Gandhi's Dream of a Self-sufficient Village

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Anil K. Rajvanshi Director Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) P.O. Box 44, Phaltan-415523, Maharashtra, India (e-mail :

Gandhiji wrote and spoke extensively about his dream village but somehow was never able to give a concrete plan or shape to his dreams. However intuitively he rightly realized that it would be a unit where all the things needed by villagers will be manufactured from the locally available resources. sustainable. His village would therefore be self sufficient and

In those times of primitive technology his dream village was supposed to

depend on human labor and hence his insistence on very simple and rudimentary technologies which could be made by villagers themselves. However modern high technology allows for the first time to bring into reality the dream village of Gandhiji. Such a village will be high tech, self reliant, sustainable and will provide its residents a high quality life. Our villages have not changed very much since Gandhiji’s times. Thus about 55-60% of India’s rural population has no electricity, very poor drinking water supply and majority of rural population uses 180 million tons of biomass every year as fuel for cooking through very primitive, inefficient and smoky chulhas. In states like U.P., Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh etc. some of the villages still exist in stone ages. We cannot become the 3rd most prosperous country in the world, as some of our national leaders are taking about, unless and until we bring 60% of our rural population into mainstream of development and provide a quantum jump to their quality of life. One of the best ways to do so is by providing adequate electricity to these areas. This is an electricity age. Adequate and uninterrupted supply of electricity for lighting,

agriculture, communication, entertainment and whole horde of other activities can transform the lives of rural population and bring in tremendous wealth to these areas. Modern high technology together with locally available resources, can provide a mechanism to do so. The most abundant local resource in rural areas is biomass (agricultural residues, weeds and other plant material). India produces in these areas about 600 million tons of agricultural residues/year, which can theoretically produce 70,000 MW of electric power. However all these residues should go back to the soil to nurture it so that farm productivity increases. If it is used for power generation then the soil will suffer. A much better way to both nurture the soil and produce power is to produce biogas from these


residues. A high tech biogas producer can produce biogas with energy of about 13 MJ per kg of biomass, which is similar to that produced by burning these residues via a power plant. Most of the freshly harvested biomass has about 50% moisture content. For using it in power plants or gasifiers one has to reduce the moisture content to about 10-15%. This requires lot of energy for drying the biomass. On the other hand the freshly harvested biomass can be directly fed into biogas reactors to produce biogas thereby saving considerable amount of energy and time. Besides the slurry from the biogas reactor produces excellent fertilizer and soil conditioner. This is the genesis of organic agriculture. Farmers in India have realized that organic foods fetch good price. Hence there is a major movement towards organic farming. Organic farming is environmentally sound and sustainable way of producing food, since it incorporates integrated method of management which maintains the health of soil and its productivity. Farmers in developing countries who switch to organic agriculture also achieve higher earnings and a better standard of living. This can be further enhanced by the availability of excellent fertilizer from biogas reactors. For biogas economy to succeed it is necessary to develop very efficient biogas producers. Biogas has been used extensively...
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