(Koraput District, Odisha - November 6, 2015)

Issues in Energy Access for Social Reproduction: Domestic Cooking

Wide disparity in clean energy access existed between urban and rural regions in the district. Access to LPG in Jeypore Town was reported to be quite good. Of the 18,000 households in Jeypore town, 90 percent have LPG connection. Even in rural areas, it was said that it’s not lack of resources that is the reason for not taking LPG connection. It’s just that they do not see this as a priority and spend the money on other things. Petrol was said to be available at a premium price of Rs.100 for 800 ml within villages and the rural households buy it. Women representatives of self help groups engaged in entrepreneurial activities like vegetable marketing and tamarind processing said that they spend whole days when they go to the forests to collect firewood. They engage in firewood collection at least 3 to 4 times per week. 

Lack of awareness of the economic and health benefit of using LPG for cooking was cited as a major reason for low adoption of LPG in rural areas of Koraput. Shifting to LPG is not only safe but also smart economics for rural households. Awareness generation on the safe use of LPG, the health benefits of using LPG and the time saving due to shifting to clean energy from the cumbersome solid fuels need to be taken up with the rural community for better adoption of clean cooking fuel. The LPG dealer present in the meeting promised to conduct village level camps on safe use of LPG in collaboration with MSSRF and other local NGOs. Another reason cited for low/no adoption was the structure of the rural houses and the kitchens. Kitchens in most of the rural households are designed to suit biomass fuel use. Use of LPG would entail a raised platform inside the kitchen. The rural households would have to redesign their kitchens with raised platforms to be suitable for safe and easy use of LPG. 

Issues in Energy Access for Productive Purpose: Agriculture: There are several schemes to provide lift irrigation and power driven implements for agricultural purpose. Of the target of 600 lift irrigation points to be met by the Agro-Processing Industry in Koraput, 300 has already been distributed. But, none or minimum number of this reaches women farmers as the disbursement criteria of these schemes entails presence of land records in the entitlement seekers name. In Koraput, as in other parts of the country and state, the total number of operational holdings and total area of operational holdings operated by women is a minuscule 4 percent. Moreover, it was said that many of the schemes sanctioned for agriculture in Koraput get diverted to other districts in Odisha.  Representatives of the Farmer Producer Organisation present in the meeting articulated the need for paddy transplanters to relieve the drudgery related to paddy transplanting. Though paddy is controlled by men, transplanting is a women’s job. 

Women generally get excluded from any extension related work of the agriculture as they are not considered as farmers by the Agriculture Department which is reflected in energy issues too. The recent programme, ATMA (Agriculture Technology Management Agency) mandates a 30 percent enrolment of women in these programmes. The training is aimed to build agriculture related decision making skills of women farmers. 

Issues in Energy Access for Productive Purpose: Enterprises: There are government and NGO efforts in promoting enterprises among women through SHGs or women groups. But most of these initiatives provide credit and market support and do not address the question of energy access for enterprise efficiency. Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) supports in enterprise promotion among women SHG groups, but their role is limited to credit and markets. They do not facilitate access to energy.  Harsha Trust, an NGO working in that area is engaged in promoting poultry with the women SHG groups in the region. A women’s poultry cooperative has been formed and Harsha Trust helps in retailing of eggs and hen by this cooperative. They too do not have any programmes designed to facilitate energy access to poultry farmers. 

CSR support in facilitating energy access to women - More than ten cashew processing industries are functioning in the region in which about 80 percent of the employees are women. Women are engaged in skilled and unskilled jobs in the cashew factory. Appeal to the factory owners to take up activities related to energy access facilitation among rural women under their CSR programmes was placed during the deliberation.