When Mrida and IL&FS first visited TahTajpur, a tiny village in Bareilly District in 2014, 78% of its households relied on kerosene for lighting. After 3 solar micro grids were installed, more than 50% of the village experienced electricity and energy access for the first time.
Open defecation was a major challenge in this village, as only 30% households had their own toilet. Mrida and IL&FS worked together to install 40 toilets, and villagers contributed a token amount towards their installation and maintenance. Training workshops were conducted to create awareness and ensure proper utilization.
As part of its core philosophy of using energy access as a tool for holistic development, Mrida also provided consulting and execution of end-to-end solutions to IL&FS for an integrated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative – the“IL&FS MPowered Village Program”covering education, agriculture, skill development, livelihood and women’s empowerment initiatives.
The initiatives undertaken by IL&FS and Mrida in TahTajpur triggered the attention of the state government and the local political leadership, facilitating the advent of a host of other development activities – roads, street lights, drainage facilities and so on. Subsequent grid extension also minimized the need for the solar micro grids.
However, since the MPowered Village initiative involved a range of other activities, IL&FS and Mrida continue to engage with the village, and received requests for development interventions coming from other villages in the vicinity as well, such as Faridapur Inayat Khan, Kishanpur and Urla Jagir. Some of these interventions include:
Mrida teamed up with the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Agriculture Knowledge Resource Centre) to provide a range of agriculture enhancement activities aimed at increasing household incomes. Initiatives such as soil testing, farmer consultation, bee keeping, mushroom and vegetable cultivation, and agricultural yield improvement are being undertaken; likewise, farmers are being provided support on market linkages and related activities. Over time, the objective is to increase the scope to include activities such as facilitating improved access to useable ground water, drip irrigation techniques, creation of Farmer Producer Organizations, and so on.
Stitching & Entrepreneurship
Stitching classes have been an excellent way to reach womenfolk in the villages, while also serving to mobilize the entire community and establish credibility. As a starting point (often by allocating VDC funds collected from the villagers themselves), trained professionals teach groups of interested women preliminary stitching skills – machine operation, cloth cutting, and basic designs. After six months of the practical-cum-theoretical program, many of them express interest in participating in more advanced training programs to achieve more refined skills and expertise. As a result of such initiatives, there is a pool of skilled womenfolk who are able to cater to their own household sewing and stitching needs, and moreover, now also possess a skill that they may profit from.
In general, the entire process not only provides them with skills, but also increases their confidence level as they engage with outsiders. Some trainees have also become entrepreneurs, and have set up their own ‘Rajlakshmi Stitching Centre’ in Village TahTajpur – an example that IL&FS and Mrida are proud of, and which aptly illustrates the Virtuous Circle in practice. This centre caters to the requirements of TahTajpur, Faridapur and other villages in vicinity, completing orders from households, offices, schools and more. We support such entrepreneurially minded woman in villages by connecting them to an even wider consumer base – corporate customers, community retailers and so on.