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In the time of drought in India, self sustainable village Baghuvar shows the way

Pankaj Shukla’s documentary Swaraj Mumkin Hai based on efforts of villagers of Baghuvar in Madhya Pradesh

Banner of 'Swaraj Mumkin Hai'

India is going through the worst water crisis this year. Bad monsoons over the years, use of potable water in factories and ignorance towards Environment has run havoc in many states of the country. But, what the policy makers of this country could not learn in debates and discussions in the parliament, people of a small village called Baghuvar in Madhya Pradesh learned by following principles of Mahatma Gandhi, popularly knowns as Swaraj. Yes, this village not only has enough ground water now to survive for years in any drastic environmental situation but it also has many firsts which are still a dream for thousands of villages in India.

Pankaj Shukla
Pankaj Shukla : Director of the documentary ‘Swaraj Mumkin Hai’

The unique ways of water conservations and water harvesting in this tiny village of Baghuvar are very well captured on screen by filmmaker and senior journalist Pankaj Shukla in his latest documentary called Swaraj Mumkin Hai, this film was released on Tuesday in Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal by Padma Shri award winner Mr. Vijay Dutt Shridhar in a very Gandhian way. This release function was held in Dushyant Kumar Smarak Pandulipi Sangrahalay, which is also fast becoming a tourist place for Hindi poetry lovers. Mr. Shridhar also released a book on the making of this film, which is written by Maya Vishwakarma and edited by maker of the film Pankaj Shukla.

Village Baghuvar
Village Baghuvar

During the function, speakers put forward their great concern about policies and their execution at village level. Mr. Sridhar said that without valuing our culture, traditions and ancient thoughts about strengthening village independence, no development has any value for a common man. And, it is a pity that leaders of today do not want villagers to know their rights and do not wish to make villagers part of the development programs. He hailed Pankaj Shukla for leaving his luxurious life of Mumbai and to reach to a village in Madhya Pradesh where not many leaders of even that are have reached so far.

Village Baghuvar
Village Baghuvar

When asked about why did he chose to make a full length documentary film on Baghuvar? Director Pankaj Shukla explained it in detail. He said, “Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been advocating for one ideal village per year in every parliamentary constituency to his MPs. But we are yet to know more about it. We chose to release this film at a time where again Central Government is running Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday program in each and every village of India. If we could make one Baghuvar in each block of our country, the development of village will be manifolds within few years. But someone has to take onus of it. Development of any village can be done only by the villagers of that village like people of Baghuvar did in their village. This is a live model of Self Sustainable village in India and government should bring more and more Gram Pradhans here for tour so that they can replicate Baghuvar model in their villages as well.”

The documentary titled Swaraj Mumkin Hai elaborates on how by transparent utilization of government funds and by involving every resident of the village, a village can transform itself into a self-sustainable village.  The film is of 40 Minutes duration and it encompasses all the major work done in this village like Bio Fuel, Organic Agriculture, Water Harvesting, Hygienic ecosystem, Education for All, Toilets in every home and many others. The film’s premier was also done for the villagers of Baghuvar in a function at the village itself where people from more than 100 villages participated and enjoyed the documentary. An NGO Sukarma Foundation has come forward to take this film to maximum villages and organize shows to educate the villagers for self-development of their villages. Veteran Music Director and Narrator Mr. Brij Bhushan has lent his voice for this movie, while Hitesh Prasad, the famous percussionist has given back ground music in the film. Senior camera person Neeraj Tiwari has done cinematography for the film. Around fifty percent money used in making the film has come from crowd funding, rest of the funds have been donated by Mumbai based production company Sound N Clips productions.



  • chakrs

    People in villages like Baghuvar can surely inspire their neighbouring villages to follow their example. In this way the whole country can be developed in a few years.

Next Story

Kenya Farmers Irrigate Drought-Hit Crops More Cheaply, Cleanly with Biofuel from Cotton Waste

The biodiesel he is using is not just good news for him, it is also good news for the planet

cotton waste, biofuel
FILE - Samples of soy oil and biodiesel at laboratory in Santa Fe province, Argentina, Sept. 13, 2017. From Brazil to Indonesia, the rush to cultivate biofuel crops has pushed farmers to switch from crops-for-food to more profitable crops-for-fuel. VOA

Kenyan farmer Abel Mutie Mathoka thought it must be a joke when he was told he could irrigate his drought-hit crops more cheaply, cleanly and efficiently using a pump fueled by cotton waste.

“Who could believe it’s possible to make a fuel better than diesel from cotton seeds? I didn’t!” laughed Mathoka, crouching down to inspect the watermelons on his 10-acre (four-hectare) shared plot in Ituri village in Kenya’s southeast Kitui county.

“But it works,” he said, walking over to a nearby tree and plucking a large green pawpaw. “Irrigation with this biodiesel water pump has helped me get higher yields, especially during drought periods.”

