An innovative Model harmonizing Ecology, Emotions and Economy of the villages by Govardhan Ecovillage (GEV)
A model Ecovillage showcasing fulfilment of the village community needs of food, water, waste and energy while meeting the maximum SDGs
Problem Statement: The UNDP states that more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas and by 2050 that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people (2/3 of all humanity). Extreme poverty is often concentrated in urban spaces and government struggle to accommodate the rising population  compromising SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and communities). A major cause for this is the rural urban migration of people. 
However, if people stay in villages then they are subjected to abject poverty. 83.3 million people live in over 650,000 villages in India. Statistics reveal that 3/4 of India's population earn less than five thousand rupees a month and more than half of them do not own any land and are of casual labor category. Unlike high-income countries, the suicide rates in Indian rural areas is almost double than in urban areas . This compromises SDG 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger) and 3 (Good Health and Well-being).
Usage of chemicals and fertilizers with an aim for profitable agriculture compromises SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). Moreover, lack of facilities in terms of education for children and jobs in the villages leads to compromising SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 8 (Decent Work).
We attempt to resolve this dichotomy amongst various SDGs by checking the migration of the villagers to the cities and facilitating a life which is socially, economically and ecologically in harmony.
Stages 1-3 are already in place:
1. Setting up a model Eco-village meeting the primary needs (food, housing, water, waste and energy).
2. Replicating the model in part to nearby 16 tribal villages (in terms of food, water and social support initiatives).
3. Inspiring Eco-tourism at the Ecovillage and making it as a catalyst for Rural Development in nearby villages through the funds received or through volunteering support of the visitors.
4. Scale-up to villages all across India and globally.
1. Popular choice winner proposal, Generation of Biogas energy from animal waste for use in rural areas-we modified our biogas plant in order for it to operate on both animal and food wastes. In order to process the food waste, we made necessary modifications to the existing biogas plant so that it could generate about 60-70 cu.m of biogas with the existing set up.
2. Climate-Smart Agriculture-sustainable agricultural practices were disseminated to the indigenous people. GEV innovation to this is our Raised Bed technique that has received recognition from independent bodies. Recognising this effort, Krishi sutra survey conducted by the Small Farmers AgriBusiness Consortium listed GEV as one of the top 100 agriculture innovators in India, for extensively using this technique.
3. Green Buildings: Way forward in reducing emissions from buildings- GEV incorporated this proposal in meeting the definition of apt green buildings. GEV used Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB) which consume less amount of energy as opposed to the modern day bricks used in construction.
4. Green Loop: Effective Platform to address Indian cities' municipal waste...-The byproduct of wastewater treatment was utilized as compost as per the proposal. The innovation by GEV was that 100 % of treated water is being reused in horticulture.
5. Best Adaptation to Water Scarcity caused by Climate Change in Himalayan ...-The concept of recharge and discharge was GEV's game changer after incorporating the proposal.
Sustainable Production and Consumption is the most efficient strategy to avoid trade-offs among SDGs and address pollution drivers. Circular economy is one of the concepts to operationalize it in practice. GEVs Symbiotic Recycling Model integrates all pillars of sustainability by including past proposals but also includes its unique inventions to form a rural circular economy.
What actions do you propose?
Developmental systems adopted today have failed to acknowledge the aspect of ecological resilience  or nature's capacity to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks. The modern developmental models are all comprised of disconnect individual systems that follow the resource-to-trash concept. The systems comprising the developmental model in nature are in such a way that the wastes from one particular system can be used as raw materials for another system, that way there is no extra energy expended in processing the wastes. Thus the various systems in nature develop a symbiotic dependence on each other and the wastes produced in various stages are recycled within the model. This is called Symbiotic recycling. This maximizes synergies and minimizes trade-off’s in achieving SDG’s. The proposals identified above integrate well to showcase a rural circular economy such as that of Govardhan Ecovillage.
Through thorough research, Govardhan Eco village implemented this by trying a combination of time tested traditional techniques as well as indigenous innovations to develop the Symbiotic Model of Waste Management which incorporates Organic Farming, Animal Farming, Green Building, Water Conservation, Alternative Energy and Soil Biotechnology
1. Organic Farming
Govardhan Ecovillage has learnt and implemented successful and sustainable models comprising of indigenous and best practices which includes usage of organic fertilizers, organic pesticides and mulching process for removing weeds. All these ingredients are available locally at practically no cost or are produced by composting the wet animal waste and food waste or the dry waste produced in the community.
