One of the most financially poor States in India is Odisha- where 91% of the population resides in villages, and 39% belongs to tribal communities where the average daily income is below $1. Several communities in Odisha, such as Kendrapara barely see any electricity. Out of 24 hours, many villages get electricity for only 6 hours! This means, the electricity that most of us take for granted, reaches them for just one-fourth of a day.
The communities residing in Kendrapara are agrarian. With unscheduled and unpredictable power-cuts, life is nothing short of thorny. Residents often resort to expensive battery-operated emergency lights or kerosene-fueled lamps. The kerosene lamps come with their own set of problems- not only are they expensive, but also hazardous as they give rise to toxic fumes. Problems get further aggravated after sunset as families are unable to cook food in the dark, children cannot study and hawkers have to pack up. The lesser obvious ones include wild animals entering the village causing havoc and the sick not getting proper treatment due to lack of visibility.
Gram Utthan, an organization based in Odisha, focuses on dealing with issues pertaining to livelihood, skill training, sanitation and more recently- energy. Their core value is to enhance human dignity and work towards sustainable development. Gram Utthan has implemented its Energy program in six districts in rural Odisha with a view to solve some of the problems that the residents currently face. Solar powered lighting has improved the general quality of life in the region. The beneficiaries have reduced expenses on traditional sources of lighting such as kerosene, increased economic activity through extension of working hours, fewer health issues arising from toxic kerosene and cow-dung fumes, and higher literacy rates as children can study after sunset. Milaap in partnership with Gram Utthan seeks to reach out to more such communities in rural Odisha.
Through the current project, an entire village (385 borrowers) will gain access to a clean and efficient source of lighting - solar lanterns - and in turn be more productive, healthier and happier.