Meet Narsamma, the farmer fighting climate change by turning dung into power in India

Narsamma, has spent her whole life farming a plot of land in the Chickballapur District of rural India. She’s now fighting climate change from the frontline. 

Running a farming household in Chickballapur can be backbreaking work. From 8 am to noon, Narsamma would venture into the forest to collect firewood, chop it up, and carry it back home in a bundle on her head. She’d then spend hours cooking over an open flame with black soot trailing up the walls.

In India alone, 1 million people die every year from inhaling dangerous fumes from cooking.

To fetch firewood, I’d leave at 8 am and be back around noon. Sometimes later. It took me about 16 hours a week to fetch firewood. To put the wood in the stove, it would have to be cut into little pieces... I had to carry the whole bundle on my head.

Narsamma, Farmer

Narsamma’s daily routine has recently become a lot easier. 

Thanks to the inspiring work of the Bagepalli Coolie Sangha (a local Fairtrade organisation that has advocated for the interests of local farmers for over 25 years) and ADATS (an Indian NGO), Narsamma has ditched the firewood for a natural renewable energy source - cow dung.

How?

With funding facilitated by the FairClimateFund, Narsamma has been provided with a biogas system. It is essentially an underground compost heap, known as a biodigester. Narsamma shovels her farm’s organic waste (mostly cow dung) into the underground pit. Over time, the pit slowly breaks the waste down in a circular system. 

The pit releases methane gas. This gas is collected and piped from the pit to a newly installed gas-powered stovetop meaning Narsamma no longer has to cook over an open fire. Plus, as a cooking fuel, it is super-efficient. Narsamma can produce enough gas to cook all the family meals from the dung of just two cows. 

Aside from releasing gas, the pit breaks the remaining waste down into a slurry - a kind of runny mess. The slurry is an incredible (free and natural) fertiliser that increases the yield from Narsamma’s farm.

Rich people also use gas for cooking. Since I use biogas, I feel equal to the rich.

Narsamma, Farmer

The project is Gold Standard and Fairtrade Climate Standard certified and all costs of the biodigesters are met by the sale of carbon credits. It has been wildly successful to date:  

  • installing 12,000 biogas stoves in agricultural households in Chickballapur,
  • saving 203,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, and
  • saving 436,000 trees from being chopped down. 


For women like Narsamma, a new biogas system means:

  • living a healthier life,
  • in a cleaner environment, 
  • and a renewed sense of status,
  • with a more productive farm, and 
  • more time and money to spend on family, schooling and work. 


For the Chickballapur region, the project means:

  • jobs are created to build and maintain the biodigesters,
  • farmers are trained in climate resilience and adaptation run by the Bagepalli Coolie Sangha using the Fairtrade premium paid for the carbon credits, and
  • any excess income from the project is paid in cash directly to farmers by the Bagepalli Coolie Sangha.


For all of us, Narsamma’s new biodigester means fewer global emissions for a more stable climate. 

With so many intersecting benefits, we’re really excited to welcome the project to our portfolio. 

Thanks to everyone in the collective funding this project with us to date - you’ve helped change the lives of women like Narsamma and families all across Chickballapur. 

If you haven’t yet joined and are keen to get involved, you can sign up to put your dollars to work here.

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Low-carbon. High-impact.