Yarrisamy, a farmer member of Dharani FaM Co-op Ltd., is in his fields today. His father Naganna stays back home waiting for the 4-member Dharani procurement team to arrive. The Proso millet they have cultivated has already been harvested, threshed, winnowed and packed in bags ready to be weighed and sent off to the Dharani processing unit.
The 4-member procurement team, led by Obalesh, Procurement In-Charge of Dharani, trundles up the narrow lanes of Hariyancheruvu village in the pick-up van and stops right in front of Yarrisamy’s house. This time the produce is being collected at the farmer’s house. Very often they have to bump over mud roads right to the farmer’s field to procure the harvest. But today they don’t have to go that extra mile.
The team jumps out nimbly and gets to work. While one chap sets the weighing equipment, one chap brings out the Dharani bags. This is actually an important part. For one, the Dharani bags adhere to the requirements of long term storage. They are sturdy, not frayed, and uniform in size and weight. Besides the farmers themselves need their bags for future use. So, the first task is to transfer the produce and prepare bags of 50-kg which are weighed and transported. It takes an hour of hard work to do this after which the actual weighing starts.
In the meanwhile, Obalesh takes a kilogram of the millet randomly from one the bags. He weighs it to ensure it is a kilogram. He then proceeds to clean the millet of husk, stones, and any unwanted particles. He then weighs the cleaned millet. The difference in weight is the wastage. This percentage is applied at the end when calculating the actual price due to the farmer.
The weighing equipment is really quite simple, made of three bamboo poles, a scale and a sturdy rope. It is quite unusual to see such a scale in the area. The traders usually have a different one – two pans balanced at the ends of a sturdy metal rod. On one side goes the weights and on the other goes the produce bags. This type of scale actually has a lot of scope for fudging and more often than not much of the weighing is fudged. The farmer typically loses anywhere between 10-20% just in inaccurate weighing. But the Dharani scales are different. The numbers clearly show the farmer how much the bags really weigh and it is quite easily verifiable.
The bags are then mounted on the rope, the rope looped back to the hook. Quite often the farmer participates in the whole process and here too Naganna becomes part of the team and is actively involved the process. The produce is added or removed until it reaches the 50kg mark accurately. The bag is then passed across to Obalesh who ties up the bags and writes the name of the farmer and the Sangham code he belongs to. This ensures that Dharani knows exactly how much produce comes from which Sangham.
At the end of it, the bags are counted and loaded on to the van. Obalesh then calculates the amount due to the farmer deducting the percentage of wastage arrived at in the beginning of the process. He prepares a bill, takes a Sangham member’s signature (since Naganna cannot write) and gives Naganna the original bill. A copy of the bill is retained by Obalesh for Dharani records which is handed over to the accounts/billing section. The amount due to Yarrisamy will be transferred by Dharani to the Sangham’s bank account. Yarrisamy can then show the bill to the Sangham and can claim the money due to him.
The Sangham plays an important role in the whole process. It deals with conflicts or complaints that cannot be sorted out then and there itself. For eg. if a farmer has any issue with the pricing, wastage calculation or such, s/he has to take it up with the Sangham leaders. The Sangham meets twice a month to discuss processes, make collective decisions, resolve conflicts, address complaints, etc.
What makes the Dharani procurement process interesting is its transparency and integrity which, over the years, the farmers have experienced, seen for themselves and have come to trust. It shows in the eagerness with which the procurement team is awaited, greeted and quite often chased.