She Builds Biogas Plants In Bihar Villages To Provide Electricity, Fuel And Better Crop To Marginalised Farmers

Follow Us On

Akansha’s story dates back to 2014. Freshly graduated from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, she embarked on a journey through the rural hinterlands in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, trying to identify the primary problems plaguing the overlooked communities there. Aside from usually highlighted issues like lack of toilets or limited access to modern farming methods, the complete absence of electricity in their lives struck her the most.

No electricity in many villages of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar

“During my stay in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, I spotted that the womenfolk cooked on cow dung cakes. They always rushed to finish their chores before sunset, so did the men toiling in the fields. With no electricity, it would only be pitch black darkness once the sun goes down,” narrates Akansha to Efforts For Good, sharing how the unique concept of Swayambhu came up. She saw a more or less similar picture in Rajasthan, followed by Bihar and Maharashtra as well. “Without electricity, the number of active day hours inevitably reduces. Children cannot study. People cannot engage in any part-time profession in the latter half of the day, even if their survival demands that. They end their day eating a cold plate of food cooked in the morning,” she elaborates.

The defunct biogas plants across the country

Akansha’s knowledge and experience in social entrepreneurship prompted her to think on the lines of bio-electricity. Firstly, it was not feasible for a lone woman to arrange for electric power for these rural households, after fulfilling all the governmental paraphernalia. Secondly, cow dung and biodegradable waste were available in abundance in these hamlets, which could actually generate sustainable electric power. “I saw biogas electricity plants in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Even Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) started this project in parts of Maharashtra,’’ informs Akansha. But, the story did not end on a happy note in these regions.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

“I learnt that a household needs to maintain at least three cows to successfully run even a small biogas plant. But extreme poverty and prolonged months of drought often forced these families to sell their cattle for sustaining themselves. As a result, the biogas plants lay defunct in most of these areas owing to lack of maintenance,” she adds.

This is when Akansha first realised that her dream project was not bereft of its cons. She had to ensure that the benefits outdid the hurdles that come with it.

Benefits of the biogas plant

Before piloting the ambitious project, Akansha scoured the districts of her home state, Bihar, to ascertain its feasibility.

“Our first project was in Pusa block of Samastipur, Bihar, benefitting around 50 households, all belonging to the Dalit community. We succeeded in arranging for six hours of bio-electricity for them every day, at a minimal cost of 30 rupees per month,” reveals Akansha. The gas from the plant also powers the kitchens in these homes. In addition, the by-products of the slurry generated in the plant come in handy as organic manure and biopesticide.

However, Akansha’s real success perhaps lies in overcoming the endless hardships she encountered on her way to success.

Severe objection from the villagers

“We decided on implementing the Deenbandhu model of biogas plants, which perfectly suited the rural topography and available resources. But, initially, people were adamantly against us. Their experience tells them that it is useless. They declared that they were fine without electricity or cooking gas in their lives,” Akansha shares.

Overworked and undernourished, the villagers rarely found time to calculate their sizeable expenditure on fuel lamps and candles per month, which often reached around 300 rupees. On the other hand, a biogas plant would cap their fuel expenditure within 100 rupees a month, while providing them with electric power.

Despite resistance from the villagers, Akansha was not someone to give up. Teaming up with Ashutosh Kumar, she kept on detailing the advantages of a biogas plant to the villagers in Pusa. It took four months for them to finally concede a plot of land for the project. “Now when they are enjoying the benefits, they often come and tell us to increase the duration of electricity. They are even ready to spend some more for that,” Akansha shares with a smile of success.

Does costlier pesticide mean better pest control? Not always

Mehnga Dawai Matlab Behatar Keet Nashak (Costlier pesticide means better pest control)” – was the ingrained concept prevailing in these rural belts. This led even the small-scale farmers to opt for expensive chemical pesticides and fertilisers, up to 2000 or 3000 rupees per litre. However, whenever the crops failed, they ran into debts, increasing their woes manifolds.

“When we told them that the biogas plant would give them green manure and biopesticides at 100 rupees per litre, they brushed us off. A handful of farmers who believed in us reaped the profits the following harvest season. For instance, one potato farmer from Muzaffarpur got a yield of 1.4 tonnes after adopting bio-manure, nearly 40% higher than his usual yield. He inspired his fellow cultivators to follow suit,” details Akansha.

Future plans for the spirited founder

Swayambhu sourced their funds 50% from the beneficiary households and the remaining half from governmental and non-governmental entities. This was until they received financial support from the Bihar government which has allowed them to scale up. Presently, they are constructing one of the biggest bio-electricity plants (120 cubic metres) in Narkatia near Nepal border which will bring 75 households under its beneficial ambit.

In the next three years, Akansha eyes to electrify around 1500 households in three districts of Bihar through the construction of 36 biogas plants. This, in turn, will also help cultivate over 1200 acres of land.

A spirited leader and changemaker, Akansha Singh’s sole efforts have brought forth such noticeable development in one of the most underdeveloped areas of Bihar. Efforts For Good hopes more Indian women are inspired by her work and come forward to join her in transforming the society.

Love this story? Want to share a positive story?
Write to us: [email protected]
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

Follow Us On

Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
Next Click right arrow to read the next story Previous