In Koraput district, Odisha, lies a remote village called Kanjariguda, home to an Adivasi community of farmers who predominantly grow ragi and rice. The village is so remote that villagers have to walk several kilometres—across forests and mountains—to hull their rice or access basic services such as mobile charging, photocopying, or printing.

In 2019, a women’s self-help group (SHG) established a decentralised rice and millet milling centre in Kanjariguda. This eased the drudgery that came with a lack of access to a mill, for more than 500 rice farmers and 270 ragi farmers. Earlier, they had to spend much more time and money to get basic work done. Now, the income generated by the centre is equally divided amongst the SHG members.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Kanjariguda went into a strict lockdown, alongside other villages in the district. Later, when shops began to open up, the disruptive power cuts and lack of access to diesel (for those reliant on generators) made it difficult to get work done.

So, local nonprofits took it upon themselves to spread news of the functional solar-powered centre to nearby villages. Within a few weeks, people from 17 villages in a 12-15 km radius began coming to the centre for essential services. This increased the mill’s demand and income, helping farmers in these uncertain times.

One of the biggest challenges going forward, for entrepreneurs from poor households and those who are restarting their businesses, will be their ability to take risks. Decentralised livelihood models (driven by sustainable energy) that build on existing local institutions like SHGs allow for risk to be shared, while also benefitting the whole community.

Read the full article about the importance of the solar-powered mill center by Pradyumna Kumar and Pushpa Kumari at India Development Review.