The following snapshot is the fifth in a series of stories from the Electrifying Households and Schools project, which is a yearlong project that is supported by the Applied Materials Foundation. The project aims to address gaps in end-user financing that limit the ability of low-income and marginalized households to access lighting and energy solutions and also works to provide schools with lighting and other educational aids.
The Kadur Taluk district in the Western Ghats, is known for their crops of ragi, sesame, horse gram, and maize. Inadequate rainfall has significantly decreased their harvest yields, leaving majority of their land barren and dry. Major obstacles for villagers include poor roads, inadequate infrastructure and frequent power-cuts and many house do not have grid connection or are disconnected due to their inability to pay on time because of an unpredictable harvest.
VIKASANA, a local NGO that has been working for the region’s rural development, has taken in interest in securing reliable access to electricity. VIKASANA has encouraged women’s development programmes through the concept of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in which women make monthly deposits into their group’s account and use the pooled deposits to make low interest bearing loans to its members when in need. SELCO and S3IDF worked with VIKASANA to conduct a need assessment and determined that a two solar-powered LED light system for each household would be a good match. Efforts were also undertaken to help spread awareness about solar energy. This involved attending the SHG meetings and conducting evening demonstrations of the lights to help convince the community about the benefits of solar technologies.
The women members could get a loan of Rs 6500 from the SHG to fund the system cost over a period of time. With support provided through Applied Materials Foundation, SELCO and S3IDF helped with gap-filling funding of Rs 2000 per system and covered the transaction costs involved in the community awareness-raising activities.
Kotramma, who lives in Hulligere with her family of four, took advantage of the program. She is a member of one of the VIKASANA SHGs. Her husband, Narasimhappa, owns a tire puncture repair shop that has one light inside and one light outside. He explains how solar has improved their lives: “Similar to agriculture, punctures are seasonal. We cannot predict when it will happen. But with the LED lights I can stay up longer and expect more customers. This way at some point there will be a boost in my income. I earn around Rs. 400-500 a week, but this is subject to some variation, depending on how many tires get punctured.” As he shows off the light in his work area, he adds, “The impact is not only for me but for my children and wife as well. They can study longer and do household chores without harming their eyes.”