The following snapshot is the tenth 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.
India is a country comprising 28 states that are further divided into many districts. The largest district in the country is Kutch, located in the state of Gujarat. Kutch means something that alternates between being wet and dry, a condition that reflects its largest section, known as the Rann of Kutch. This area is famous for its marshy land that is completely covered with salt deposits after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon rains.
Many of the remote areas in this beautiful region have not reaped any of the benefits available to the rest of fast-growing Gujarat. One such village is Therawand. Therawand is a barren land marked by only a few scattered huts. SEWA Bank in Ahmedabad provides poor women working in the informal sector with tailored financial services that help to promote socio-economic empowerment and self-development. SEWA came forward offering straightforward loans to help electrify the houses of Therawand. Based on the needs of the residents, SELCO and S3IDF decided on a single light LED system. The cost of the system is Rs 7,400. SEWA designed a loan package of Rs 6400 and SELCO and S3IDF provided the gap-filling funding of Rs 1000 from the Applied Materials Foundation (AMF) support. The monthly installment is Rs 500 and collection is done by an agent from the bank. SELCO, S3IDF and SEWA have installed solar systems in fifteen houses in this community. As a result, there is now a huge demand from the others living in the region to install solar lighting systems.
One of the current users, Shamjibhai Mohamadhrin, is considered the leader among the group in Therawand. He was one of the first people to opt for the solar lighting system. Prior to solar lighting, kerosene lamps were used that would cause irritation to the eyes and the nose. “As you can see we are secluded from society and need to travel as much as 20 kilometers even to fetch water, which comes in huge tankers,” he says. Mohamadhrin mainly works as a dairy farmer but he and his family also weaves blankets. “With our nights now bright, we can weave more blankets during the night. This will definitely help improve our income,” he explains. “But it is my children and their friends who are benefiting significantly. They all come to our house to study. It’s like a small tuition for them to gather and learn together,” he adds, thanking SEWA, SELCO, and S3IDF for the assistance.