29 March-4 April 2013 #649

From darkness to light

Solar lights are changing the quality of women’s lives for better
Sabita Shrestha In Chitwan,

Sita Adhikari from Bachauli VDC in Sauraha has cemented her name as a solar entrepreneur scaling up the use of solar power in Chitwan, one hut at a time. In the last two years, through her company Kalpavriksha Greater Goods (KGG) in Sauraha, she has sold around 1000 solar lights and mobile charging systems mostly to working class families in the area. The newly minted entrepreneur stands as a shining example of social mobility in areas outside the Valley.

FULL OF ENERGY: Sita Adhika is a solar entrepeneur in Chitwan.
While working at a women’s cooperative in Sauraha, the 38-year old economics graduate realised that women suffered the most in the absence of reliable lighting systems. “Despite being energy managers at home, women endure the difficulties of working in the dark,” says Sita.

Selling solar lights is part of a larger initiative of KGG’s that aims to provide women with clean and affordable lighting to produce goods, and connects them to a market where they can sell their produce and earn profits. Supported by Empower Generation (EG), a social enterprise that supports women led clean energy businesses in Nepal, Sita began Kalpavriksha with an initial investment of rupees four hundred thousand.

The showroom in Sauraha now sells solar lights, mobile charging systems as well as local handicrafts. Says Sita: “Solar lights are a blessing for hundreds of women involved in small and cottage industries who can now utilise their spare time in the evening honing their craft.”

Sita has been selling the affordable D.Light solar lights from India that cost less than rupees thousand with easy payment system. Three cooperatives in Chitwan have now tied up with KGG to provide micro credit to buy solar lights without burdening the families. KGG also employs two women in Sauraha and has a network of seven female agents selling these solar lights in various districts.

In her study, Sita found that solar was cheaper and better than kerosene lamps and candles. “Lower income families in Chitwan spend rupees 200-600 monthly on kerosene, batteries and candles for lighting,” says Sita, “investing two months’ budget set aside for kerosene and batteries in solar powered lights will last them at least two years.” According to her these sturdy lights can last up to ten hours after being charged in the sun for five hours, and provide better quality lighting.

Sita decided to work with Empower Generation as Country Director for Nepal, to give women in other districts the opportunity to start their own clean energy businesses. Along with the rest of the EG team, she conducted a lighting needs assessment in Bardiya’s villages. “The batteries used in emergency lights were polluting the village while the kerosene lamps used in small huts posed a risk of burning down the huts and the settlement area as well,” says Sita. She then helped to start two more women-led clean energy enterprises; Tri Urja in Bardiya and Grameen Urja in Siraha, while she continues to expand KGG’s presence all over Nepal. Says Sita: “I want to make solar lights accessible to everyone across all 75 districts helping people get out of darkness.”

Contact Sita@empowergeneration.org to become part of Empower Generation's growing network of clean energy women entrepreneurs.