From Waste to Wealth: A unique initiative to scale innovative biogas solution model for economic and environmental gains

WHEELS Global Foundation has selected its partner Gram Samriddhi Foundation’s (GSF) innovative model for setting up biogas plants in India.

A biogas plant set up by WHEELS partner Gram Samriddhi Foundation, West Bengal. / Courtesy Photo

There are about 160 million farmers in India, out of which 80 percent are small and marginalized farmers holding land less than 2 hectares. Most of them are stuck in a vicious poverty cycle, in need of interventions to improve their living conditions and alleviate poverty. With a mission to promote sustainable prosperity of farmers and betterment of the environment, WHEELS Global Foundation has selected its partner Gram Samriddhi Foundation’s (GSF) innovative model for setting up biogas plants in India that offer numerous benefits spanning environmental, economic, and social dimensions. 

Biogas, produced through the anaerobic digestion of organic waste i.e. cow dung, is a renewable energy source that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions by capturing methane and converting it into usable energy. It also aids in waste management and produces a nutrient-rich fertilizer as a by-product. Further, rural-households can’t afford the LPG cylinders to fulfil their fuel requirements. Many of them have to go to the nearby forests and fell trees for fuel. A considerable time and effort is wasted in this. On the other hand, cow-dung is freely available in most of these households which is underutilized. This underutilized resource can be converted in a clean and green fuel with the help of biogas plants.

Biogas can be more cost-effective than LPG, especially in rural areas with access to organic waste materials and where long-term use is considered. A typical biogas plant produces 14-15 kgs of gas, which is equivalent to one LPG cylinder costing Rs 800 to Rs 900. Additionally, the compost prepared from the waste can fertilize 2 acres of land, saving another Rs 10,000. This results in a total annual saving of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 for the farmer, which is significant for a farmer whose annual income is less than Rs 2 lakhs. 

However, biogas plants require a high initial investment of Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 and regular maintenance, making them difficult to afford for already indebted Indian farmers. Under the National Biogas and Fertilizer Management Program, the Government of India provides a subsidy of Rs 14,000 to the general category and Rs 22,000 to the SC/ST category, which is 40 to 50 percent of the total cost of setting up a plant. However, arranging the remaining cost is still a challenge for the farmer. 

WHEELS partner Gram Samriddhi Foundation (GSF) is an Integrated Rural Development Initiative that works towards building a sustainable rural livelihood, through a multi-dimensional approach that combines infrastructure development, capacity building and entrepreneurship support. With the support of the generous donors, till date GSF has installed 165 biogas plants in several villages of West Bengal, India.

WHEELS has been exploring impactful initiatives to create opportunities in livelihoods and sustainability and to enhance the economic status of the rural farmers. In collaboration with GSF, WHEELS is introducing this highly replicable, simple and economically powerful model to its vast network of social impact partners so as to scale it all over India. 

To lower financial barriers, WHEELS is bringing in its microcredit partners (such as Rang De’s innovative peer-to-peer microfinance model) to facilitate loans for setting up biogas plants. These micro-loans, coupled with government subsidies, make it more feasible for farmers to adopt biogas solutions, ultimately leading to cost savings on fuel, enhanced agricultural productivity through the use of bio-fertilizers, and improved overall health and environmental conditions.

WHEELS is the go-to giving-back platform for rank-and-file Pan-IIT alumni created with the vision of transforming 20 percent of Rurban India by 2030 through technology-enabled solutions. By harnessing the collective efforts of collaborative partners, local rural communities, and technology and business capital of powerful IIT ecosystem, WHEELS aspires to redefine the future of rural India and unlock the true potential of its villages. Come join the journey to take this innovative biogas model to all corners of India at a fraction of cost.


(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of New India Abroad)









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