There is an urgent need to create mechanisms to empower widows in Yavatmal and Vidarbha, and give them the support they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. However, such initiatives are rare. One of the few such projects for the welfare of the helpless women is run by Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and its sister organization Sampada Trust.
Energy, Development and Climate Change: Striking a Balance
The paper, “Energy, Development and Climate Change: Striking a Balance”, examines the energy scenario – availability, access, influence of markets and government policies – in rural India, especially in the areas where WOTR has been working. It highlights the successful partnership between local communities, with their innate grounded wisdom and local knowledge, and modern researchers and scientists willing to position their learning and experience on community science. It roots for a positioning and policy framework that broadens the scope of work from cooking fuel and lighting, to energy needs for irrigation, for trade, business, manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation and construction.
- Whenever we discuss rural energy needs, we tend to limit our discourse to subsistence levels for cooking fuel and lighting; and rarely ever include energy for livelihoods, mobility or infrastructure. Moreover, even this infrequent discourse does not envision a fulfilling life of comfortable dignity and well-being.
- In charting out a developmental pathway which is ecologically sustainable, India has a wider spectrum of choices precisely because it is at an early stage of development.
- Adaptation and mitigation go hand-in-hand and cannot really be separated. As communities adapt to the degraded natural resource base and chart out a development pathway that is ecologically sustainable, the resulting scenario is what we call mitigation through adaptation.
- Our experience of over 20 years of rural development work has thrown up various insights and perspectives from the grassroots. Critical amongst these are:
- Opportunities exist for enhancing energy efficiency in all sectors.
- A focus on research & development and immediate tangible benefits are key to community acceptance – product development often falls short of quality, service and user friendliness, especially in rural markets.
- Post-project management is essential to ensure sustainability. Building capacities of communities to handle new products and motivating them towards their continued maintenance and up-gradation is very critical
- Tools and methodologies to enable a bottom-up process of planning that would integrate (i) local knowledge, wisdom and good practices existing within eco-system based communities, and (ii) modern science, technology that incorporates local wisdom, are essential.
- Access to energy should be recognized as a universal right, to be enabled by all governments and the global community. Based on this philosophy, as well as insights from field experiences and the application of our participatory tools and methodologies, WOTR has included in its mandate the following four action areas:
- Decentralized energy systems
- Improving efficiency and incentivizing energy savings
- Research and Development
- Policy advocacy
These action areas and a set of policy recommendations arising out of them are discussed in more detail in this paper.