Mumbai-based Chirag Rural Development Foundation was awarded the Best NGO for Rural Development for 2023 for their impactful work in Integrated Rural Development pivoted on the use of Solar Power. The foundation provides sensor-based solar street lights, and school electrification where solar packs and mini-grids help power lights, fans, and equipment to enable e-learning in small and large rural schools.
“When we used to take urban children to visit rural areas, they used to come up with innovative solutions to their problems. That was the point when I decided to do something for the rural community. The first village was Ujjaini where we were able to give electricity through solar-powered lights in 110 houses and were able to replace kerosene lamps. We also were able to install solar-powered street lights,” said Pratibha Pai, the founder of Chirag.
Over the years, the NGO has installed solar-powered water filtration at rural schools to provide access to clean and pure drinking water. They also provided solar-powered water heating systems in Ashramshalas or rural boarding schools that require hot water facilities like in Vikramgadh and Assam.
Mumbai-based Chirag Rural Development Foundation was awarded the Best NGO for Rural Development for 2023 |
“Solar-powered water lifting allows for easy access to clean and pure drinking water for rural people. Solar-powered water lifting brings water supply to toilets. Their solar-powered lift irrigation allowed solar-powered pumps to pull water from water sources for agricultural use,” she explains.
Apart from providing basic facilities like electricity to the locals and children in school, Chirag has also set up skill enhancement programmes like conversational English and computer learning for the underprivileged youth in the slums of South Mumbai. The project is called the ‘BhavishyaYaan’ Program. The foundation is also working toward educating girls and women about menstrual hygiene. “We have also established a community livelihood centre for developing skills in rural women,” says Pratibha.
When asked about funding the programs and the vision of the NGO at a large scale may play a challenge, she responds that the NGO has enough donors for the cause. “Our actions speak louder. Many donors approach us to contribute to the cause we work toward. Our work has always been appreciated," says Pratibha.
Besides their solar energy work, the NGO is also helping farmers learn mushroom farming in Mandva village in Gujarat. “Mushrooms are a rich source of proteins and the foundation has also provided farmers with solar dryers to dehydrate oyster mushrooms. We are also focusing on horticulture so that farmers could get nutritious food by growing organic vegetables and fruits in their backyards,” she shares.
In the coming years, the Chirag Foundation will focus on making more rural areas self-sufficient and sustainable in addition to the education and empowerment of girl children. As of now, the NGO is helping schools with learning aids and nutrition training in Talegaon. Soon, the schools will have a mobile library and a mobile computer class.