In the Summer of 2011, I roamed around villages desperately seeking for a perfect school to start my non-profit’s first project which focussed on education. Yet again, after 6 years I was on a similar expedition but for a different cause. This time, it was related to much bigger issues like crop burning, environmental pollution, and increasing farmer’s livelihood.
After completing my graduation from Imperial College London, I became more inclined towards developing sustainable materials out of waste biomass. Some of the Indian cities have been frequently in news for being the worst polluted cities in the world. Just last year, the levels of pollutants in the air in New Delhi were 30 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended level. It was then when I met Arpan who studied MSc in Management at Imperial Business School. We decided to look for a solution to this problem and found out that crop burning is a major contributor to air pollution in Northern India. Soon after, I used my knowledge of chemical engineering and clubbed it with Arpan’s business experience to work for our passion for tackling social issues in India.
While developing the business plan, many questions were unanswered and we decided to visit a village to understand the grass-root problems faced by the farmers. Visiting a village is always exciting as the people are very friendly and the hospitality is amazing. It was perfect timing for us as the wheat crops were almost mature and we were able to take some pictures. After touring the farms and understanding the different crops grown in the region we decided to know more about the usage of crop residues.
Mr. Banchar Yadav, who was our host told us that the crop residue is used as a fodder for animals and the remaining is sold for fuel. He said he owned a small piece of land and the entire crop residue is being used. However, he also mentioned that a lot of nearby farmers burn their fields openly as it’s the best way to get rid of it in a faster way. Some farmers sold their crop straw at 140-400 Rs/quintal depending on the crop type. Sometimes, the crops are destroyed due to bad weather and the crop straw is something which can help them earn some meager revenue.
A more valuable usage of crop residue could help us increase the farmer’s livelihood. Additionally, it saves cutting precious trees and protects our environment from harmful emissions of notorious greenhouse gasses from fuel or crop burning. Our conversation and experience with the farmer’s community in the Jigani village reinforced our confidence to work for our goals.