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Reaping wealth from waste

K. Balchand

NEW DELHI: Convergence of its schemes by the Union Rural Development Ministry has benefited many villages in Gujarat. This has helped many women self-help groups (SHGs) to reap wealth from waste.

An experiment started in Sabarkantha district, under the name Gram Laxmi, is all about converting solid waste. Gram Laxmi is a community vermicomposting unit set up to clean the environment, improve farm productivity and provide livelihood options to women SHGs.

It uses all solid waste that otherwise pollute the environment. It also lays focus on reduction in the use of chemical fertiliser for healthy agricultural production based on organic farming.

Launched in four villages — Himmatpur, Gadhada, Malpur and Mahadevpura — as a pilot project by the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), each Gram Laxmi unit has been set up on 360 sq.m. of a government plot and comprises 40 beds for vermicomposting. Each bed contains almost 1,000 kg of pest control material such as cow dung and village waste, which the SHGs collect.

Each bed rears about 20 kg of worms which turn the waste into organic compost. The vermicomposting cycle is completed in 45 days. Every two months each SHG managing a vermicomposting unit can earn Rs.5,500 from a bed — Rs.3,000 from selling 1,000 kg of compost and Rs.2,500 from selling 20 kg of worms.

At least five such cycles can be completed every year, ensuring for each women SHG productive employment round the year. The earning of each unit is estimated at about Rs.11 lakh annually.

Currently managed by the DRDA, the cost of setting up a unit is around Rs.4.5 lakh, which is financed through convergence of different Centrally sponsored rural development schemes and the public too makes a small contribution.

The contribution from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Total Sanitation Scheme is Rs.1.5 lakh each and Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) accounts for Rs.1 lakh, while Rs.5,000 comes through public contribution.

Apart from imparting training to the SHGs to run these units, the DRDA also provides weighing machines and tri-cycles to carry waste material to the unit and market the worms and compost.

The DRDA plans to set up 21 more vermicomposting units in the first phase at an estimated cost of Rs.1.12 crore.

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