Update: Power for Padarwadi, and Beyond
The news is good from Padarwadi, but there have been some difficult times, too.
It’s been more than two years since the tiny village in India, accessible only by foot, received a generator converted by engineers at Cummins India to run on oil from a local seed.
The generator powered a small mill to husk the rice that village residents grew so they didn’t have to make hundreds of trips to the nearest town. That town is more than seven miles away round-trip, through mountainous terrain.
The project was honored in Cummins 2010 Environmental Challenge. The arduous journey with the heavy generator down a rocky mountain path was captured in a video that won first place in the Boston College Corporate Responsibility Film Festival the following year.
Unfortunately, just when things were going so well, Padarwadi was hit by heavy rains and wind that same year and the shelter that housed the generator was destroyed.
But that’s not the end of this story. Cummins India employees decided to use the $10,000 grant they won in the Company’s Environmental Challenge to help the village build a permanent brick shelter.
The villagers in Padarwadi still trek into town today, but for a much different purpose. Thanks to the new generator, they are selling hulled rice, rick husks and oil and cake from harvesting and milling Pongomia seeds. The oil and can be used for medicinal purposes and the cake can be used as fertilizer.
This has resulted in significantly more revenue that’s helping to improve the quality of life in the village.
Employees from Cummins’ Distribution Business Unit have been maintaining the equipment at no cost to the village. To help sustain this work, Cummins India has been working with a local non-governmental organization (NGO) to teach the village residents to perform routine maintenance and minor repairs.
The NGO is also working with village leaders to establish a contingency fund to pay for repairs and replacement of the equipment and parts.
The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.4 billion people in the world lack access to electricity, 85 percent of whom live in rural areas like Padarwadi. This energy poverty is a significant impediment to achieving basic levels of education, health care, and economic wellbeing.
Hoping to build on the success achieved in Padarwadi, Cummins is seeking to leverage its resources, global presence, talents and values to help develop solutions to the energy poverty problem and attend to the needs of underserved rural communities.
Cummins is currently exploring partnering with innovative power producers that work with underserved, non-electrified rural communities in India and sub-Saharan Africa. The focus will be on identifying partners that share the goal of bringing power to these rural communities in a sustainable manner to develop economic opportunities for local communities.
Cummins may be able to assist its partners in technology validation, technical training, impact assessments, identification of income-generating opportunities, and access to financing.
Rural Electrification: Guiding principles
Here’s a quick look at Cummins’ guiding principles for its rural electrification program:
Customer focus: Any project is driven by the needs of the customer who is treated as a vested partner, actively involved and consulted throughout the process.
Income generation: Electricity is used by the customer to generate income so as to increase economic wealth and living standards.
Capacity building: Necessary education and training will be provided to customers to ensure that electricity is used in a manner that is financially and environmentally responsible, and to create ownership of the project.
Sustainability: Every reasonable effort should be taken to ensure that any project is sustained after Cummins exits; Income-generation, customer focus and capacity building are key success factors.
Learning and employee engagement: A project should provide meaningful opportunities for Cummins to validate and refine its rural electrification framework, gain knowledge that can be applied to the business and/or enable Company employees to utilize their knowledge and skills.
Scalability: Projects should have potential for scalability where results achieved can be leveraged to replicate similar projects elsewhere.
The Company is technology neutral on rural electrification. Improving the quality of life for others through access to electricity is our objective and Cummins is open to all viable technologies that can help achieve that goal.