The project, financed by Coop and implemented in partnership with WWF Switzerland, Helvetas and Intercooperation Social Development India (ICSD), involves the construction of 3,000 biogas plants in households in rural areas in the state of Uttarakhand in India. By substituting wood as a fuel with biogas, greenhouse gases are being reduced. These biogas plants complement the commitment for regional rice farmers on behalf of Coop, Reismühle Brunnen and Helvetas: a fair, value-added supply chain has been developed for the local rice production, aiming at improved incomes for farmers and adjustments for eco-friendly farming methods.
The use of biogas plants is adding further local benefits and helping to reduce the consumption of wood as a fuel. But it is not only carbon emissions that are being reduced; it is also expected that there will be a substantial decrease in deforestation in and around the area and therefore protection of the habitat of endangered tigers, an increase in carbon sequestration in these forests, better health among women and children due to less smoke in kitchens, less time spending on collecting wood, especially women, reduced methane emissions in paddy fields thanks to the application of biogas slurry instead of undecomposed farm yard manure, improved farming productivity due to slurry application (less temporary nitrogen blockage in the soil, more easily available nutrients for top dressing), an opportunity for skilled workers to provide their services for the construction, maintenance, marketing and financing of biogas plants, and increased climate resilience among the population as earnings increase due to savings and income generation grows thanks to skill development.
The use of biogas slurry for the organic production of rice in the area is an important sustainable benefit of the project. This procedure emits less methane into the atmosphere compared to the direct use of manure. Intercooperation Social Development India (ICSD) is promoting organic basmati rice production in this area, enabling poor and marginal farmers to earn more from its premium pricing than with rice produced conventionally using chemical fertilisers. This shows that by financing the project, Coop and Reismühle Brunnen will contribute strongly to the sustainable development of the rural population participating in the project. Thanks to all these sustainable benefits, the project is to be implemented as a small-scale project under the Gold Standard.
The capacity of the units to be installed varies and will be decided based on the number of people and the number of cattle they own. The cost for a biogas unit will be pre-financed by Coop to cover one third. It is likely that subsidies will be received from the Indian government or corporate sources to cover another third. Families are expected to contribute one third of the total biogas digester costs. To secure ownership, households will either provide locally available materials and labour or contribute their share in monetary terms. Carbon finance will be used towards subsidisation of the units, training, operations and maintenance, reaching people in remote areas and other activities pertaining to the project.