Chhattisgarh’s Godhan Nyay banks on dung to push cow economy

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It has been reported that At a time when the stray cattle menace is draining on state government budgets across several states in the heartland, Chhattisgarh has adopted a programme to extend the economic value of the cow even after its milk producing years, by placing a value on cow dung. Kumar Anshuman examines how the scheme, Godhan Nyay, works on the ground and the challenges before the government:

In July 2020, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel launched Godhan Nyay, a scheme under which the government purchases cow dung at ₹2 per kg from cattle owners and villagers through gothan created in each village panchayats. The gothan facilities, built using MNREGA funds and money from other government departments, are also being used for sheltering cows as well as for other agriculture-related activities carried out by self-help groups (SHGs) of women. These have been built on government land, in many cases by freeing land encroached on by locals, the report said.

“We have till now freed around 100,000 acres of land in villages. That itself is a big achievement,” state joint director for agriculture Ram Lakhan Khare told ET.

Selling Cow Dung

A typical gothan is spread over a minimum of five acres, and will have a cattle protection trench, shed for keeping animals, water facility, an area for preparing vermicompost and a portion for farming activities. The state government has approved 10,569 gothan till November and 7,777 of these are active and working.

There are some happy stories of people selling cow dung.

Gaytri Sinha of Nawa Gaon village doesn’t have any cows. She collects cow dung from the streets and sells around 30-40 kg every day. She earns around ₹2,500 per month. She collects the cow dung while doing other work and this becomes an additional avenue of income. Sewak Ram Sahu of the same village sells around 75 kg cow dung everyday valuing ₹150. He has so far sold cow dung worth ₹20,000 which is an additional income for his family, he said.

Tulsi Nishad of Goinda village sells 100 kg cow dung every day to earn around ₹6,000 a month.

Cattle

CM Baghel holds a review meeting twice a month where he himself clears the release of the funds and the farmers get the money directly in their bank accounts. Through the gothan, the government has bought more than 5.7 million quintals of cow dung and paid ₹114 crore to the farmers in the last 15 months. Apart from paying for cow dung, the government says gothan have successfully tackled the stray cattle problem in the state.

Every gothan has two cattle grazers who bring all the cattle from the village to the facility in the afternoon. During the day, the cattle are given fodder and water. The cow dung collected during this period is sold by the cattle grazers as their source of income. In the night, while the cattle belonging to the villagers are taken back, the stray cattle stay at the gothan.

“Gothan is a day-care centre for the cattle. But stray cattle are kept here as they have nowhere to go. Now people who find stray cattle, bring them to the nearby gothan,” said S Bharathi Dasan, special secretary, agriculture department.

“There are around 300 stray cattle in our gothan,” said Anju Verma, a member of the gothan samiti in Charauda village near Raipur. “Apart from those, 428 cattle of the villagers also come during the day. We manage fodder for all of them.”

Bhagwat Sahu, pradhan of Nawa Gaon village in Raipur, said the gothan in his village has around 100 stray cattle. “You won’t find any stray cattle roaming around in our village,” he said.

To arrange the fodder for cattle at gothan, the government has given an offer to farmers. “We told them not to burn the stubble in the field (after harvesting) and we will collect it at our own cost. We call it Para Daan,” Dasan said. “That stubble is being used for fodder at gothan.” He said earlier, due to stray cattle damaging their crops, farmers would not plant rabi crops. “Now this year we will get to know after the rabi season how we have tackled the stray cattle issue,” he added.

SHGs Package

The government has trained local woman SHGs and engaged them in preparing vermicompost out of the collected cow dung. The SHGs package it to sell at ₹10 per kg with the help of the government. The state government is advertising this as high organic nutrient fertiliser and encouraging farmers to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers by using this vermicompost.

“We sell it through primary agriculture credit societies in villages. We are not saying it can completely replace chemical fertilisers, but it can keep the fertility of the soil and increase productivity,” said Raipur Zila Panchayat chief executive officer Mayank Chaturvedi said.

“There was a fertiliser crisis during the kharif season, and we increased the usage of vermicompost. But we can’t only use vermicompost and need chemical fertilisers too,” said Ram Naresh Sahu, a farmer in Goinda village in Arang.

Till now, the government has sold vermicompost worth ₹80.39 crore and compost worth ₹40-50 crore is lying with the gothans.

Purchase Cow Dung

According to the government, 2,029 of the gothans are currently self-sustainable and its aim is to make all of them to run on their own funds as the state cannot keep financing them. “Over a period of time, our role will be limited as an intermediary and the gothan samitis will have enough funds with them to purchase cow dung and carry out other activities on their own,” Dasan told ET.

During Diwali, they trained SHGs to prepare diyas. The SHG at Charauda sold diyas worth ₹32,000. But the stock at Nawagaon is still lying. The government has also entered into an agreement with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission to manufacture organic paints out of cow dung. “The scheme is evolving. We will find new ways to take it forward,” Dasan said.

It’s Bhupesh Baghel’s pet project and state officials are working hard to make it a success and a model to be replicated in other parts of the country. (Economic Times)