2. Green Housing
Green buildings are made using an improvised mud brick technology called compressed stabilized mud blocks (CSEB) and the buildings were not only aesthetic and comfortable, but also had minimal impact on the environment. Unlike the commonly used baked bricks these unfired bricks retain mud's natural property of maintaining optimum temperature. Thus buildings made with these bricks remain cool in hot weathers and warm in cool weathers, thus saving a lot of energy in heating and cooling systems. An entire structure made from these bricks has less than 1% the embodied energy as compared to their fired brick counterparts. This contributes towards SDG 11, 13.
GEV undertook a hydro-geological survey of the entire community. Based on that, a 1 crore litre water pond and few points of harvesting ground water discharge were established. The 1 Crore litre pond helps GEV to recharge ground water aquifers and provides water for irrigation for 5-6 months. We created various rain water harvesting structures that would serve all the water requirements of our growing community and implemented the challenging protocol on using different aquifers in the area judiciously. GEV’s domestic demands are met by shallow unconfined basalt aquifer tapped by couple of dug wells while their efficient agricultural demand is met through regulated pumping of bore holes tapping the deeper confined aquifer system.
This contributes towards SDG 6, 13
4. Waste Management
Govardhan Ecovillage applies the symbiotic recycling process for waste management and processes various kinds of waste produced in the community. GEV is conscious that not any kind of waste could be handled by this natural system, for example highly toxic industrial effluents etc. So GEV simultaneously imbibed in the ecovillage, a culture of using compatible materials.
The wet wastes and cowdung produced in the community are processed by the Biogas plantsto give out digested slurry, which act as an organic fertilizer input to the farming system. The biogas thus produced is used in cooking thus generating savings on LPG bills. Thus a symbiosis between farming and cow barn systems was established.
The dry biodegradable wastes like foliage, paper etc. are processed by the various composting pits to produce compost for the farming system creating a symbiosis between community living and farming.
Construction wastes like broken cement poles and bricks are utilized in making permanent raised beds (PRB) for farming. The entire boundary of the PRB is made by construction wastes like cement poles and bricks, creating a symbiosis between farming and construction systems. Other construction wastes like quarry dust (an ingredient in making CSEBs) and construction aggregate are used in making cob house construction and in repairing the roads. The broken red bricks are being used in water proofing the roofs in other constructions.
The human waste/ sewage produced is processed using the Soil Biotechnology plant (SBT).  In this system combined grey water and black water streams are collected and transported via gravity driven underground sewerage network up to the raw water storage tanks. Raw sewage is then pumped and distributed over the SBT bioreactor through a network of pipes. The bioreactor is an impervious containment that incorporates soil, formulated granular filter media, select culture of macro organisms such as earthworms and plants that creates the right ecosystem for the waste processing. The entire process operates in aerobic mode, thus eliminating the possibility of foul odour. SBT removes BOD, COD, ammonia nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, suspended solids, bacteria, color, odor - all this in a single all green system open to atmosphere. The final treated water is recycled by using in the farming and horticulture.
5. Alternative Energy
Govardhan Ecovillage inhouses a 30 cubic meter Bio gas plant which processes the food waste and cow dung to produce biogas which is used for cooking. GEV also has a 100 kW solar power plant which minimizes its dependence on fossil fuel based power sources. It is in the process of installing 150 kW of solar energy more so that the overall energy need of the community can be taken care by solar energy itself. GEV also houses various animal driven prime movers (ADPMs) which utilize animal power and form an excellent alternative for common electro-mechanical devices. All this contributes towards SDG 7, 13.
A RESPONSIBLE MODEL TAKING CARE OF THE LOCAL VILLAGE COMMUNITIES AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.
VADA VILLAGES MAP.
