Some renewable energy innovations have powerful tales to tell that positively impact the lives of rural women folk. These may not grab the headlines like a multi-crore solar or EV project but they too deserve a place in the sun.

Take the case of the solar refrigerator designed by Mumbai-based enterprise, Devidayal, that has been a big hit among women who run small rural enterprises. Thanks to this economical refrigerator and freezer—with a digital display, environment friendly technology and no chlorofluorocarbon emissions—dairy, drinks and other foods no longer spoil in the outfits run by these microentrepreneurs. Besides, they can also store life-saving medicines and vaccines.

In the same league is Haryana-based Dharambir Food Processing which offers entrepreneurs a portable food processer that can be used for herbs, fruits, medicinal plants and even seeds. Designed by farmer and ex-rickshaw puller Dharambir, it has been gaining popularity with women who find it easy to operate, hassle-free and useful to start a business. With a crushing capacity of 200 kg per hour, the machine can be used with solar power when there is no electricity.

Powering livelihoods

It is drudgery free small businesses like the ones above that are being encouraged by the ₹21 crore ‘Powering Livelihoods’ programme run by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Villgro Innovations Foundation. The idea is to help “mainstream clean energy-based solutions in India’s rural economy”. The programme, with a gender thrust, provides capital, technical, and sectoral growth support to social enterprises so that they can deploy and scale clean energy-based livelihood solutions.

Powering Livelihoods recently brought out a report, “Unlocking sustainable livelihood opportunities for rural women: A case study of mainstreaming women in clean energy-powered livelihoods,” that maps the journey and challenges of the programme. It also recommends the way forward to build a world where small, innovative ventures can provide a fillip to microenterprises. These in turn can boost rural incomes and mainstream women in Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE)-powered livelihoods.

Delhi-based Resham Sutra is offering another DRE-based solution—solar-powered integrated production centres to produce yarn and textiles in rural areas. It is handholding women to use its solar innovations for reeling, spinning, twisting and fast processing of silk yarn to make Tassar, Muga and Mulberry silk. A big boon for women micro entrepreneurs.