The following snapshot is the sixth 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.
Shimoga, often called “The Gateway of Malnad,” is an epitome of scenic beauty – lush green paddy fields, areca nut and coconut groves. The Sharavati River, which forms the famous Jog, flows through certain villages in Shimoga. Seventy-two kilometers from the city is the village of Haniya, which lies in the Hosanagar taluk. Most of the people here are Brahmins although quite a few also belong to the Scheduled Caste. Many houses in Haniya do not have access to affordable or reliable lighting for their houses.
Seeing the plight of the villagers, Gram Bharathi Trust (GBT) decided to strengthen its mission of rural development by helping the villagers access electricity. “Grid power is available to some, but power cuts are common. Our trust was started with the aim of helping the poor and needy, which is why we have decided to provide them with solar power while looking at their financial position at the same time” explains Mr. Haniya Ravi, the president of the Trust as he points to the flickering lights to show how unreliable grid connections are in Haniya.
With this goal in mind, the Trust approached SELCO to help provide sustainable power solutions. SELCO, S3IDF, and GBT soon came up with a plan to convert Haniya into a solar village. A survey was conducted to assess the need and systems varying from one to four lights LED/CFL systems were designed. These systems also had bigger panels and batteries for longer backup. Once the system design was ready, a financial model was worked out based on the financial situation of the community.
SELCO and S3IDF, through the Applied Material Foundation (AMF) funding, and GBT collectively contributed up to 30% of the total fund required and the rest came as a loan from Pragathi Krishna Grameen Bank in Hosanagar.
A total of 141 households received solar lighting systems under this project. One beneficiary was Ramdas, who belongs to the Gowda Saraswat Brahmin caste. Ramdas owns a small hotel. With the initial assistance from SELCO, S3IDF, and GBT, a 2 light solar system costing Rs.11, 000 was installed. Ramdas recounts his troubles before installing solar, “In the business we are in, light plays an important role. It was hard to manage in the evenings, as cooking under dim light using kerosene was hazardous. The people who came to eat here also found it difficult as the smoke would irritate them and there was not much brightness inside on top of it. After putting in solar lights, our nights are no longer dull. I can work longer now in the evenings. My daughter also is able to study for a few extra hours.” He pays a monthly amount of Rs.150 to the bank as an installment towards repaying his solar loan.