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The Natural Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
Guest blog by Akanksha Golchha
Climate solutions in India’s villages can improve livelihoods and bring transformative social change, emphasized women-leaders in a two-day event “Women-Led Efficient and Clean Energy Solutions in India: Discussion with the Farmers” organized by NRDC, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and partners. Women are inequitably affected by climate change and more vulnerable to its impact due to social structures. Climate resilience must be inclusive and include partnerships with women. Capacity building and access to resources are critical tools to ensure gender equitable development. Actions that enable women to both adapt to climate change and access resources to improve their livelihoods will provide major gains.
NRDC and SEWA are facilitating equitable gender access to clean energy and technology in Indian villages under the Hariyali Green Village Plans. NRDC and SEWA, in partnership with Association of Renewable Energy Agencies of States, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (AREAS-MNRE) and Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN), organised a two-day virtual event featuring policy makers, farmers, cleantech providers, and women who have adopted climate friendly solutions such as biogas plants, solar pumps, and cool roofs.
Snapshot of Rekhaben, a SEWA member, sharing her experience of using solar pumps – “Solar pumps are a cheaper and cleaner alternative to diesel-based pumps, which can be used on-demand without stockpiling fuel”
Women are essential in India meeting its ambitious climate targets. The majority of India’s population lives in villages, with uncertain and irregular power grid availability. Distributed renewable energy (DRE) applications can help these villages electrify, reduce drudgery, and enhance livelihoods. Households without access to clean energy technologies spend a substantial portion of their monthly budgets on the procurement of fossil fuels, primarily for cooking and water pumping. Thus, the adoption of clean energy technologies makes both environmental and economic sense.
Women are often at the forefront of impactful rural development. Governments at the state and national level in India, recognising the critical role of women in meeting climate targets, are developing tailored policy instruments to address the needs of rural women and to implement DRE solutions at an unprecedented scale. For instance, the recently announced Framework for Promotion of Distributed Renewable Energy Livelihood Applications focuses on capacity building and financing mechanisms for women.
Most rural women are employed in the informal sector, which often comes with fewer economic, social security and societal benefits. Access to clean energy technologies and finance are critical tenets for elevating living conditions, improving livelihoods, and changing the status quo of societal structures. Further, it empowers women to contribute the decision-making processes. Most rural women do not own assets, which limits their ability to access formal credit lines. Women and men’s loan requirements differ depending on their income streams, technology use, and ability to meet the repayment timelines. In certain instances, a male member of the family can co-apply for a loan and provide his assets as collateral for a woman without asset ownership. It is important to develop innovative and tailored financing mechanisms that enhance credit availability for women so they can invest in clean technologies.
Snapshot of Sangitaben Rathod, a SEWA member, sharing her experience of using biogas plant – “Biogas is very beneficial for all of us resulting into economic benefits, time savings and reduced effort to gather firewood. However, high upfront costs remain a challenge”
Technology providers discussed business models they have implemented to address financing challenges, including group co-ownership models. In such an arrangement, women self-help groups can co-own and share the assets such as a solar pump or a solar cold storage unit, benefiting the entire group. However, all these solutions require constant interaction between the technology supplier and technology user – to build confidence in the product and to structure customised financing products. SEWA sisters underscored the need for timely availability of after sales services to ensure that assets are repaired and maintained, as required, and are operating in an optimum manner. Local capacity building ensures timely repairs and redressal of complaints, thus asset owners are able to derive maximum benefits and create livelihood opportunities.
Many policies, technologies, and financing schemes have been rendered unsuccessful due to limited awareness amongst the target stakeholders, especially in rural areas. NRDC and SEWA are working in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan to generate awareness by leveraging the substantial network of SEWA sisters to build capacities and share knowledge about relevant policies, clean technologies, and financing schemes.
Clean energy technologies should be affordable and accessible to all. Women in villages can be empowered to be change agents, so that they, their families, and communities can benefit from the clean energy transition. Equitable development can be ensured through the streamlined efforts of stakeholders – one technology, one household, one village at a time.
Akanksha Golchha is the Clean Energy Access Lead (Consultant) with NRDC
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