Laya makes a difference in empowering marginalized communities

Alternative Energy and Climate Change

Decentralized Energy Clusters

A cluster comprises a set of appropriate alternative energy technologies and adaptation practices in geographically contiguous villages. Two clusters were established at Pathakota, Y. Ramavaram Mandal, East Godavari District and Bonjangi, Paderu Mandal, Visakhapatnam District. Also a relatively new cluster was initiated in Munagalapudi, Y. Ramavaram Mandal, East Godavari District.

Pathakota cluster:

Pathakota cluster comprises 19 villages and 650 households inhabited mainly by the Konda Reddi and few others: Valmiki, Konda Kammara, Konda Dora, Koya Dora as well as adivasi immigrants (Porja) from Orissa. It is situated at an altitude ranging from 1800 to 2500 feet from Mean Sea Level (MSL) and receives about 1200-1400 mm of rain per annum. It is a hilly region with gentle slopes, with a reasonably good forest cover. Shifting cultivation is practiced in the middle part of the hills. The average land holding per household is as high as 6 acres.

A micro hydro of 6 kilowatts servicing 70 families in 2 villages, Rachmetta and Pathakota (Konda Reddi and Valmiki hamlets) was constructed. Besides, 650 Solar Lanterns and Energy Efficient Woodstoves service 22 villages in the Pathakota Panchayat. These initiatives have succeeded in bringing greater access to lighting and other basic energy needs. The energy efficient woodstoves have reduced the health related threats to women besides reducing their drudgery in carrying large amounts of wood from long distances.

Given the increasing vulnerability to climatic changes, adaptive measures were introduced with a main focus on low water intensive crops like System of Rice Intensification (SRI), low carbon farming techniques, rain water harvesting, soil moisture conservation measures, improved varieties of seeds with low input suitable to a High Altitude Tribal Zone (rain- fed condition, short duration and pest resistance varieties), mixed crops, agro forestry, horticulture and vegetables cultivation relevant to Pathakota Cluster.

Bonjangi cluster:

Bonjangi cluster comprises 15 villages with 608 households inhabited by Bhagatha, Khond, Valmiki and Gouda communities. It rests at an altitude of 3000-4000 feet MSL consisting of steep hilly slopes, degraded forests and soils with relatively low crop yields but with reasonably good crop diversity. The average landholding here, unlike Pathakota, is 3 acres per household.

The Bonjangi cluster essentially involved the construction of a micro hydro coupled with deployment of solar lanterns and efficient woodstoves in adjacent areas. The micro hydro was constructed at Bonjangi with the contribution of local labour. It was completed in December 2010 and is functional, producing about 6-7 kilowatts/hour. It outreaches to about 50 households from 2 villages. Moreover, a solar energy hub comprising 120 lanterns in the cluster was facilitated with contributions of Rs. 600 for each lantern from every household.

In relation to the efficient woodstoves, baseline data was collected from five villages in this cluster to understand their present cooking practices, duration of cooking, amount of firewood used, fuelwood collection time, type of stove used and expectations from an improved cooking stove. In a three day training program, 18 adivasi women were imparted skills on Sarala stove building. There was proactive involvement from the community. Male members also equally participated during the stove demonstration. The local women CBO 'Vanaja' based in East Godavari District and 'Vikasini' based in Visakhapatnam District were the master trainers for the program. The master trainers had been trained by the resource agency, Technology Initiative for Development Endeavour (TIDE) who made the stove technology available to us. The construction of 100 energy efficient woodstoves was completed in December 2010.

The adaptive measures undertaken in this cluster included mainly facilitating SRI and homestead development consisting of supply of seeds for turmeric, ginger and maize crops. Organic fertilizers were promoted.

Munagalapudi cluster:

Work at a new cluster at Munagalapudi, Y. Ramavaram Mandal, East Godavari District has been initiated. The cluster consists of a 3.5 kilowatt micro hydro set up at Munagalapudi and the promotion of Solar Lanterns and Energy Efficient Woodstoves (100) in the surrounding villages and new pilot initiatives are envisaged on hydrams, bio-sand filters and solar pumps.

The construction of the micro hydro began in February 2012 and the sites for feasibility studies for hydrams were located. This project will explore options of solar pumps and hydrams as options for access to irrigation and development of water purification units (bio-sand filters) for drinking water needs in this remote adivasi region. In addition it will also explore adaptive mechanisms to ensure food security in a changing climate situation, with initiatives such as homestead farming, kitchen gardens, soil and moisture conservation and introducing the system of rice intensification (SRI).


A micro study was taken up on understanding the role of biofuels from the perspective of the grass roots. We have so far been able to conclude from this study that producing 'biofuels' at the local, small scale level is not viable. However there is significant demand for oil expellers to facilitate edible oil extraction especially of sesame, groundnut, niger, etc., which are cultivated locally. We have procured household level oil expellers for which there was overwhelming response from the community. However, there are limitations in terms of scale and hence less extraction. In this context, we have explored for community based expellers, which are relatively larger in size thereby having a greater extraction capacity. 30 households and 22 village level oil expellers have been deployed at various strategic locations within village communities.

Energy Efficiency at the Institutional Level

The Herbal Community Based Health Care Center, 'Vananatharam' at Addateegala in East Godavari District is powered by solar technology. The 1.5 KW units support computers, lights, fans and other moderate consumption equipment. This has effectively streamlined the working conditions in Vanantharam which otherwise is prone to suffer from erratic and regular power cuts. This intervention also serves as a model for others to see and emulate.

The Laya Resource Center at Visakhapatnam is also largely powered by solar panels. Energy saving fans and lights will be instituted. The solar system will support about 70% of our electricity requirements including computer usage.

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