BIOGAS AND RURAL SANITATION
SAS provides modern sanitary facility and easy cooking fuel to rural households and thereby reduces the workload of women and enhances their health. It gives a boost to a-forestation and renewable energy technology. It increases soil fertility by providing plenty of organic manure. It is a step forward in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, e.g., MH4 and saving our blue planet.
|An article on the contribution by SAS towards a green world is published in the well known magazine 'JIVAN-News and Views of Jesuits in India'|
STORY OF SUSHILA - An Ecological Approach to Development
|We belong to the tribal community called Naik. Our tribe is also known under the names Berad and Valmiki. During the British colonial period our tribe was listed as a criminal tribe. When there were cases of cattle lifting, illicit liquor making or dacoity our men folks were rounded up and harassed by the police. I felt sad about it. It is said that the sage Valmiki who wrote the world famous epic Ramayana was from our tribe. I feel proud to hear that.|
|When my parents told me that I was to be given in marriage to Kattanbhavi village I was scared. I thought that I was condemned to misery for life. I was told that Kattanbhavi village had no easy access to drinking water. Women had to walk 1.5 km down the valley to fetch water. Getting firewood for cooking was another major issue. Jungles close to the village had vanished. It meant a long trek over the barren hills in search of firewood. I did not have a say in the matter of my marriage. I just had to nod to what was already settled by the elders. I considered myself lucky, when I learnt that my husband had a small job in Gogte Mills in Belgaum and some land.|
|Life in Kattanbhvi was tough. With great difficulty we eked out a living from the little land we had and from the wages my husband brought home. I took care of the children, made numerous difficult and tiring trips for water and firewood, did all the cooking, washing and house cleaning and also worked on our land during rainy season and went for wage labour at other times. I used to be up by 5 am and could go to sleep only by 10 pm.|
|From the year 1992 I saw a lot of changes taking place in our village. Fr. Joe, a Jesuit priest and social workers from his organization Jana Jagaran, were frequent visitors to our village. Jana Jagaran conducted night schools for the school dropouts and the illiterates. They motivated the elders to undertake a watershed programme. From 1993 Jana Jagaran along with the people of the village initiated many works in the village for rainwater harvesting. We understood that rainwater harvesting was the only solution to our drinking water problem and deteriorating environment. We learnt about the importance of counter trenching, land levelling, terracing, gully plugs, check dam, mud dam and a-forestation. We got regular work with wages under this project.|
|Slowly the face of the village began to change. The watershed project helped in recharging the ground water table. The problem of drinking water was fully solved. We have now many more trees in the village. The barren hills look greener. The yield from agriculture has increased many folds. There is plenty of fodder and grass for the animals. Many young people who migrated to cities in search of work returned to Kattanbhavi.
Jana Jagaran had told us about the usefulness of biogas plants cum toilets. But due to lack of water in the village only a few families came forward initially to build biogas. But when the water problem was solved many more families built biogas plants. Many families bought milk animals.
|With the wages I earned from the work in watershed programme and a small loan from our women’s self group I bought a cow. I too wanted to build a biogas plant cum toilet. But I was hesitant. I found the idea of cooking on gas produced from dung and night soil difficult to digest. Social workers of Jana Jagaran tried to convince me. They took me to the houses of Karevva, Laxmi and Bharati. These neighbours showed me their biogas cum toilet units.|
|They made me drink tea and taste food cooked on biogas stove. It tasted as good as any other tea, any other food. But I was still confused.
Once Fr. Joe, Director of Jana Jagaran came to my house. He asked me, ‘Sushila, on what do people in the village normally cook?’ I replied, ‘On fire wood, on kerosene, and some on petroleum gas’. Joe did not agree! He laughed and said, ‘Nobody cooks on firewood, kerosene or gas, but everybody cooks on FIRE and fire is holy and sacred. It is the great purifier. When gas is lit there is no more gas but only fire and it is on fire that everybody cooks’. Joe took me to my neighbour Karevva’s kitchen for a demonstration. He opened the gas tap but did not light the stove.