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Butter churner - Necessity leads to farmer's innovation
Bhutan When 44-year old Ugyen Dorji of Ngala village in Trongsa got a loan and bought some jatsham and jersey cows, he faced abig problem - his herd of cattle produced a lot of milk.He did not mind the quantity of milk since products from it fetched him a monthly income ofaround Nu.#000000 11,000. What had him at the end of his tethers was the amount of "sweat and toil" required in churning the milk.But this, in a way, also prompted him to think of an alternative for the traditional butter churner.
"Using the centuries-old butter churner was pure drudgery especially when we had to churn a vast quantity of milk," Ugyen Dorji said. "I wanted to find a cost-effective and labour-saving replacement." However, he soon realized that it was easier said than done. He spent many sleepless nights trying to come up with an idea. I had to really rack my brain. What made it worse was that I became obsessed with the thought that it had to be better in all aspects than the existing one."


Butter churner: It can churn about 40 litres of milk in 20 minutes
After many months of "hard and tortuous thinking", he finally concluded that "whatever he made would be something that could be operated by foot to make the work easier".On that premise and with his carpentry skills, he set to work in 1995.

"I couldn't do it at once," Ugyen Dorji said. "Sometimes I worked on it for a week and then I just dumped it and did other things."It took more than a year before he finally completed his new butter churner, a perfect blend of the phob-polishing technique and the traditional butter churner, in 1996.

"The outer part was easier to make because I basically improvised on the traditional one but I spent the maximum amount of time doing the inner parts," he said. And indeed the "inner parts" are what fundamentally distinguishes his new butter churner from its traditional predecessor.

In Ugyen Dorji's improved version, the "stirrer" rotates inside whereas the traditional one would operate like a piston with a vertical pull-up-and-push-down movement.The stirrer, which is fixed to the bottom of the cylindrical container, has four perforated flaps of fashioned wood forming a rotating fan. A strap of leather is tightly hooped around the end of the stirrer that juts out from the main cylindrical container.

The two ends of the leather strap are tied to wooden pedals fixed to the base of the outer frame that holds the entire butter churner together. "Repeated pedaling makes the fan inside rotate continuously," said Ugyen Dorji, sounding more like a mechanical engineer than a farmer. "Whoever operates need apply only a light pressure on the pedals but the force and frequency of rotation inside is much greater. As a result, one can get more butter in less time and using less energy."

The "ignorant man's modest device", as Ugyen Dorji describes his butter churner, is made entirely out of locally available raw materials and can be dismantled in parts. It can churn about 40 litres of milk in 20 minutes. The traditional butter churner would take about 120 minutes to do the same job.

According to Ugyen Dorji, there is half a sang's (approximately 200 grams) difference in the output of butter between the traditional butter churner and his improved version."The beauty of it is that it can even be operated by children," he exuded. "In fact, my seven year old daughter does the churning most of the time."He added that children in his village now clamoured to do the job "which earlier they would not and could not". This fact was clearly demonstrated when Thimphu school-children scuffled spiritedly to try out the "bicycling butter churner" at the RNR expo where it was on display.

An impressed onlooker at the expo suggested that now that there is an industrial property law, Ugyen Dorji should get his "invention" patented. But this may be a little late for him. Ugyen Dorji himself is totally ignorant of patent rights and the Wang watershed management project, after it got wind of the new butter churner, quickly sought his permission and began trial productions at the agriculture machinery centre in Paro.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
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