Today S3IDF is pleased to present you the fourth post in our Integrated Energy Centres series: The Thanisandra IEC.
IECs are solar-powered enterprises that provide a range of basic services and activities to underserved communities. IECs, a concept driven by the SELCO Foundation, are developed in conjunction with S3IDF and other partners.
The Thanisandra IEC
Thanisandra is located behind the Manyata Tech Park in Bangalore. This settlement has over 80 households with an approximate population of 450 people. Residents of this settlement are part of a Nomadic North Indian community, originally from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and are known for their musical instrument craftsmanship, especially in drum-making. The male members of the community, who are proficient musicians, venture out into Bangalore daily to perform and peddle their instruments.
The Thanisandra residents have lived in Bangalore for the past three years and have been in their current location for the past six months. They plan to stay in Bangalore for the next two to three years. The families rely heavily on the creation and sale of drums, which has been their primary occupation for many generations.
Thanisandra slum sits on privately owned land and the residents have been allowed to reside there on a temporary basis only. They are very aware that they may need to shift at any point. Residents use kerosene and firewood as their main sources of energy and fuel. An average family consists of five to ten members.
It is very difficult for households to pinpoint how much they earn in a month; they say if they are lucky they will make up to Rs. 1000 a day but they normally only take in Rs. 100-200 daily. Revenues are even more difficult to predict during the rainy season. They spend Rs. 100 on kerosene (2-3 liters on the black market) and a minimum of 30 rupees to charge their phones per month.
Aside from lacking access to affordable and reliable energy services, residents’ main concerns are education, identity, water, and sanitation. Each day, they spend three to four hours transporting water, and must use open areas as toilets, and lack secluded areas for bathing.
The IEC needs assessment built on work completed by a local social worker, which helped in the process of organizing the community, understanding the their dynamics, and opening up communication channels to figure out the right model and type of IEC needed. The need assessment phase consisted of three community meetings, individual interviews with residents, and two product demonstrations that took place over the course of several days, which enabled all community members to experience and evaluate the proposed services.
As a poor and mobile community, there were many initial challenges to overcome to provide portable but proper, efficient home lighting services. The “entry point” interventions that were determined to be most appropriate were on portable lanterns with possible livelihood interventions through market linkages and value addition. 30 families came together and showed a keen interest in the project. They were also willing to place deposits before anything materialized to show their buy-in and commitment.
A simple 4-wheeled cart was modified for use as an IEC. As a result, the Thanisandra IEC will travel with the community to whatever destination they decide to migrate to in the future. The community insisted that no one needed to be paid for managing the IEC and that they would do it together by taking shared responsibility, resulting in a community-ownership model.
Current IEC services include lighting within the IEC cart for easier use and management in the evening hours, battery packs and home lighting systems for rent, and mobile charging kiosks.
Future project efforts will include improving livelihoods of residents though market linkages and value addition, identifying partners to launch a basic literacy and education program as well as to hold health camps, and providing a community television.
This is an entrepreneur-owned IEC, which means that once the operator pays off the cost of the system he owns the IEC business in full and is able to make most from the income generated through the IEC.
The IEC launched in June 2013 and serves 30 households with the potential to reach over 60 within the first few months. Although the IEC is still in its initial stage of implementation, three main areas of impact have already been identified: livelihoods, health and safety, and general well-being.
The residents often are not able to meet the demand for their drums, especially during high season, which makes working past sunset crucial. The extra productive hours that they gain from the household lighting has already contributed significantly to their earnings potential.
Health and Safety
Prior to accessing the lights, residents were frequently faced with the issue of snakes, rodents, and scorpions entering their tents and biting young children and infants in the dark. They feel a lot safer with the lights and say that it drives harmful creatures away. Residents also reported that they also feel safer and less vulnerable to intruders.
The community has expressed how wonderful it is to see light for the first time in their homes and feel productive even after sunset. They believe it to the beginning of improvement and hope.
The IEC will also continue to facilitate partner services which impact livelihood opportunities, education, awareness, and health.
The information disseminated in this post has been adapted from the Integrated Energy Centre (IEC) Progress Report: Scope of Work (March 2013 – July 2013) and more recent internal project update documents.