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Turning waste into health


Headquarters: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Established: 2007
Impact Areas: India
Type: Nonprofit
Energy Sectors:
Business Model Types:
Staff Size: 7 and 2 volunteers
Annual Budget: $150,000
Major Funders: Private donations, Indian government
Awards: 2010: Santa Clara Global Social Benefit Incubator
International Visitor Leadership Program, Department State, Government of USA


FREED conceives, designs, and implements projects transforming wastelands into jatropha plantations that produce biofuel that replaces imported fossil fuels and qualifies for carbon credits.


Energy Products/Services

  • Jatropha curcas plantations

Target Market

  • Users of biodiesel
  • Unemployed and underemployed Indians with proximity to wastelands


The Force for Rural Empowerment and Economic Development (FREED)

Revenue Streams

  • None yet, will be sale of jatropha grown on plantations

Value Proposition

  • FREED creates its plantations by forming Self Help Groups that undertake cultivation and fuel extraction, providing the marginal poor with income opportunities.
  • Government agencies and corporations provide wasteland for cultivation and purchase the biofuel, thus creating economic development, reducing their cost of oil consumption, and meeting mandates to use renewable energy.
  • FREED also engages in other community development projects, such as the installation of solar systems in remote tribal villages.

Problem Addressed

  • There are approximately 60 million hectares of wasteland in India and more than 421 million Indians below the poverty line in 8 states.
  • These people do not have access to sustainable livelihoods and suffer from a social environment that worsens over time.
  • The Indian government has mandated the use of 20% diesel mix with biofuel by 2013.
  • To fulfill the mandate, wastelands are being made available for production of biofuel.

Where They Are Now

Impact to Date

  • Pilot plantation operational with partner agency
  • Created awareness in public and private corporations of the opportunity to convert wasteland into a resource
  • First 300 hectare project approved for launch by major coal agency Coal India Ltd.
  • Organized 2011 national-level seminar on Green energy leading to inclusive sustainable growth



  • 2008: Pilot project started with partner
  • 2010: First project approved for implementation by the national coal company
  • 2010: Contract with the municipality for access to land
  • 2010: Indian railways approve project viability

Growth Plan

  • 2011: Expand to three states
  • 2013: First bio-diesel will be produced (306 kiloliters)
  • 2014: Expansion to 4 states, 5,000 Ha, and 612 kiloliter production

How They Deliver

Product Sourcing

  • FREED is currently growing saplings for its future plantations in the nursery of another non-profit in Northern Bengal, and paying them US$10 cents/sapling.
  • It will then plant these saplings in plantations along canal banks, railroad tracks, and in urban wastelands where currently nothing is being grown.
  • The Indian government also distributes free saplings for citizens to plant, and FREED is hoping to integrate jatropha into that supply.

Human Resources

  • FREED’s plantation growers are generally organized through self-help groups.
  • Most growers are people with no work, either migrants to cities or in rural areas without jobs.
  • FREED trains the leaders of the self-help groups how to grow jatropha, and they train their members.
  • FREED pays growers the government recommended minimum wage of rs.1,500 (US$30) per month.  This is 150% of their current average wage.
  • Currently FREED is working with 55-60 growers, with another 80 sometimes involved.
  • The government currently funds 100 yearly days of work for the unemployed and FREED is trying to get some of this funding to help pay their jatropha growers.

Revenue & Affordability

  • FREED will generate revenue through partnerships with users of biodiesel who own large tracts of unused land.  FREED will grow jatropha on this wasteland and then sell the seeds to its partners on contract.
  • FREED’s major sales partnerships are with:
    • The Urban Development Department of the state government of West Bengal, which is letting FREED plant on a small piece of land on canal banks.
    • A rural municipality in the Bengal coal belt, where it has planted 2,500 trees.
  • FREED is trying to develop partnerships with:
    • The Indian Railways Corporation, which has, due to the recommendation of the Indian government (and the expectation of a future law), decided to use up to 20% biodiesel in its engines, and therefore needs jatropha. The railways also own thousands of hectares of land alongside the railroad tracks which can be used for cultivation.
    • Coal India Ltd, the Indian government owned coal corporation, which can fulfill corporate social responsibility obligations by using biodiesel in its engines, and has agreed to a project of 300 hectares.
    • The Kolkata Corporation, the urban development corporation for the city of Kolkata.  FREED is waiting until after the upcoming elections and the end of the monsoon and is hoping to plant 50,000 saplings along 10-12km of canal areas.


  • FREED currently operates completely on volunteer labor, and is financed primarily by the founders, friends and family
  • Indian Railways and Coal India Limited have committed funds, but they are yet to come

More Resources

Online Resources

Contact Information

The Force for Rural Empowerment and Economic Development (FREED)
128/18, Hazra Road, 1st Floor

( +91.33.6450.6521