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Cleanliness Champion Khushi Kumari – Cleaner neighbourhoods with DIY composting in India


Khushi Kumari first learned about composting through a book that belonged to her daughter. “Before, my family had no option but to dispose our household waste near our house in the open and wait for the waste collectors’ vehicle to come. Sometimes the collector wouldn’t show up for days. So the waste piled up and the foul smell grew unbearable.” Khushi started composting with the technical assistance from the EU-supported Aga Khan Foundation.

Khushi, a 29-year-old arts graduate and mother of two who lives in Khagaul, Bihar, India, has always been bothered by the piles of waste near her home and around her neighbourhood, often caused by inefficient and irregular waste collection services. For a long time, Khushi and her neighbours had no choice but to dump their household waste right outside their home. This created a health hazard for the community.

With support from the European Union and the Urban Local Bodies in Bihar, the Aga Khan Foundation is developing a sustainable and environmentally viable model for solid waste management. The programme works in urban and peri-urban areas to improve the capacity of urban government agencies for effective solid waste management. It also increases citizen participation in efficient waste management practices. The programme has focused on mobilising the community to separate waste and compost at the household level.

Thanks to the new composting practices that Khushi and her family started following inside their home, it is now also a different picture outside the home. “Now that we have learnt how to compost, we are proud we are contributing to a cleaner and greener neighbourhood,” said a satisfied Khushi.

Her family has been repeating the composting cycle and producing organic compost for growing more produce for the family. Besides, she says her family is careful about reducing their plastic consumption. When possible, they re-use plastic containers to create planters for the garden.

Composting has made Khushi a Cleanliness Champion in her community. She regularly visits households in her neighbourhood to spread awareness about the health problems caused by open dumping. And she encourages others to compost right from their homes. “A positive impact can be seen across the neighbourhood. Now, families are making compost with their kitchen waste instead of throwing it outside.

Our passages are clean and we can feel safe with our children playing outside.” Since the programme started in 2017, more than 350 households in Khushi’s ward have initiated composting and they have seen a 60% decrease in the amount of waste discarded in open dumping grounds there.

The knowledge-sharing and advocacy efforts of Community Cleanliness Champions like Khushi are playing a vital role in spreading a community-led model for healthier living.