Bangalore, the 'Garden City of India', becomes an urban jungle when the leaves fall each autumn. Residents burn them, releasing toxic fumes into the air.

Five students from the National Public School, Indiranagar, have found a way of turning a problem into a solution. Their winning recipe - using cow dung and earthworms - also provides incomes for poor women throughout the city and neighbouring villages.

They taught the women to make organic fertilizers by mixing the leaves with manure in a tank - and adding earthworms to speed up the composting. Selling the resulting 'worManure' boosts family incomes, gives women a greater voice in their villages, and supplies cost-effective, eco-friendly fertilizer to local farmers to enrich their crops. It is truly a win-win-win solution.


The project - called 'Turning over a New Leaf: from Environment to Empowerment' - won first place at the 2004 Volvo Adventure Environmental Awards, held by Volvo in partnership with UNEP. The team received $10,000 to expand their project and a trip to the 2004 UNEP Children's Conference in the United States.

Akhil Chainwala, one of the team, said he hoped this would be the start of a vermicomposting revolution throughout India. He added, 'If charity begins at home, so does your bit to help out the environment.'

Judging is now under way for the 2005 awards - but check out the website at and have your ideas ready for next year!

      photos: National Public School, Indiranagar  
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