Monday, 8 March 2010

Jo visits TIDE in Bangalore

Jo, our Communications Manager, spent time in India at the beginning of February to run the first ever Ashden Awards international event – the two day conference ‘Building a Sustainable Energy Future for India’. After the conference (which you can read about here), Jo went south to Bangalore to visit some Ashden Award-winners and to find out more about what they are doing. Her first visit was to TIDE:

“TIDE won the Ashden Energy Champion Award in 2008. I had seen Svati Bhogle, the organisation's charismatic founder, in Delhi. She was going on to other engagements around Delhi so she arranged for her colleague Prabha, who is Head of the Women and Livelihoods team, to show me some of their work.

Prabha met me at my hotel in central Bangalore early in the morning and we set off to into the countryside to see some of the work they are doing with women entrepreneurs. It takes ages to get out of Bangalore, there is a lot of traffic and a lot of road works making for a very bumpy, dusty ride. After a couple of hours we’d left all the traffic behind and were bumping along equally dusty roads in the countryside district of Tumkar.

Our first visit was to see some greenhouses which have been built with funding from TIDE. At first I was puzzled – why would you need greenhouses in South India where it’s always warm? The reason soon became clear – if you grow vegetables in a greenhouse you can control pests and diseases and increase productivity – by up to 30% according to TIDE - through drip irrigation and temperature control.

The green houses are part of TIDE’s work to empower women. They are all run by women entrepreneurs with the support of their families. They provide the land and TIDE builds the greenhouse. The payback is an agreement by the women to give 15% of their earnings from the greenhouse produce to a local school. The school then uses this money to buy extra vegetables for the children – increasing their intake to 50gm per day. To date TIDE have installed six greenhouses in the district, benefitting 400 school-children and they have five more planned.
A highlight of the day was going to visit a couple of the schools who are benefitting from the scheme – and I even got to try some of their lunch!

We then went on to visit another of TIDE’s women entrepreneurs, Pushpa, who has been trained to sell energy-efficient light bulbs and solar lamps in her own and neighbouring villages. In the past locals had been sold poor quality energy efficient light bulbs which at 30 rupees each were relatively expensive but burnt out quickly. This means that Pushpa has to convince people that these bulbs are worth buying, that they are more efficient and will last longer. When I met her she had held her first meeting ten days previously and of 30 people present, ten had ordered solar torches and a couple had gone for small solar home systems, so she was feeling positive about the future.

Our last visit of the day was to another entrepreneur who has been travelling the district with a portable mould to make domestic stoves. These are modelled on the same lines as the stoves traditionally used in the area but are designed so that the smoke is extracted efficiently, reducing indoor air pollution and the associated health risks. I met Katyayini who is one of TIDE’s trainers, travelling around Karnataka training women to make and install these stoves.

Having the opportunity to meet these people and see what TIDE is doing with women entrepreneurs was fascinating. TIDE is making a huge difference to the lives of rural women and children through this work, as well as helping them to learn about and mitigate the impacts of climate change through rain-water harvesting for greenhouses and reduced wood-fuel usage in stoves.”

You can find out more about all of our winners by visiting our website.

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