GEV WADI PARTICIPANTS STATUS - GREEN ZONE
GEVs rural development program reaches out to nearby 16 tribal villages and sharing its best practices of organic farming with them which is protecting environment, providing them livelihood and also improving their overall health in various ways. GEV educates and facilitates farmers in doing integrated farming system which comprises of horticulture, agriculture and floriculture practices. The farmers are encouraged to grow one or more species of fruit trees with food grains, vegetables and flowers in the spaces between the fruit trees. And along the boundary of the plots a large number of multi-purpose trees are planted. While the grains, vegetables and flowers fetch short term income, the fruit trees are expected to provide assured income every year once they are grown up. This kind of poly-culture farming system as taught by GEV, facilitates bio-diversity and ensures that even if the short term plants hamper, the farmer will continue to have constant income through the fruit trees. Around 320 families have taken to the integrated farming practices over the last 7 years and this year 150 families have joined more. As of now more than 1 lakh trees and saplings consisting of 54,200 forestry plants, 38,400 Jasmine Plants and 18,340 Mango, Cashew, Chikoo saplings are being planted under this program and the average income of the famers has seen to increase by 30-35% Infact many of the farmers started to earn more income than they were earning by migrating to cities and working as laborers.
Owing to increased income, the farmers are inspired to stay with in the village itself and hence GEV is able to organize other initiatives for ensuring overall health of these tribal villagers. Women are organized through formation of self-help groups and training is given to them in developing skills, health and hygiene, fund management and bank account opening, marketing linkages, providing equipments, linkage with government schemes etc. Families are encouraged to grow vegetables in Kitchen Garden which utilize waste water from showers and kitchen to grow vegetables. This encourages families to regularly eat fresh vegetables.
GEV volunteers also help in rural education in village schools. Various initiatives in this regard are teachers training program for local village women, Science on wheel program for educating school children, Science exhibitions, Health awareness camps, coaching classes for schools children, yoga camps, environment education, career guidance programs etc.
This contributes towards SDG 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 15
The various challenges while implementing the proposals at Ecovillage were as follows:
A collective association of High Net Individuals (HNIs) with flourishing ideas who have an element to give back to the society from corporate organizations came together and developed this proof of concept for the world. Some of these HNIs included Chairman and MD of Apar Industries, Co-Founder of Basil Partners, Chairman of Mafatlal Industries. They contributed financially and also gave their valuable time to make this a sustainable project. They ran this model up to a certain stage and then put a professional team for social harmonization and self-sustainability of the project. It is a very thought through transition from a passionate beginning to a sustainable continuity
2. Hesitation to invest in new technologies:
Initially there was hesitation amongst some of the board members of Govardhan Ecovillage to invest in green technologies. However, on discussion with the experts and studying other places, we came to the conclusion to invest. For instance, initially like most rural locations, GEV had adopted the system of open sewage and later septic tank based systems. However, in both cases the groundwater bore wells were getting contaminated. But when we went ahead with installing SBT plants, not only the problem of sewage solved but also recycled sewage water could be used for irrigating the fields. Similarly the hydro-geological survey proved to be effective in conservation of water for the growing needs of our community
The various challenges faced while doing rural development in the villages were as follows:
1. Interest levels of the farmers:
During the implementation of the Rural Development Programme, some village families were encountering various obstacles and therefore requiring additional support. This included forest fires, water shortage at the peak summer, poor health of farmer, pest and disease attack, destruction by animals and other people. We incorporated this into the project strategy and based on individual family challenges, we provided the necessary intervention such as Water Resource Development (small wells, lift irrigation etc), provision of saplings, vegetable seeds, etc. We also conducted follow-up meetings on the progress of the village participants
2. Community co-operation
A major challenge was winning the trust of the villagers and making them realize GEV's service nature. 6 years were spent in building relationships with the local community by the community of monks residing in Govardhan ecovillage. After that the various rural development activities were started with the co-operation of the local community.
Who will take these actions and which types of actors are involved?
Where will these actions be taken and how could they scale?
833 million people live in over 650,000 villages in India. The idea is to replicate the Symbiotic Recycling Model of GEV and its Rural Development programme in as many villages in India and to other parts of the world at a later stage.
GEV began with the surrounding neighborhood of abandoned villages (villagers had migrated into cities for labor-oriented work in factories). Once again using itself as a proof of concept base it could directly showcase impact on 30 acres of farmland, building a multi-layered farming ecosystem and thus managed to bring back landowners from doing menial labor jobs in factories to developing cash crops and sustainable crops (side by side) in their own farmland.
