Akhtar: diary of a Woman Milk Producer (Pakistan)
I am Akhtar Bibi, a MEDA Pakistan client for the past 3 years. I hail from the village of Pandatwal in the district of Kasur. Accustomed to rising early, I am usually up and running by the time the sun sneaks past the horizon. A strong cup of tea provides me with the necessary morning kick as I start the process of milking my cows, something that I have been doing for many years.
The entire process of milking involves various animal management practices. I start off by cutting and chopping the animal feed into small pieces so that my cows are able to consume and digest with ease. My cows feed on both Khal and Vanda to supplement their diet. Previously, I only used to feed Khal as I was unaware of the benefits of Vanda feed; it was the MEDA Pakistan project team recommended that I use both for optimum results. Once I'm done with the feeding process, I wait a few hours before officially starting the milking process. During this time, I make sure that my cows drink sufficient amounts of water.
The milking process takes a couple of hours to complete and once finished, I collect all the milk and take it to the Village Milk Collection Agent (VMCA) for sale. The VMCA is my mentor, trainer and facilitator in the production and selling of milk. I call her baji (sister) as I regard her immensely. She tests the milk for its fat content and then takes the milk to our buyer (Haleeb) for sale.
By midafternoon, I return home to wash my cows, which I believe is their favourite part of the day. This leads me to my final task - cleaning the animal sheds. Every evening, I clean the mess created by the leftover animal feed and the waste of the cows in order to maintain healthy and sanitary conditions.
All in all, I generally manage to work 8 hours a day, which renders me absolutely exhausted by the time I am finished. And so, every night, I try to sleep early in order to re-energize my battery for another busy day ahead.