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From struggle to sustainability: A successful journey with biogas

HDFC Bank Parivartan’s HRDP Programme through its ‘Building a sustainable water security system for livelihood and economic enhancement’ project in partnership with WOTR has transformed Koriya District’s agricultural landscape since its launch in 2021. Several homes now enjoy health benefits and less physical strain thanks to the biogas systems. This comprehensive rural development strategy has effectively boosted local economies and resilience.

Shivmangal Singh, a hardworking man of 38, knew the contours of struggle and perseverance intimately. As a resident of the remote Mudijhariya Village in Koriya District of Chhattisgarh, he bore the weight of providing for a family of six. Alongside his eldest son, Shivmangal shouldered the responsibility of being the family’s primary earner. His modest plot of 1.4 acres, a tapestry of crops like paddy, pigeon pea, maize, black gram, and a medley of seasonal vegetables, was their main source of sustenance. But the meagre yield from the limited landholding was barely enough to sustain his family’s needs.

The task of collecting the fuel wood was a weekly arduous journey of 5 km one-way to the nearest forest, Salhanwa.

Undeterred, Shivmangal sought additional means to supplement the family income. He found work as a daily wage labourer under MGNREGA or on others’ farms, and recently, he also ventured into entrepreneurship with a small general store. The latter brought in a steady, if modest, monthly income of around Rs 5000.

Yet, the spectre of poverty continued to haunt his family. The cost of living was high, particularly with the expense of fuel wood for cooking, which necessitated the purchase of 4-5 litres of kerosene oil per month at Rs 40 per litre. The task of collecting the fuel wood was a weekly arduous journey of 5 km one-way to the nearest forest, Salhanwa. For Shivmangal, this weekly affair would fetch him 25-30 kg of wood; enough to sustain his family for the week.

Compounding these struggles, Shivmangal grappled with health issues, a constant reminder of his advancing age. Joint pain, headaches, and the lingering effects of a previous bout with COVID-19 weighed heavily on him. But the indomitable spirit of this villager refused to waver in his quest to provide for his family.

A collaborative effort between HDFC Bank’s Parivartan and WOTR, the project aimed to uplift the lives of farmers in 8 villages of Koriya district, Chhattisgarh.

October 2019 saw the launch of the Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP). A collaborative effort between HDFC Bank’s Parivartan and WOTR, the project aimed to uplift the lives of farmers in eight villages of Koriya District, Chhattisgarh. Titled ‘Building a sustainable water security system for livelihood and economic enhancement of farmers’, it sought to enhance the income of vulnerable and marginal individuals through sustainable livelihood development, climate-resilient agriculture, watershed management, and capacity building activities.

Shivmangal’s tryst with the HRDP began during the formation of the Village Development Committee (VDC) in Mudijhariya. It was here that he learned of the potential of the biogas system, a concept promoted under the project. The system promised to reduce the burden of collecting fuel wood and free up time for other income-generating activities. Biogas, primarily composed of methane gas, is an eco-friendly energy source produced from the decomposition of farm waste. Its carbon footprint is significantly lower than that of fuel wood.

Convinced about the potential benefits and his own health considerations, Shivmangal sought assistance for the purchase and installation of a biogas system.

Convinced about the potential benefits and his own health considerations, Shivmangal sought assistance for the purchase and installation of a Biogas System. His request was accepted, and he was provided with the necessary materials and training to operate and maintain the system. Since implementing the biogas system, Shivmangal and his family’s quality of life has significantly improved. With the majority of his cooking done using biogas, he steps out only twice a month to gather wood (primarily for high flame cooking).

This has gifted him 20 hours of time that was previously dedicated to wood collection. He now invests this additional time working on his farm, expanding his grocery store, and other such income boosting activities. By relying on biogas for most of his cooking needs, Shivmangal also saves money on fuel expenses.

The biogas system has also brought an unanticipated boon – a healthier home environment, benefiting the women in Shivmangal’s family who are traditionally responsible for cooking. They are now less susceptible to pulmonary diseases like asthma and cataracts, prevalent in communities reliant on fuels with higher smoke and fume emissions. Moreover,Shivmangal is now free from the severe pain previously caused by manual work and hard labour.

Since implementing the biogas system, Shivmangal and his family’s quality of life has significantly improved.

But Shivmangal’s journey does not end here. Through his struggle and subsequent success with the Biogas System, he has also inspired his fellow villagers. He has become an ardent advocate for sustainable practices, sharing his knowledge and experiences with others in Mudijhariya.

Shivmangal’s story stands as a beacon of hope and resilience, not just for his family but for his community.

HDFC Bank Parivartan’s HRDP Programme through its ‘Building a sustainable water security system for livelihood and economic enhancement’ project in partnership with WOTR has transformed Koriya District’s agricultural landscape since its launch in 2021. Addressing key challenges, it has revitalised the lives of 2,732 families across eight villages; 1,328 families have expanded their income sources by branching into farm-based livelihoods, and another 297 have embraced non-farm opportunities. Enhanced land management practices on 1,836 acres have optimised water use, and increased crop yields for 447 farmers. Eighty homes now enjoy health benefits and less physical strain thanks to the biogas systems. This comprehensive rural development strategy has effectively boosted local economies and resilience.

(Courtesy: Watershed Organisation Trust/ WOTR)

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