Spiritual values for more than 80% of the people living on earth have been driving individual behaviors. Citizens see in faith-based organizations as being trustworthy and highly networked organizations with dynamism that enables them to operate and achieve on the ground results where and when needed. These organizations respond to the needs as well as the values of the communities’ they serve. In so doing, they have built credibility through delivering services in the areas of welfare, education, health, and disaster relief among others. In many countries, spiritual beliefs and religious practices are interwoven with cultural values, social principles, political engagement, and economic prosperity. Understanding the dynamics of these beliefs and practices at the local level and, more generally, the role of faith actors within local communities is crucial for intentional and systematic sustainable development.
The novelty about this project is that outreach and execution support is provided by a community of monks (part of a non-sectarian, monotheistic movement). This approach facilitates the integration of religious and cultural values to ensure inclusive green and transformative development through adopting lifestyles that are informed by faith-based values and behaviors to achieve sustainable development goals. This coupling of green technology with cultural and religious values has promoted innovative nature-based solutions, respect for traditional and indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity. Through this process, GEV exercised environmental stewardship and duty of care which can be the corner stone for a common vision that enhances the role of religion and culture in achieving sustainability.
Govardhan Ecovillage RUBAN eco-space (RURAL + URBAN = RUBAN) model can be replicated anywhere provided certain basic elements are present. It’s a global concept but it will be remodified based on GLOZON Strategies i.e. GLOBAL IDEA with ZONAL strategies thus showcasing across nation and world how academicians, corporates and spiritual brains together can developed self-sustaining Govardhan Ecovillage's RUBAN ecospace model i.e. bringing people back from cities into villages and develop a sustainable agricultural base which is in total sync with their zonal ecosystem
In addition, specify the countries where these actions will be taken.
No country selected
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What impact will these actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
Besides this the organic farming practices spanning over an area of 425 acres in nearby 16 tribal villages have planted more than 100,000 fruit, forestry and flower trees with the help of over 400 families, thus leading to a mitigation of atleast 2000 tons of carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere. Also all these farmers are practicing organic farming growing thousands of saplings every year
As mentioned above, in India there are 6,50,000 villages and even if 1% of these villages takes to the model of Govardhan ecovillage then with in the first year itself, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved will be around 4,661,280 tonnes annually (6500 * (431.42 +285.7))
What are the most innovative aspects and main strengths of this approach?
- The Model is completely based on the principles of nature with zero tolerance to chemicals yet with the ability to achieve most SDG’s with minimal trade-off due to its circular economy function (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-ueKO1qrNJ3NTR5dm4yZXdLS3M)
- Outreach and execution support is provided by a community of monks. This coupling of green technology with cultural and religious values has promoted innovative nature-based solutions, respect for traditional and indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity.
- Ecotourism catalyses Rural Development -UNWTO Award (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bP_q_p_YsA)
- Fulfilling the Maharashtra State Adaptation Action Plan on Climate Change  by enhancing resilience of farming systems through improved soil and water conservation, diversified cropping patterns and farming systems, and enhancing resilience of agricultural livelihoods through value addition. Moreover, it contributes towards the National Action Plan by involvement in the Solar project.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
Govardhan Ecovillage involved set up of various green technologies in the campus and their costing was as follows. Also mentioned below is the costing of helping the tribal villagers in organic farming and other social initiatives
The excavation of the rain water harvesting pond of 10 million litres was funded by the Government of Maharashtra and by the donors. Similarly, the solar power plants can be funded through government schemes for renewable energy and through corporate CSR supports.
The Rural Development in nearby tribal villages involves expenditure in terms of supporting farmers in their organic farming and other non-farm enterprises, women empowerment and water resource development initiatives. A brief on the cost estimates is given as follows:
All the above rural development initiatives are funded through the CSR initiatives of the corporates. The Rural Education project is primarily run by the volunteers, where they go and teach in aanganwadis and school in villages. The health care initiatives is run in collaboration of Bhaktivedanta Hospital community health care center while the Mid-day meal in rural schools is run in collaboration with the Annamrita Organization. Hence in these case there is not much expenditure.
In order to make the villages more robust and advanced, further provisions similar to the Govardhan ecovillage in regards to symbiotic recycling systems of waste management, hydro-geological survey for water conservation and solar power for energy can be implemented, depending on the funds and the co-operation from the local community.
