Meet Aparna Rajagopal, a lawyer-turned-organic farmer who has created a business from the dung of native Indian cow breeds
Aparna Rajagopal is a lawyer-turned-organic farmer and animal rescuer. She runs Beejom, an animal sanctuary and an organic farm spread over 10 acres in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Budh Nagar district — a half-an-hour drive from New Delhi.
One of the unique features of Beejom is its gaushala or cattle shelter. When Rajagopal started the shelter, she decided to keep only cows indigenous to India.
The shelter currently has over 120 cows from 12 different native Indian breeds. Many of them were rescued. She follows a unique business model. She does not sell the milk of these cows but keeps it for the calves. Instead, she has created a business from their dung. She calls her enterprise ‘Dung Ho’.
Can selling just dung be profitable? Especially when the demand for A2 beta-casein laden milk from indigenous cows is growing every day?
But Rajagopal believes that her model is equally effective. The 120 cows on her farm excrete about 1,300 kilograms of dung every day. The dung is not sold raw, but is converted into useful products before being sold to customers.
One of the most interesting products made by Dung Ho are cow dung logs. These dung logs can be used to replace traditional wood or coal for burning. Burning of cow dung logs emit much less pollutants than burning wood.
Apart from dung logs, Beejom also makes and sells flower pots, oil lamps, statues of Indian gods and goddesses, puja kits, dung manure and bio pesticides. All these products are made of cow dung.
Dung of the indigenous cows is more suited for making these products as they contain more fibre than the exotic or cross bred counterparts.
Rajagopal says: “The idea behind creating these value-added products from dung is to generate resources so that these non-milch indigenous cattle can be preserved in a sustainable way”.
Can this model benefit small farmers? Can it generate extra income for them? Rajagopal believes that dung can add an extra layer of income for small farmers apart from fertilising their fields.
First published by Down to Earth on 8 Sep. 2020