Gram Laxmi Vermicomposting Initiative: Converting rural waste into organic matter
In 2011, the Gram Laxmi initiative was started as a pilot in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat by the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), to convert agricultural and animal waste into organic manure. Gram Laxmi runs under Mission Mangalam- a Government of Gujarat (GOG) livelihood and poverty alleviation programme. Under the project, Gram Laxmi vermicomposting units are set up in villages and Self Help Groups of women are trained to run and manage these units. These women collect the agricultural and cattle waste from their farms and treat it in the unit. Post treatment, they derive vermicompost from the unit which is used as manure during farming. This vermicompost is sold to farmers at nominal rates and also used for personal consumption on the women’s farms.
The cost of setting up a Gram Laxmi unit is financed through convergence of different centrally sponsored rural development schemes like the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), MGNREGA, National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), Nirmal Gram etc. and through a one-time public contribution.
From a pilot project across 25 villages in 2011 , the Gram Laxmi initiative today has been up scaled to 96 villages of Sabarkantha district. Gram Laxmi successfully demonstrates the potential that rural areas have for developing indigenous and sustainable livelihood options.The use of localised and easily available raw materials, the pooling together of funds from well established national and state level schemes and the leveraging of existing network of local human resources (SHG women) involved in government functioning makes Gram Laxmi a sustainable initiative. The development and implementation of Gram Laxmi did not require any major changes in government processes, nor did it burden the community with additional responsibility. Community members have to invest only one hour of their time daily for making additional income, managing waste in their community and generating organic manure for use in their fields. These factors make the initiative environmentally and economically viable. Furthermore, the initiative is proving its social relevance by providing rural women an opportunity to step outside their homes and earn a living and contribute to the community’s well being.
Gram Laxmi reflects how government dedication and understanding of the local context and livelihood situation can help to harness existing resources in an economically and socially beneficial manner. This commitment has to be complemented by creating community awareness about the vast potential of locally available resources.