About the Authors
Gauranga Das is the Director of Govardhan Ecovillage in Wada (India). With a Graduate degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai, he is leading the Govardhan Ecovillage Facilities, Nursery and the Green Buildings Construction (CSEB). After his graduation, he drew inspiration to find sustainable ways of living from Radhanath Swami (a guide for several social development projects). He led this project to adopt the technology of modern science and combine it with the ancient Vedic wisdom to provide a truly sustainable solution to the current ecological crisis. As a roadmap towards this goal, he envisioned a model community with an aim of creating an alternative way of living for a better tomorrow. With his unwavering dedication and zeal, he established Govardhan Ecovillage and showcased its widescale applicability of “Symbiotic Recycling” in rural and semi-urban areas as a response to the ecological conundrums. He emerged successful in integrating various individual systems comprising of organic farming, cow-barn, biogas plants, composting units and green constructions. These integration facilitates (recycling or reusing of waste) from one system into other, overturned the costs of waste management into significant savings. World CSR Congress also acknowledged his contribution by nominating him as one of World’s 50 most talented Greenleaders. He has constantly been involved in outreach programmes to spread the Green Revolution.
 UNDP Sustainable Development Goal 11
 Smog in South Asia
 Jonathan Kennedy and Lawrence King, “The political economy of farmers’ suicides in India: indebted cash-crop farmers with marginal landholdings explain state-level variation in suicide rates” Globalization and Health 2014 10:16
 Maharashtra State Adaptation Action Plan on Climate Change (MSAAPC),http://envfor.nic.in/ccd-sapcc
 Holling, C.S., "Resilience and stability of ecological systems," Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4: 1–23, 1973
 Pattanaik., B.R., Processing of Wastewater in Soil Filters, Ph.D. Dissertation, Dept of Chemical Engg., IIT Bombay, 2000
 Carbon dioxide mitigation through solar power plants
 How would you feel if we told you that you could offset the carbon emissions of your entire life by planting trees?
What enabling environment would be required in order to implement this proposal?
- Set up a Green Innovations Fund to promote and incentivize the development and extension of technologies and social processes to achieve green outcome
- FPOs (Farmer Producer Organisations/ Companies) or farm co-operatives (FCs) should be formed and directly linked to the processor, exporter or retailer. This will help in a higher proportion of the revenue going to the farmer.
- State energy development authorities under the Ministry of Renewable Energy should ensure that all farms shift to solar irrigation pumps, provided by the government under the National Solar Mission
- The current models of crop insurance are factored basis rainfall, temperature and crop loss. However, a more robust model should take into account losses on account of pest attacks, quality deterioration.
- Recent India Budget revealed that they will sharply increase the price at which government buys food grains for its stocks and will provide agricultural trade, to allow farmers direct access to markets.
- Furthermore an increase in spend of 30 percent on rural infrastructure like roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) connecting agriculture markets, sanitation, food parks, ground water development, electricity for all and rural housing was announced
- Farmers producing organic produce can be given more subsidies on the cost of inputs compared to other farmers. This will inspire other to switch to organic farming.
- Interest rates on loans to farmers need to be continue being the lowest.
- Women SHG’s products can be connected to an e-commerce platform enabling people with in India and abroad to purchase them and the direct benefits of that can go to the SHGs
- Provide backloaded ‘labour subsidy’ to SHGs for adoption of sustainable practices to compensate for lower labour productivity
- Cost of inputs can be minimized by ensuring zero tax on all participants of the value chain of manufacturing the input so as to have a low end-cost of finished product, ensuring early release of subsidies to the companies or the farmers so that any built-in interest cost can be offset, continued priority sector lending rate benefits, ensuring adequate availability during peak season to avoid black marketing, and a rationalised subsidy calculation mechanism which negates net-back dilution on account of freight charges
Substantial investments is needed for rapid scaling of the following initiatives across the villages of India. The funds can come from government of India, Corporates or through agencies like UN etc.
- Wadi Farming practices of the farmers in the villages
- Water resource development initiatives in the villages
- Women empowerment initiatives in the villages
- Skill development initiatives for tribal youths in the villages
- Around 25% of Indian adults cannot read or write, and the gender divide must be addressed with investment, particularly in rural women’s education and training