RAIPUR: The Gaothans of Chhattisgarh's capital city are a shining example of sustainable rural development. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who recently visited one such gaothan (land in a village where cattle is housed), was very impressed with the ways in which rural women were using cow dung as a source of revenue.
Old, abandoned cattle sheltered in gaothans are helping generate income for the villagers, as additional chief secretary (Panchayat) R P Mandal said. He described gaothans as "the upcoming epicentre of rural economy".
“Cow dung is increasingly emerging as a good source of livelihood for women in villages under the novel vision of ‘Garuva-Narva-Ghuruva-Badi’, that is aimed to revitalise the structure of rural economy”, according to principal secretary Maninder Kaur Dwivedi, state in-charge of Gaothan programme.
The women fashion various innovative, useful and eco-friendly products from cattle dung. From idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi, name plates, candle and mobile phone stands, key chains, nursery pots, manure pellets - you name it, they make it!
One of the most popular creations include designer ‘diyas’ (earthen lamps) ranging from as low as Rs 2 to Rs 10 per piece. Gobar diyas can be used for the festive season, for up to two weeks, leaving no toxic residue, after which, they can be dumped in the soil as organic manure.
In one of the Gaothans at Van-Charauda close to Raipur, rural women associated with self-help groups, are seen busy making diyas from cow dung to meet the bulk order of over 2 lakh diyas from Delhi, Nagpur and big corporates ahead of Diwali season.
While one group prepares a thick malleable paste of cow dung adding a mixture of powdered herbs and tamarind, another mould the dung into different shapes to make beautiful diyas. They are then put to dry under the sun. Another group finally adds colour to them.
“We are excited about the huge orders. Around four to five thousand diyas are prepared each day here. It’s a good source of income for women who after formal training are creating useful things out of dung that is freely available at the gaothans”, said Krishna Kumar Sahu, the sarpanch of Van-Charauda village.
”Our attempt is to convert all gaothans into sustainable and thriving rural economic zones”, said Raipur collector S Bharthidasan.
“Presently only 5 per cent of the available dung is being used to make innovative products. Remaining are put back into the soil as organic manure. We will also make efforts to link the products with e-commerce market and online shopping for better sales”, Raipur district panchayat chief executive officer Gaurav Kumar Singh told Express.
Meanwhile, more gaothans are being set up with more provisions to aid the women in their business which includes 2-3 acres of land, sheds, a drinking water trough and a boundary wall/ fence for cattle and a platform under the shade for the women to work on more value-added products from cow dung.