Leveraging Agroecological Approaches for Clean and Green Villages

Leveraging Agroecological Approaches for Clean and Green Villages


Villages, in an agrarian economy like India, are the focus points for transforming the country’s developmental journey. Clean and Green Villages are the key for rural development and transformation to Viksit Bharat by 2047. Promotion of agroecological practices in sectors such as agriculture, energy, forestry can play a pivotal role in developing a roadmap for rural empowerment with assured sustainability objectives – social, economic, environmental, nutritional, health and cultural. Adoption of natural farming, organic farming, biogas and waste management practices can leverage circular economy in rural ecosystem and accelerate achievement of the objectives of clean and green villages and UN-SDGs.

  1. Introduction

Rural India is an asset to speed up socio-economic development and attaining the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). About 65 per cent of the country’s population lives in the rural areas and 47 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood (MoF, 2023). There are about 6, 40,000 villages in India having 83.3 crore people.

Over a decade, the rural population grew from 74.3 crore in 2001 to 83.3 crore in 2011 (Census, 2011). Similarly, the work force participation rate of rural women is also increasing over the years. The work force participation rate of rural female has been increased from 24.8% in 2011-12, to 27.7% during 2020-21 (MoF, 2023).

With the advantages of demographic dividend, these rural areas are an opportune area for transformation and achieving the vision of Viksit Bharat by 2047. As envisioned by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Sh. Narendra Modi, “A transformation of villages would ensure a transformation of India.” This was also iterated in one of his addresses that “Jan dhan, Van dhan and Gobar dhan” can play an instrumental role in bringing economic transformation in villages (PM Speech, 2018). The Government of India has initiated multiple schemes/programmes to ensure equitable and inclusive grassroots development towards empowerment of rural India.

The dynamic agroecological approaches can play a key role in improving villages’ condition, providing sustainability to food systems, natural resources conservation, and mitigation of climate change. Agroecology simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable food system.

In India, agroecological approaches are adopted in various sectors of economy viz. agriculture, forestry, energy etc. and are promoted through practices such as natural farming, organic farming, agroforestry, biofuel production etc. that support in transforming villages, socio-economic development, clean environment and achieving UN-Sustainable Development Goals (MoPR, 2021; UNEP, 2021).

  1. Clean and Green Villages

The Clean and Green Village is the fifth amongst the nine themes adopted by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to transform rural ecosystem with the support of the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). In that, "Green" refers to a world in which natural resources, including oceans, land, and forests, are sustainably managed and conserved to improve livelihoods and ensure food security, and most importantly protect the environment for future generations and “Clean” refers to access to safe & adequate drinking water and sanitation services, low-pollution, low-emission, cleaner air, water, and oceans that enable people to lead healthy, productive lives. The Clean and Green Village theme has 10 components viz. Open Defecation Free Village, Clean and Green School, Clean and Green Anganwadi, Scientific Management of Solid Waste, Wastewater Management, Affordable and Clean Energy, Greening Development, Promotion of Organic Farming & Progressive Reduction of Chemicals, Celebrate Clean and Green Living and Strengthening Local Committee & Enhance Larger Participation (MoPR, 2021).

To integrate the components of the Green and Clean Village theme, many ministries have joined the movement. The Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Panchayati Raj are actively involved in achieving the objectives under clean and green villages (SBM-G, 2022).

A spree of Schemes/Programmes was initiated by the Government of India to achieve the holistic development of villages and rural community and achieving the development goals. Agroecological approaches can play a key role in transforming the rural ecosystem and achieving the targets of green and clean villages.

  1. Agroecological approaches for clean and green villages

Agroecology is an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and environment.

As per the High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition (2019), agroecology and its approaches are defined as “Agroecological approaches favour the use of natural processes, limit the use of purchased inputs, promote closed cycles with minimal negative externalities and stress the importance of local knowledge and participatory processes that develop knowledge and practice through experience, as well as more conventional scientific methods. Agroecological approaches recognize that agrifood systems are coupled social–ecological systems from food production to consumption and involve science, practice, and a social movement, as well as their holistic integration, to address food and nutrition security” (HLPE, 2019).

The 10 agroecological elements are diversity; synergies; efficiency; resilience; recycling; co-creation and sharing of knowledge, human and social values; culture and food traditions; responsible governance; circular and solidarity economy (FAO, 2018).  Agroecological practices involve processes such as: nutrient cycling; biological nitrogen fixation; improvement of soil structure and health; water conservation; biodiversity conservation; carbon sequestration; biological pest control; diversification, mixed cultivation, intercropping; waste management etc. (HLPE, 2019).

The Green and Clean Village initiative focuses on activities like tree plantation, organic farming, conservation of village ecosystems and biodiversity, promotion of new and renewable energy sources and including eco-friendly innovations while the Green Village, address ecological, economic and equity issues by bringing about changes through community level social regulations, cooperation, and their proactive participation for a green, clean, non-toxic, low carbon, self-reliant, eco-resilient rural India (MoPR, 2023).

