This is part three of a four part series looking at deforestation and the state of trees in India. This is Annila Harris’ first-hand account of her time visiting the World Vision special climate change project with technical expert Salmon Jacob Advisor – Environment (Climate Change), World Vision India. Photos by Annila Harris.
Riding off to the nearby village, Salmon Jacob, Advisor – Environment (Climate Change), World Vision India stops over to visit 36-year-old Jagdish Suman and his delightful family. Having been given a bio-gas unit by World Vision, the family had shifted from their traditional way of cooking. Welcoming Salmon with open arms, Jagdish Suman says, “Sir please come in. Nice to see you, hope all is well. I shall ask my wife to make a cup of tea and we can talk some more.”
“I am well, thanks. Just wanted to enquire how your bio-gas unit is working,” says Salmon.
Jagdish replies, “Better than our earlier system, sir. Both firewood and cow dung cakes were hazardous fuel causing pollution and damaging the environment. Cutting trees from the jungle for firewood was a laborious and time consuming process that also destroyed the forests. Starting our traditional stove was tedious because we had to collect the firewood, burn it, and wait for it to set a blaze and then cook. This process had to be repeated every time we needed to cook even to make simple things like tea. During rainy season the wood wouldn’t catch fire because it was wet. Now we can make even small meals at our convenience with just a push of a button. The bio-gas unit produces clean fuel that doesn’t pollute. There is no need for firewood anymore”.
The bio fuel system is a more practical and easy to use system that limits pollution and removes the need to cut down trees for firewood. After indulging in further conversation over a cup of hot milk tea Salmon heads further, in the blistering heat, to 52-year-old farmer, Bhagwan Singh who practises farming using organic fertilizer. Bhagwan Singh’s family had received a vermicompost kit from World Vision along with training on how to make natural fertiliser, using the bio-gas slurry. Catching Bhagwan Singh in action on his field, Salmon heads in his direction to have a little chit-chat. Wetting his vermicompost trough, Bhagwan Singh diligently adheres to the training facilitated by World Vision on keeping the compost moist for the earthworm to do their bit of converting bio-gas waste, slurry, into natural fertiliser. Greeting Salmon, he gives a detailed progress report.
“Slurry, the bio-gas waste, we pile up in the trough. When we have a sufficient amount, the earthworms are let in. I keep the contents moist. Once the earthworms convert slurry into fertiliser, I store them in sacks. In one composting cycle I am able to get 20 bags of 50 kg each. One bag sells for $13 USD. That becomes an additional income for the household. I also use vermicompost in my field and the results were good. Now, when someone buys vegetables produced in my field they come back for more because they are tasty when cooked. The vegetables grown through vermicompost like cauliflower, ladyfinger, onions and others have helped me gain loyal customers. The yield in terms of quality definitely is much better than when we use chemical fertilisers. It is more tasty and healthy. After vermicompost has come we don’t have to spend a lot on purchasing chemical fertiliser. We save that money. Initially I was sceptical about this process but now once I have tried it, I see it makes a world of a difference in enriching the soil to produce good quality yield,” says Bhagwan Singh with conviction.
Patting Bhagwan’s back, Salmon silently moves to the corner to observe his daily activity. In an attempt to build resilient community programmes, targeted interventions like renewable energy, climate resilient agriculture, agro-forestry which are instrumental in improving the health of the natural environment. Getting the communities to work on climate friendly and environment friendly livelihood programmes is very essential. As part of the climate change projects in Baran, World Vision has provided 152 families with a bio-gas unit and 105 families with vermicompost kit.
Stepping out of the house Bhagwan’s wife, Sitabai request her husband to suspend his activity and invite the guest for light snacks. Taking this opportunity Salmon enquires about Sitabai’s changed kitchen practices.
“Food cooked in bio-gas fuelled stove is tasty, there is no smoke emission and cooking is no longer a tedious process, it gets done quickly. There is no smoky aftertaste in the food. My kitchen walls don’t have the black soot left behind by the smoke. For a poor person things like this are of great help,” says Sitabai. Placing the local treats before the gentlemen, Sitabai diverts her attention to caring for her 6-month-old grandchild. Overwhelmed by the warm hospitality of the villagers, Salmon thanks the family and bids his goodbyes.