For the past two years, the villagers of Farsh Majra, near Kaithal city, Haryana, claim that no toxic fumes from stubble burning have been emitted from their farms and the neighbouring eight villages.
The phenomena of torching agricultural waste from the farms at the onset of winter in the Northern part of India is an environmentally hazardous event, which is reported every year. Crop burning contributed 44% to Delhi’s PM2.5 level on October 31, as per a report. This was about 20 times higher than the safe threshold limit defined by the World Health Organisation.
Post the harvest season, the farmers go on a stubble burning spree, which causes thick clouds of pollution. This affects the air quality and the smog spreads all across Delhi and the Northern states, affecting the visibility of citizens and heavily damaging their health.
To some farmers, burning stubble seems to be the quickest and easiest way to clear the farmland and prepare it for the next season. However, 32-year-old Virender Yadav, a farmer from Farsh Majra, has not only found a way to manage the stubble in an eco-friendly way but also earned Rs 45 lakh from it.
To earn from agri-waste
Virender went to Australia in 2008 to study hospitality. After completing his education, he worked as a customer service manager at a fruit shop. But considering the old age and poor health of his mother, he returned to India for good in 2015.
“I was shocked to see the amount of pollution that caused heavy smog due to stubble burning. The toxic fumes were one of the main reasons my mother suffered lung ailments. My children and wife also started complaining of chest pain and breathing problems. My daughters also developed an allergy,” Virender says.
But he soon realised that just stopping the burning of stubble in his four-acre farm alone would not help. This needs a permanent solution. So he started researching for long-term solutions for the menace.
In late 2018, the farmer knocked on the doors of the agriculture department, seeking a solution to his problem. “I was suggested various stubble management equipment by the officials, who also explained about the subsidies and documents required,” Virender says.
The farmer then bought a couple of saw balers in 2019 to manage the stubble and another two in 2020. After the stubble is removed from the ground it is neatly lined up across the fields. The baler then collects the stubble to process it to compress it into blocks, which is tied by a rope. These stacks of stubble are then sold to the factories.
A network of 200 farmers
But Virender did not limit the benefit to his farm and extended his research and techniques of managing stubble to other farmers. “I roped in farmers from Sirta, Siwan, Khanpur, Patti Afgan, Kheri Gulam Ali, Polad, Mandi and Kawarthan to extend the management of stubble,” he tells The Better India.
“In 2019, stubble collection from all the villages amounted to 60,000 quintals, while 48,000 quintals this year covering a total 5,500 acres of land. The stubble was sold to a nearby paper mill and agro-industry in the area at the rate of Rs 135 per quintal,” he adds.
In the past two years, Virender earned Rs 1.5 crores by selling the farm waste. “After cutting down the expenses on labour, diesel and transportation, I managed to retain a profit of Rs 45 lakh,” Virender says.
Karam Chand, the Deputy Director of the Agriculture Department, who guided Virender, says he was highly impressed by the earnings made by the farmer.
“About 100 applications are received by farmers each year to seek technological solutions on stubble management. We form groups of farmers and once eligible, the farm equipment is given with subsidies as much as 80%,” Karam says.
Role model for all
Watch how Virender Yadav manages stubble with a swag in the video below.
Karam adds, “The unique aspect of Virender is that he formed a network of farmers, labourers and equipment holders. The people collectively supported each other in sharing the farm equipment, balers and stubble and managing machines to clear the agricultural waste.”
The agriculture department officer says along with Virender, the move benefitted 200 farmers in the area. “Virender has set an example for other farmers in the area. He was also felicitated for his efficient work on stubble management and is invited as a speaker to motivate other farmers during government outreach programmes,” he adds.
Virender says that many farmers are becoming aware of the environmental impact of stubble burning. “The farmers are aware of the pollution and the harm that burning causes. It is important to realise that there are multiple positive solutions to stubble management instead of just burning and polluting the environment,” he concludes.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)