The agroecological practices, such as natural farming, organic farming, biofuel production, agroforestry, waste recycling etc can support in achieving the objectives of green and clean village and SDG targets (SBM-G, 2022).

  1.  Organic and natural farming for green villages

Organic and natural farming practices are based on agroecological principles and exclude the use of synthetic/chemical inputs. These practices resonate with India’s ancient agricultural heritage with the integration of livestock. Organic and natural farming provides chemical and pesticide free food grains and crops, improves soil health and reduces environment pollution. It can contribute to clean and green village through helping in conservation of natural resources, improving livelihood and providing safe and nutritious food. Apart from this, it can increase women participation in agriculture, generate rural employment opportunities owing to labour intensiveness and development of rural industries based on value chain development and marketing.

Organic and natural farming are promoted by the Government of India through various schemes and programmes. Organic farming is promoted through two dedicated schemes since 2015-16 viz., Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) through cluster and Farmer Producer Organisations formation. Through the PKVY, 11.85 lakh ha of land have been converted to organic farming since 2015–16 by developing 32384 clusters involving 16.19 lakh farmers (MoA&FW, 2023). The Government also plans to convert another 6.00 lakh ha of land to organic farming through PKVY between 2022–23 and 2025–26 (MoA&FW, 2023). Likewise, under MOVCDNER, 1.73 lakh ha area has been brought under organic farming benefiting 1.89 lakh farmers. 379 FPOs/FPCs were formed involving the creation of 205 Collection, Aggregation and Grading units, 190 Custom Hiring Centres and 123 Processing units and Pack houses (MoA&FW, 2023).

Natural farming is promoted under Bhartiya Prakratik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP), a sub scheme under PKVY since 2019-20. Under BPKP, 4.09 lakh ha area has been brought under natural farming.

To promote alternate use of chemical fertilizers, the PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness Generation, Nourishment, and Amelioration of Mother-Earth (PM-PRANAM)” is launched during June 2023 by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. This programme is initiated as a mass movement to save the health of Mother Earth by promoting sustainable and balanced use of fertilizers, adopting alternate fertilizers, promoting organic farming and implementing resource conservation technologies. Under this scheme, 50% of the fertilizer subsidy saved by a State/UT in a particular financial year by way of reduction in consumption of chemical fertilizers (Urea, DAP, NPK, MOP) compared to previous 3 years’ average consumption, will be passed on to that State/UT as Grant.

Also, initiatives like construction of Soak pits, Vermicompost/NADEP pit and Waste to Wealth initiatives such as reuse of waste materials, vermicomposting, recycling of non-biodegradable waste are promoted through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) by Ministry of Rural Development towards village cleanliness (MoRD, 2021).

The green coverage in the villages can also be increased by adoption of agroforestry - a cost-effective land management system that integrates crops, trees and/ livestock and provides economic and environmental benefits to small and marginal farmers.

  1. Waste to Wealth: Towards clean villages

Biogas and organic manure are promising green technologies that converts agricultural, industrial, animal, and municipal wastes into useful forms viz. energy, agri-input etc. The biogas sector can fulfil the energy needs of the country and help to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, and improve waste management.

The Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources dhan (GOBARdhan) programme launched in 2018, is an integral component of Solid Waste Management under Phase-II of Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) for ensuring clean and green villages by converting organic/biodegradable waste including cattle dung, kitchen leftovers, crop residue and market waste etc. into biogas and bio-slurry to improve the lives of villagers. It is a ‘waste to wealth’ initiative wherein waste generated in villages is used to generate bio-gas/CBG as well as bio-slurry/bio-fertilizer and is in tune with the circular economy and Mission LiFE initiatives of GoI. Under SBM-G, financial assistance of up to Rs.50 lakhs per district is available for the entire programme period from 2020-21 to 2024-25 for setting up of community level biogas plant(s) (MoJS, 2023). 683 functional Bio-Gas/CBG Plants have been set up across 206 districts. This has numerous advantages including, eco-friendly energy source, nutrient rich slurry to enhance soil quality and reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers, clean surroundings and reduced incidence of vector borne diseases, saving in economic costs arising out of poor sanitation and health conditions, reduced Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emission, reduction in import of crude oil (Forex saving), employment opportunity for the local community, augment incomes of farmers/ local village community, foster entrepreneurship and private investment in green energy sector.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is also supporting the installation of biogas plants and its use as source of alternative fuels for cooking purposes in the country, including rural areas, under the National Biogas Programme. The programme was notified in November, 2022 with budgetary outlay of Rs. 1715 Crore for a period 01.04.2021 to 31.03.2026 to be implemented in two phases. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has launched the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) initiative in October, 2018 which assures offtake of BioCNG/Compressed Biogas (CBG) after purification through Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) for sale as automotive fuels (MNRE, 2023). As per union budget announcement 2023-24, 200 compressed biogas (CBG) plants, including 75 plants in urban areas, and 300 community or cluster-based plants will be established to promote circular economy. The Organic fertilizer i.e. Fermented Organic Manure (FOM)/ Liquid Fermented Organic Manure (LFOM) produced from processing of slurry left after biogas extraction will be provided with Market development assistance as per Fertilizer Control Order (1985).

