Skip to main content

Barefoot women solar engineers join farmers, 'rediscover' benefits of biodiversity

Leela Devi, Monica
By Bharat Dogra* 
At a time of increasing concern over climate change, contributions of several women, farmers and innovators have given reason for increasing hope in mitigation as well as adaptation work in villages of India.
When Leela Devi was married in Tilonia village (Ajmer district of Rajasthan), she had not heard of solar energy. But making use of the existence of solar centre of the Barefoot College (BC) near her new home, she learnt adequate skills within a year to set up rural solar units and assemble solar lanterns.
Later as India’s External Affairs Ministry teamed up with BC to start an international program for training women in rural solar energy systems, Leela teamed up with other friends from BC to form a team of trainers. A training programme has been designed for training women as barefoot solar engineers.
When I visited the Tilonia campus (before the training program was temporarily discontinued due to COVID) , a group of women (several of them Grandmas) from Zambia, Chad, Kenya and other countries was being trained. Monica from Tanzania was among the few who could speak English.
“Yes, language was a problem initially for us, but we women have a way of overcoming such minor hurdles.” She laughed, joined by Leela. “I am looking forward to returning to my village to start a solar unit here”, she said. Nearly 3,000 ‘solar mamas’ or women barefoot solar engineers from India and abroad have been trained here and solar units installed by them are operational in remote villages of many countries.
Mangal Singh is a farmer from Bhailoni Lodh village (Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh). He has invented a device Mangal Turbine (MT) which uses the energy of flowing water to lift water from streams and canals, replacing diesel oil generally used for this purpose. Estimates reveal a single unit can reduce over 335 tonnes green house gas (GHG) emission over its 15 year lifetime. This increases significantly if with a few adjustments MT is used for additional work like crop processing.
Potentially MT can spread rapidly not just in India but worldwide wherever suitable conditions exist. Grateful farmers in his village gathered to express their thanks when I visited this village to see a demonstration of MT. Mangal Singh, who has a patent, told this writer, “I basically want my invention to benefit farmers and environment.” After MT was widely praised by several senior experts and officials, the Rural Development Ministry of the Government of India set up the Maithani Committee to review this invention. This committee after examining all aspects praised the invention for is great utility and recommended its rapid spread, something which the government is yet to achieve.
Mangal Turbine
As Mangal Singh is now in his seventies and his health has also suffered due to neglect and victimisation, no time should be lost in implementing the recommendations of the Maithani Committee and making adequate use of the rich potential of his work under his guidance. As a first step, at least 100 Mangal turbines should be set up immediately under his guidance in such a way that a number of young and talented technicians get suitably trained by him to carry on the work on their own.
The Gorakhpur Environment Action Group (GEAG), a leading NGO, has been co-ordinating the work of spreading ecologically friendly farming in hundreds of densely populated villages in the eastern part of the vast province of Uttar Pradesh.
He says women farmers in particular have been very responsive. Prabhavati, one such farmer whom I met in Dudhai village, was growing nearly 50 crops organically in her small farm and garden, combining grains, vegetables, fruits, spices, flowers, herbs and bamboo, with a cattle shed and composting unit within her farm. She explained that rotations and mixed cropping are decided in such ways that one crop tends to be supportive to the other.
Such farming helps to improve organic content of soil, facilitating absorption of carbon in soil. In addition this helps in better retaining of moisture and its intake by plant roots, so that the ability to handle adverse weather conditions is improved. By avoiding chemical fertilizers, pollution by a highly potent GHG gas, nitrous oxide, is avoided.
Many farmers are re-discovering the benefits of biodiversity and protecting diverse varieties of various crops. Vijay Jardhari has been coordinating a Save the Seeds effort in Himalayan villages of Uttarakhand state. “By saving our mixed farming system of ‘barahanaja’ (a mixed forming system in which about 12 millets, legumes, spices and oilseeds can grow together even on less fertile land) we are not only protecting our nutrition base, we are also preparing for difficult times of climate change.”
Such efforts need to be encouraged and promoted on a much bigger scale. The international climate fund if used very carefully can contribute much to this.
---
*Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘A Day in 2071’, ‘Man Over Machine’, ‘Protecting Earth for Children’ and ‘Planet in Peril’. This article is based on the author’s visit to the villages mentioned in the story

Comments

TRENDING

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Teesta treaty? Modi sends ball to Mamata's court amidst Hasina's mango diplomacy

By Samina Akhter*  Most Bangladeshi and India media reports say that the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has received 600 kg of mangoes from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as part of her "mango-hilsa diplomacy." Hasina also delivered mangoes to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, according to the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in India. In all, 1,200 kg of Amrapali mangoes were delivered to the residences of the President and the Prime Minister of India. According to a Bangladesh's deputy high commission official in Kolkata, a few more chief ministers in the eastern region will likely receive similar gifts. Last year, not only President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, but also the chief ministers of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam also received mangoes from Prime Minister Hasina. Hasina delivered mangoes from Rajshahi, including kinds like Golapkhas and Amrapali, as it is the peak season for the delectable fruit in

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

Bulldozing houses in UP: India isn't Israel, Muslims living here 'aren't Palestinians'

By Naveen Tewari, Sandeep Pandey*  A recent full front page of the advertisement by a Bhartiya Janata Party government declares, 'House is not just a word. It is a place where power to dream comes and aspirations are fulfilled. Home is much about dignity and security than it is about shelter.' It further goes on to quote Narendra Modi, 'It is my dream that every Indian has a pucca house by 2022.' The occasion was dedication of houses built by a private builder Balaji to the poor. Having witnessed over the past few days the now iconic picture of a bulldozer running down the Prayagraj house of parents of female Muslim student and activist Afreen Fatima, who participated in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens protests, one is almost tempted to look for a fine print at the bottom of the page to the effect that the promise of house is subject to the condition that one doesn't participate in any anti-government protest otherwis

Church in India: Rooted in patriarchy, Pope Francis-initiated reforms remain on paper

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is ‘Laity Sunday’ once again on June 26! A time for the Church once again to introspect and to see whether the much flaunted ‘lay collaboration’ actually exists in reality or not! In a highly clerical and patriarchal Church, which has stubbornly refused to accept in toto the changes envisaged by Vatican II and as desired by the then Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, introducing any reforms is certainly very difficult. But Pope Francis, in his typical style, is apparently succeeding in doing so! On March 19, 2022 (Feast of St Joseph) the ninth anniversary of the formal inauguration of his pontificate, he published Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel),his new constitution for the restructuring of the Vatican Curia. It was a reform that was promised at the beginning of his pontificate; several aspects of it have already been implemented over the years. The final document, however, does make some significant changes and provides the vision of a Curia that

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization