One doesn’t need to read the news to know that air pollution in Delhi-NCR is off the charts. The sight of people coughing, wearing anti pollution masks and the blanket of smog around the city gives it away. Scientists have even said that the average life expectancy of a Delhi resident has already decreased by as much as 10 years.
Around 44% of this pollution is caused by stubble burning, the fastest and cheapest way of getting rid of stubble. Farmers burn the rice stalk after harvesting the grain, so as to clear the field for the next crop. Many people and organisations, including the government, are coming up with solutions to this problem. One such organisation is Enactus Hansraj, a team of 80+ dedicated students that strive to find entrepreneurial solutions to social problems.
Through its Project Vriddhi, they are encouraging farmers to take up mushroom cultivation (for which stubble is a primary input), with the twin objective of reducing stubble burning and uplifting farmers by providing them with an additional revenue stream. They have already set up an FPO with a 100+ farmers who are associated with them, whose income has increased by a staggering 13%.
Furthermore, they have identified that stubble can be used to make biodegradable products such as cutlery, handicrafts and paper bags. To make the said products, they have hired women living in Shanti Nagar, Murthal, on a commission based model and also provided them with the required training.
These women entrepreneurs, who were once living in grim circumstances, are now able to earn a significant income and become the breadwinners of their families. Hence, they are not only tackling the pollution problem of Delhi NCR but also furthering the cause of women empowerment.
Enactus Hansraj doesn’t plan to stop just yet. While increasing the scale of their existing operations, that is, establishing more FPOs and increasing the number of women associated with us, they are also looking into using stubble to construct washrooms in rural areas and urban slums. They are already in talks with organisations for prospective collaborations and in search for locations to set up these washrooms.
Stories such as theirs give us hope for Delhi’s future, and allow us to take a breath of relief in these suffocating times. They remind us that every individual is capable of making a lasting change, and ultimately, better the world.