More than 1,000 rural women entrepreneurs from rural area of Marathwada are creating a green economy by selling green energy products to rural households that lack access to energy

Features Saturday, April 25, 2015 - 05:30
Neeta Tanwade, a 33-year-old lady from Sawargaon village of Osmanabad district, counsels fellow village women to opt for clean energy stove (run on biomass) instead of traditional firewood stove. She explains how traditional cooking with firewood contributes to climate change and the degradation of natural resources. Neeta, a SSC pass out, carefully addresses doubts of women regarding clean cooking stoves with the angle of health hazards of firewood use for cooking. Neeta has sold hundreds of clean stoves, solar lamps, water filters and green toilets in the last two years. She has reached thousands creating awareness about clean energy and also earning a handsome income. ¬† ¬† Not only Neeta but more than 1000 homemakers across various villages in Osmanabad, Washim, Latur, Solapur and Nanded districts in Marathwada region of Maharashtra have been selling green energy products like experienced entrepreneurs to millions in rural household since 2012. One of the NGO (Swayam Shikshan Prayog) implemented the program (wPower) to put rural women in the heart of climate change and is creating green economies in rural India.¬† ¬† ¬† Neena Tanwade ¬† The NGO facilitates two day training to all potential entrepreneurs explaining need for clean energy, its affordability and the income it can offer. Products are biomass stove, solar lamps, water filters, toilet base and biomass palates for stoves. ¬†Homemaker women run the business from their house selling products to neighbors, relatives and friends. The NGO helps women to put stalls at weekly markets in villages, fairs and festivals to tap potential customers.¬† ¬† Entrepreneurs who are called Urja Sakhi demonstrate lamps, stoves and explain pros and cons of the products. Home delivery and two years of warrantee is assured to the customers. ¬† ¬† Many women come forward to sell products for their urge to earn income and to have freedom to buy. It has provided extra opportunity to earn for many established entrepreneurs. ¬†These more than 1,000 Urja Sakhis have sold more than one lakh solar lamps and stoves. The number of water filter sold is over 25,000. 2,184 tonnes of biomass palates for stoves has been sold as of now. ¬† ¬† Sadhna Deshmukh from Murud of Latur district had limited communication skills earlier and was a conservative woman living behind four walls of the house. ‚ÄúI was shy but the business opened me up. I need to convince other women to use clean energy products and that boosted my confidence to stand confidently in public,‚ÄĚ says Sadhana who has sold more than 200 lamps and 50 stoves.¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Neena Tanwade explaining green stove to fellow village women.¬† ¬† The clean energy products or nontraditional energy sources have become a necessity in the area with unpredictable electricity and hours of load shedding. ¬†‚ÄúSolar lamps are good alternative. They can be hanged to the cycle or can be put along the waist while working in farms. Lamps that are sold with lifetime guarantee are need to be recharged by keeping under sunlight, which is in abundance in the region,‚ÄĚ explains Nasim Shaikh of the SSP.¬† ¬† In the same way, to get a gas cylinder is a distant dream in many villages even now. Hence to invest 2-3 thousand rupees for clean stove proves beneficial to many. Rashida Shekh from Tuljapur block explains why. ‚ÄúTraditionally almost all households in rural Maharashtra opt for firewood stoves. Fog created affects eyes, can cause Asthama, skin disease and many other health issues. A clean stove saves health, time and energy,‚ÄĚ she says. ¬†The NGO has a plant to make biomass palates from animal waste and sells it for reasonable rates.¬† ¬† Sale of water filter and toilet base is also quite high. Urja Sakhis also sell bio gas stoves, the price of which is around Rs 25,000. These women, who never before stepped foot out of their villages, nowadays give presentation at the national and international conferences at metros confidently. ¬† ¬† ¬†