Ms. Hasina Begum, aged 30, is from Kalikapur village in the south-western coastal Satkhira district of Bangladesh. This area is prone to climate change and extreme climatic events such as salinity, sea level rise and cyclones. She is a widow and very poor, with no one earning in her family. She lost her husband two years ago and has two children, a girl studying in class VI and a son studying in class III in the local school.
Because of her economic conditions, Hasina was selected, along with 19 others in four local villages, for the support of a Solar Home System (SHS) at her house by the Climate Change Adaptation project of Practical Action Bangladesh with support from Asian Development Bank.
Kalikapur is known as ‘poultry village’, and the use of SHS is common. Over two years from 2010 to 2012 there has been a tremendous increase of coverage of SHS in the village with support from different NGOs. SHS is becoming popular in off-grid areas, where there is no electricity. However, the people in grid areas have been accessing electricity services thanks to a high government subsidy. So, SHS is comparatively expensive for the extreme poor.
After the problem of ‘bird flu’ in the last year, poultry raising significantly decreased in the area. The only entrepreneur of the village gives work of karchupi (hand sewing on dresses) to the village women. Hasina receives some work which helps her maintain her family to some extent.
Hasina received a SHS in April 2012. The system included one 12 volt battery, one solar panel, two bulbs and a control meter along with wire, switch board and other relevant equipment. Her children’s interest in studying has greatly increased, since the SHS provides more light and is more convenient than traditional kerosene. The children now study even after dinner.
Hasina herself also has been able to increase her work capacity by carrying on working at night, when work remains that she could not perform in the day-time because of household work. Earlier, she could work only in the day-time.
So, the SHS has created the opportunity of work for longer hours, especially, at night in solar light and the scope of earning a higher income. Hasina receives wages for karchupi work on each dress amounting Tk.200-400 (£1.70 – £3.40). The wage varies based on the amount of work on the dress. SHS has increased her work speed and almost doubled her working hours. She informed us that she can perform her work in six days now, which would have required 12 days earlier prior to the installation of SHS. She is happy with the lighting system. Beside longer working scope and income earning aspects, it has increased her security, since the solar lights lighten the entire room and around about as well as encouraging her children to study. Before, she felt insecure in the dark of the night as she lives alone with her two young children. Having a SHS at home is considered to improve social status as well, in the rural context.
This Solar Home System has brought multiple benefits to Hasina and her family – she has the opportunity to work for longer, she can earn a higher income, her children can study and her security and social status have improved.
S.M. Alauddin has worked as a development researcher and policy advocacy professional for 20 years. He graduated with Masters in Sociology in 1987 and Masters in Development Studies in 2008. Currently he leads the Research and Advocacy Unit of Practical Action, Bangladesh. He has worked for Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Caritas, ICDDR’B, UNDP, Danida, World Bank and various government initiatives in Bangladesh. His areas of expertise include disaster risk reduction; climate change adaptation; natural resource management; water and sanitation; rural power structures; micro-credit; food security and social development. He has conducted 50 research studies and produced over 23 publications.