TAASIR–S M HASSAN 31 OCT
Nalanda’s businesswomen illuminate success with Bolega Bihar
Supported by a frontrunner in promoting Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) solutions for an environmentally sustainable future, this project has been transformative in Nalanda
34-year-old Renu Kumari, from Nalanda, Bihar, runs a successful eatery in her village. It is the sole source of income for her family, including her husband and five children. However, one worrisome aspect was the substantial electricity bill of over Rs 2000 that she had to pay each month. With a significant portion of her profits diverted towards covering electricity expenses, Renu actively sought an alternative solution. She was then introduced to Bolega Bihar, a project dedicated to accelerating household-level solar and DRE solutions at the grassroots level in Gaya and Nalanda. This inspired her to make a strategic shift to equipments such as a solar fridge, lights, and fans in both her eatery and her residence, which not only shielded her from the burden of steep electricity bills and contributed to the broader adoption of decentralised renewable energy (DRE) solutions.
“Escalating electricity costs are the worst nightmare for small-scale businesses like ours since there are many appliances essential for eateries that consume a substantial amount of electricity. This is why we considered DRE solutions” says Renu Kumari. Through Bolega Bihar, targeted women entrepreneurs witnessed demonstrations of solar-powered machines like dryers, juice makers, sewing machines, fridges, and cookers. This resulted in attendees from Kariyana Rajgir highlighting the training’s practicality, which inspired many women from Self-help Groups to invest in solar dryers for drying moringa leaves and other products, seeing a business opportunity.
Bolega Bihar’s success in transitioning women in Bihar to solar & DRE solutions is also a result of the collective efforts nurtured through various awareness campaigns and frequent interactions in Nalanda. For instance, in July 2023, Bolega Bihar organised a Solar Sabha at Rajgir in Nalanda, where over 100 women leaders, government stakeholders, policymakers, and organisations in the solar and DRE ecosystem came together. Through sessions like these, 97% of the participants experienced better awareness of solar products by attending such events.
Sharing her experience, Babita Kumari, a young entrepreneur, says, “We primarily depend on agriculture, especially dairy farming, to support the family. It was through events like the Solar Sabhas that I learned about the benefits of using solar and DRE applications. This helped me reduce electricity consumption for various necessities such as refrigeration, lighting, milk cooling, and pumping water for farming purposes. Now, we are consistently engaging with other women entrepreneurs, encouraging them to adopt solar and DRE equipment in their day-to-day business.”
Similarly, Sarita Kumari, another entrepreneur whose family relies on dairy farming for income, adds, “A solar-powered milking machine enables the milking of up to 20 cows. The installation of lights, solar panels, and milking machines is not costly, providing significant savings on electricity costs.”
Bolega Bihar leveraged the ongoing interest in DRE solutions from various decision makers in the state. “We specifically targeted women entrepreneurs in the villages because we recognised a lack of awareness among them regarding the necessity to transition towards renewable energy sources as well as the benefits it can yield. This shift not only contributes to environmental benefits but also proves to be financially advantageous for the community. We are actively working among women in rural areas, fostering dialogue between different stakeholders, enhancing their comprehension of the process and available products, guiding them on how to access these solutions, and equipping them with communication and advocacy skills,” says Suman Singh, Secretary, SAKHI.
Bolega Bihar’s successful implementation is also a testament to the strength of its partners joining hands — World Resources Institute (WRI), Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), Eco Warriors and SAKHI. This project is a step in the right direction given how DRE livelihood technologies have the potential to transform rural livelihoods, with women at the core of this transition.