Mathoka said his earnings had doubled in the two years he has been pumping water using biodiesel, which is both more efficient and 20 shillings ($0.20) per liter cheaper than regular diesel.

cotton waste, biofuel
“There is a mosaic of sustainable energy options in the world. The key issue is testing ideas and approaches in a collaborative fashion,” Sanyal said. Wikimedia Commons

Good for farmer and planet

The biodiesel he is using is not just good news for him, it is also good news for the planet. Unlike most biofuels, which are derived from crops such as maize, sugarcane, soybean, rapeseed and jatropha, it is made from a byproduct of the cotton-making process. That means that as well as being cleaner and cheaper than regular fuel, it is more sustainable than other biofuels because no extra land is needed to produce it.

From Brazil to Indonesia, the rush to cultivate biofuel crops has driven forest communities off their land and pushed farmers to switch from crops-for-food to more profitable crops-for-fuel, exacerbating food shortages.

“Our biodiesel comes from crushing cotton seeds left over as waste after ginning — the process of separating the seeds from raw cotton,” said Taher Zavery, managing director of Zaynagro Industries Ltd, the Kitui-based company producing the biodiesel.

“We started producing and using it to power our cotton ginning factory in 2011. With increased production, we now use it for our trucks, sell it to the United Nations to run some of their buses, and also to local farmers for irrigation.”

More than 1,200 farmers in Kitui have so far invested in biodiesel pumps for irrigation as part of an initiative launched by Zaynagro in 2015, said Zavery.

cotton waste, biofuel
The United Nations has called for emergency aid to help those in need. Pixabay

Dry riverbeds

Climate change is taking a toll across east Africa and increasingly erratic weather is becoming commonplace in countries such as Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Ethiopia, resulting in lower rainfall. The recurring dry spells are destroying crops and pastures and are starving animals, pushing millions of people in the Horn of Africa to the brink of extreme hunger.

The number of Kenyans in need of food aid in March surged by almost 70% over a period of eight months to 1.1 million, largely because of poor rains, according to government figures. With almost half Kenya’s 47 counties declared to have a serious shortage of rain, humanitarian agencies are warning of increased hunger in the months ahead.

“Only light rainfall is forecast through June … and this is not expected to alleviate drought in affected areas of Kenya and Somalia,” said the Famine Early Warning Systems Network in its latest report. “Well-below-average crop production, poor livestock body conditions, and increased local food prices are anticipated, which will reduce poor households’ access to food.”

In Kitui’s Kyuso area, the signs are already evident. Rivers, water pans and dams are drying up as a result of the prolonged dry spell. Villagers complain of trekking longer distances, sometimes more than 10 km (6 miles), with their donkeys laden with empty jerry cans in search of water. Small-scale farmers, most of whom are dependent on rain-fed agriculture, discuss plans to sell their goats to make ends meet if the harvest is poor.

cotton waste, biofuel
The recurring dry spells are destroying crops and pastures and are starving animals, pushing millions of people in the Horn of Africa to the brink of extreme hunger. Wikimedia Commons

Battling drought with biodiesel

But not all Kitui’s farmers are worried. A small but growing number are shedding their burden of reliance on the weather and investing in irrigation systems powered by Zaynagro’s cotton seed biodiesel through a pay-as-you-go scheme launched more than three years ago.

Neighboring farmers band together to invest in the irrigation system, which includes the biodiesel pump, 12 meters of pipes and 10 liters of biodiesel, at costs starting from 32,000 shillings, depending on the size of the pump.

The farmers make an initial payment, then pay interest-free monthly installments until the total is paid off. They buy the biodiesel to run the pumps from Zaynagro at 80 shillings a liter.

Farmer Alex Babu Kitheka, 39, said the biodiesel pump allowed him to irrigate a larger portion of his 1-acre plot, where he grows a variety of vegetables including maize, tomatoes, spinach and sweet potatoes.

“With a diesel pump, maize yields were lower and I would get 15,000 shillings in three months. With the biodiesel pump, I can earn 45,000 shillings,” said Alex Babu Kitheka, standing near his plot in Ilangilo village, 40 km (25 miles) from Kitui town.

cotton waste, biofuel
Biofuel schemes are promising because they create a circular economy by turning waste to biofuel for profit, said Sanjoy Sanyal. Wikimedia Commons

Circular economy

Other farmers point to the scheme as a major benefit in helping improve their output.

“The installment scheme is good. Most farmers don’t have the money and cannot easily get a loan to buy a pump like this,” said Maurice Kitheka Munyoki, 41, as he stood next to his blue biodiesel pump. “Having a scheme like this helps us a lot. Our yields are good, which means we can pay off the cost of the pump slowly in small amounts, and have money left over to pay the school fees.”

Zaynagro’s initiative is still in its early stages, with few farmers having repaid the full cost of the pumps. But such biofuel schemes are promising because they create a circular economy by turning waste to biofuel for profit, said Sanjoy Sanyal, senior associate for Clean Energy Finance at the World Resources Institute.

ALSO READ: Coffee Farmers in Kenya Turn to Other Crops Because of Drought, Low Prices on Global Market

The simplicity of the model — easy-to-use, robust technology, assured supply of biodiesel combined with a pay-as-you-go scheme — could help electrify rural Africa, he said. “There is a mosaic of sustainable energy options in the world. The key issue is testing ideas and approaches in a collaborative fashion,” Sanyal said.

“Other cotton ginning factories in the region should try and learn from this experiment. Financial institutions should start experimenting with loans to groups of farmers. International donors and investors need to support experimentation.” (VOA)