Jagrutiben Samanthbhai, a dairy farmer from Mujkuva village in Anklav taluka of Gujarat’s Anand district, put up a bio-gas plant at a cost of Rs 24,000 two years ago. She was till then finding it difficult to dispose of the dung from her four buffaloes; each of them produced 15-20 kg on an average daily. However, since the installation of the bio-gas plant, not only has dealing with dung become easier, but today, she has also stopped refilling of her LPG cylinder as well as fetching firewood for use as household cooking fuel.
Jagrutiben’s bio-gas plant was set up with the support of the National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP). Implemented by the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, it offers 40% subsidy on the project cost. The effective investment on the 2 cubic-metre bio-gas plant, thus, worked out to around Rs 14,400. On this investment, Jagrutiben now gets the biogas equivalent of two refilled LPG cylinders, whose unit cost is about Rs 750 after factoring in a direct benefit transfer of Rs 150. Simply put, Jagrutiben’s entire investment was recovered in less than a year. What’s more, the 1.2 tonnes of slurry generated as byproduct, and sold as organic manure at Rs 0.75-2/kg, fetches her additional monthly income of Rs 900-1,200.
Baluben Gulabbhai, who is also from Mujkuva and rears three buffaloes, is happy that the bio-gas plant installed by her has ensured she no longer needs to go to others’ farms to gather twigs or dried stems. Nor does she have to purchase firewood from the nearby timber mart at exorbitant prices, especially during the monsoon when burning of farm biomass is not possible. Leelaben Manubhai, from the same village with 10 animals, claims that her coughing has come down significantly after switching to bio-gas.
A household bio-gas plant mixes raw dung and water in equal portion. The mixed dung gets decomposed in an anaerobic digester and produces bio-gas and slurry. Two years back, a majority of Mujkuva’s 600-odd households, owning two-three buffaloes each, depended predominantly on dairying. The dung produced by the animals — 15-20 kg by adults and 10-12 kg by calves — was stored in an open space, locally known as ukeda, for later use as fuel and manure. Open composting, apart from not capturing the true economic value of dung, is also a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.
In late-2017, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) organised 40 women dairy farmers from Mujkuva to form a self-help group (SHG) by the name of ‘Jai Ambe’. Each member got a new-generation bio-gas plant with prefabricated digester installed at their home. It was envisaged that slurry obtained from these plants would be sold to the SHG, which would, then, convert it into nutrient-fortified bio-organic fertiliser.
The NDDB, in association with the Pune-based Swasti Agro & Bioproducts Pvt Ltd, is currently engaged in developing a market for bio-gas slurry-based organic agricultural inputs. These include PROM (phosphorus-rich organic manure) and Su-Dhan (a mixture of essential micronutrients like iron, zinc, manganese, copper and boron).
“One more of our members put up bio-gas plants, we will start a unit that will process slurry from other neighbouring villages as well,” says Labobhai K Patel, secretary of the Mujkuva Dairy Cooperative Society, whose 850 farmer-members supply over 5,000 litres per day of milk to the Amul dairy that is part of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF).
The NDDB is planning to expand the Mujkuva model to other villages, while leveraging the existing network of dairy cooperatives to market its bio-inputs to farmers in different regions. In Jakariyapura, a village in Anand’s Borsad taluka, it has undertaken installation of bio-gas plants in all of its 370 dairy society households.
The NDDB has so far set up roughly 1,000 bio-gas plants across 12 states under its National Dairy Plan and is targeting a total of 10,000 in the next five years. The main focus is to provide additional income to dairy farmers through sale of slurry, besides promoting use of organic inputs in their fields. Under the NBMMP scheme, more than 1.25 lakh biogas plants have been installed during 2016-17 to 2018-19, with a target of 76,000 fixed for the current fiscal itself. Apart from boosting dairy farmers’ income, the programme is expected to lead to more scientific handling of animal dung. Converting dung into renewable energy will also prevent emission of methane, a key GHG, into the atmosphere.
The writers are with the Verghese Kurien Centre of Excellence at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand. Views expressed are personal