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Solar energy lights up Adivasi villages in Odisha

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

26 September 2022

Solar energy systems have brought freedom from frequent power cuts for Adivasi families in Kalahandi and Gajapati districts of Odisha.

Junita and her siblings do not have to struggle with the erratic power cuts anymore.

Photograph by Aruna Kumar Sahu

Jalanti Roita, 42, lives with her four children in Kumundia village in Serango Gram Panchayat in the Gajapati district. Her husband, Jabana Roita, 47, works as a construction worker in Andhra Pradesh. Every year during the hot summer and rainy seasons, the electricity supply is erratic and unreliable in the village. Her younger daughter, Junita, in Class 10, Dinesh, in Class 6, and younger son, Joel, in Class 1, struggled to study and complete their homework after school before nightfall. 

Jalanti says, “My children used to go off to sleep in the evening when there were frequent or long power cuts. After sunset, my three children struggled to study under dim kerosene lamps. They would struggle for a while and invariably fall asleep after some time. The bright light from the two solar lamps helps them to study and complete their homework. After that, they go to sleep. I don’t wake them up early in the morning anymore as they finish their homework the previous night. They get enough sleep before they go to school.”  

In September 2021, the family got two solar lanterns as part of Project Vibha, supported by the SBI Foundation. Jalanti’s elder daughter Jemita, 19, is a Class 12 pass-out. She is happy that her siblings do not have to struggle to study with a dim kerosene lamp during power outages after sunset as she did. Solar lanterns have made a lot of difference to their studies. They play after they get back from school. After sunset, they complete their homework and revise the chapters with the help of the solar lanterns. 

“I help my siblings with their studies during the evenings when they have doubts. Having solar lanterns at home has made it easy for us to go to the toilet anytime after sunset without fear of stepping on snakes or insects. The lanterns do not have wires, so carrying them around is easy,” says Jalanti.

In Kumundia, Samoni Roita’s family has a light at home even when there is no power supply for hours at a stretch. Samoni, 35, lives with her husband Punia Roita, 42, and their three daughters and a son. Samoni finishes her household chores and cooking meals for the entire family before leaving to work on their two-acre land with her husband, where they grow paddy, ragi, and ripe bananas. Her three daughters, Jusini in Class 12, Jusilini in Class 7, and Jocchana in Class 4, study in the evenings along with their youngest brother Malinga who is in Class 1. 

Samoni’s eldest daughter Jusini says because of the solar lanterns, she can catch up with her studies late at night when her younger siblings are in bed. “I like to sit and study in peace when everyone goes off to sleep. That way, I can focus on my studies better without the constant chatter of my younger sisters and brother.” 

Jusini says that the solar lanterns are helping her mother during a power failure in the evenings. Her mother Samoni can cook a dish or two extra easily after sunset because of better visibility while cooking during a power failure. “My mother cooked only one dish along with rice or roti at night during a blackout because cooking with a dim kerosene lamp was difficult for her. Power outage is a common thing here during summers and rainy seasons. Also, earlier my mother used to hurry through cooking dinner at night while holding the kerosene lamp in one hand while cooking. Sometimes a drop of kerosene from the leaking lamp would fall into the food making the food smell and taste of kerosene. She uses the solar lantern during power cuts by keeping it on the shelf. It makes cooking convenient for my mother as she need not hurry, and there is light while cooking our dinner. The food tastes good,” says Jusini Roita, elder daughter of Samoni.   

As part of Vibha, every household with two school-going children gets two solar lanterns. The project prioritises 250 households with girl children. 

Gram Vikas implements the SBI Foundation-supported project to distribute 500 lanterns and 100 home lighting systems, benefiting 272 households in 38 hamlets. SBI Foundation supports the project to transform education & livelihood outcomes for children and village communities in Kalahandi & Gajapati districts.

Solar lanterns have been helpful for Jalanti to do her household chores during power cuts.

Photograph by Aruna Kumar Sahu

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Aruna Kumar Sahu, a Thematic Coordinator in Water, helped collect data for the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.

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