Shit can be lucrative
Bengaluru farmers have revived the practice of using human excreta as manure. This has created an informal economy that is benefiting many
Farmers in Bengaluru are using human excreta as human manure and making handsome profits from this informal business
FARMER RAJ Anna has been making unprecedented profits from his farmland since the past few years.The 42-year-old earns more than ` 15 lakh a year.Ask him how he manages such a handsome income and he replies—through human excreta. Anna is one of the 1,000-odd farmers in Bengaluru who have revived the lost practice of using human excreta as manure.
“Our ancestors used human excreta in farmlands. In fact, as a child, I saw my father design a latrine using a net of wood.In summers, he would cover the latrine with husk. Later, he would use the waste in the farm,” says Anna, adding that it was a natural process in the earlier days as people would defecate in farms. “With the popularity of modern-day latrines this practice has reduced in the past few decades,” he points out.
Anna, who was the first farmer in Bengaluru’s Veer Sagara suburb to start using human waste as manure, explains that the idea came to him one day when he saw a honey-sucker truck—a specialised vehicle used for extracting and transporting waste— dumping human excreta in a fallow piece of land. “Initially, I would wait for the trucks to dump the waste in fallow land and then transport it to my farmland. Later, I dug a big pit and asked the drivers to directly dump the waste on my land,” he says.
According to him, it is a win-win situation for all, with him getting free manure and the trucks getting a free space to dump the waste. “In a few months, I started getting so much waste that I began selling it to other farmers,” adds Anna.
Today, this has started an informal trade in Bengaluru which is benefiting the farmers, owner of honey-suckers and citizens who are not connected to the sewerage system. The informal sector today employs close to 200,000 people and is worth ` 75 crore.
A win-win situation
Bengaluru has a population of 8.5 million, as per the 2011 Census. Ideally, the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (bwssb) should take care of sewage treatment and disposal.But the reality is that just 40 per cent of the city is connected to the sewage network, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General report 2011. The rest of the city, or 5.1 million people, have on-site sanitation with off-site disposal, or are forced to defecate in the open, says a paper prepared by the International Water and Sanitation Centre in 2012.
Bengaluru-based engineer S Vishwanath, who coauthored the paper, says the huge population in the country not connected with the sewage system has to find its own way to handle the waste. This is the basis of the new informal economy that is emerging in the city.
The areas that do not have a sewerage connection have septic tanks and rely on private honey-sucker operators to empty the tanks.The truck operators, who earlier struggled to find wasteland to dump the excreta, now have free space in farmlands.
Nageshwar Rao, who owns eight honey----
Farmers in Bengaluru are using human excreta as manure to grow high-quality grass