,” Ashok Kumar said.
They were Rashmi Singh, Sheela Devi and Neelam who went to Jaipur in February to learn the process. They returned and trained the other women in their samooh.
Sheela Devi, one of the women who went to Rajasthan to be trained, couldn’t be happier. . “I had no economic freedom and had to ask for money from others for every little thing as if I was a child,” the 29-year-old told Gaon Connection. “Not any more and I see respect in the eyes of those who interact with me now,” she smiled.
So far, about 1200 kgs of paint and emulsion made in the workshop has been sold in the market. Each kilogram of the paint produced from cow dung costs Rs 80 per kg while the emulsion is sold for Rs 120 per kg. In the market, a litre of paint sold by leading manufacturers is priced at Rs 250 per kg.
“We are working on a proposal to be sent to the administration recommending that this paint be used on government buildings that are being constructed. Also, this paint will soon be made available on Amazon website,” Soni, the block-level official, added.
Meanwhile, district veterinary officer Anil Dattatrey told Gaon Connection that the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in the district will ensure a steady supply of cow dung to the workshop from the cowsheds in the district.
“We will supply cow dung to this workshop free of cost for the next five years,” Dattarey said.