  1. Rural Industries

The agroecological practices can augment rural industries especially through production of biogas, manure, processing, marketing and waste management practices that couples with clean and green programmes. It can also support the animal husbandry and dairying activities through to the integration of livestock.

Biogas, smoke free fuel, is emerging as a promising renewable energy industry in India that is labour-intensive and can provide employment opportunities to both skilled and unskilled categories. It fulfills the rural energy demand and provides a residue organic waste that has nutrient qualities over the usual organic fertilizer, cattle dung. The use of biogas systems in an agrarian community can increase agricultural productivity. The Community Biogas & Fertilizer plant by SUMUL dairy, Navapur, Bhagirath Gramvikas Pratisthan in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra, CBG Plant, Ms Goverdhannathji Energies LLP, Kheda, Gujarat, Mahindra Waste to Energy Solutions Ltd, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh are few success stories of establishment of biogas plants that improved villages environment and rural economy (Vaibhav Nasery, 2011; MoPnG, 2022; MoJS, 2023b). Over 1200 Biogas Plants spread across 450 districts of the country.

A study by Indian Biogas Association mentioned job creation by these biogas industry is approximately 55,000 skilled plant designers and site engineers, 200,000 semi- and low-skilled workers for construction activities, 10,000 highly skilled engineers to oversee administration, data monitoring, and other critical operations, and 150,000 unskilled workers to carry out routine plant operation and maintenance (IBA, 2023).

The organic and natural farming are improving rural livelihood and creation of value chain, export for natural/organic commodities. Also, Govt. is planning to establish Bio-input resource centres to scale up BPKP as National Mission on Natural Farming that will facilitate 1 crore farmers to adopt natural farming.


Clean and Green Village objectives can be expedited by scaling up agroecology-based programmes/ schemes and its implementation till the grass root level with support from panchayat, cooperatives, Self Help Groups (SHG) and women-SHGs.


UNEP, 2021. Rethinking Food Systems. United Nation Environment Programme. Story. 4 June 2021.

FAO, 2018. The 10 Elements of Agroecology: guiding the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). http://www.fao.org/3/i9037en/i9037en.pdf.

MoA& FW, 2023. Sustainable Practices. Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, PIB release, 28th March 2023.

MoA& FW, 2023. Organic Farming. Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, PIB release, 14th March 2023.

MoA& FW, 2023. Review progress of Phase-III of Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region. Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, PIB release, 14th July 2023. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1939604

SBM-G, 2022. Swachh Bharat Mission- Grameen. Ministries/Departments to promote ‘Green & Clean village. Ministry of Jal Shakti Blog. https://sbmgramin.wordpress.com/2022/04/04/9-ministries-departments-to-promote-green-clean-village/

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MoF, 2023. Agriculture Sector Remains Buoyant with 4.6 Percent Annual Growth During Last Six Years. Ministry of Finance, PIB Release, 31st January 2023. 

MNRE, 2023. Implementation of Projects under Waste to Energy Programme. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, PIB Release, 11th August 2023.

MoJS, 2023. 643 Gobardhan Plants Setup Under Swachh Bharat Mission – Grameen. Ministry of Jal Shakti, PIB Release, 20th July 2023.

MoJS, 2023a. Achieves Another Major Sanitation Milestone - 50% Villages Are Now ODF Plus Under Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase II. Ministry of Jal Shakti, PIB release, 10th May 2023. 

MoJS, 2023b. GOBARdhan Initiative Begins Reaping Good Results & Stimulating Investments In Biogas Sector in India. Ministry of Jal Shakti, PIB Release, 29th July 2023.

MoRD, 2021. Clean Green Village Week under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA conducted across the nation as part of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Ministry of Rural Development, PIB Release, 9th November 2021.

HLPE, 2019. Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition. A report by the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome.

IBA, 2022. Rural Employment Generation through Biogas Production in Villages of India. Indian Biogas Association (IBA) News.

VK Vijay, R. Prasad, J.P. Singh and V.P.S. Sorayan, 1996. A case for biogas energy application for rural industries in India. Renewable Energy, Vol.9, Issue 1-4, 993-996.

Vaibhav Nasery, 2011. Biogas for rural communities. Study report. Center for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

Authors: Dr Neelam Patel is Senior Advisor, Dr Tanu Sethi is Senior Associate and Dr Athira S. is Research Officer in the Agriculture & Allied Sectors Vertical, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.

Dr Neelam Patel, Dr Tanu Sethi, Dr Athira S.