Powering villages, empowering communities
Development in humanitarian technologies thanks to engineering have been few and far in between in Pakistan. To establish impactful programs and sustainable projects for the underserved communities, the SIGHT group of IEEE Karachi Section recently established a partnership with a nongovernmental organization based in Umerkot, Sindh.
AWARE, or the Association for Water, Applied Education, and Renewable Energy, has been operating in Tharparkar and Umerkot districts since 2003. Their work in the region can be read in more detail at the website: http://aware.org.pk/home. The SIGHT Chapter IEEE Karachi Section sought to develop a partnership with this NGO after their interaction at the All Pakistan Power and Energy Symposium (APPES) in October 2016 in Lahore, and three of their volunteers conducted a site assessment of the potential communities. Check out more detail about the APPES here. Based on the work that it has been doing in the community, the NGO – AWARE – has a good background in local knowledge and context, is cognizant of the challenges that exist on the ground, and facilitates to work toward making the initiatives into sustainable possibilities.
In Umerkot, which is a perennially drought ridden district, there are more than 23,000 villages, and more than 46% people (out of over 700,000) live with less than $1.90 a day. Rural female literacy is less than 10%. These are astounding numbers, even for a developing country like Pakistan, and they speak volumes about the need that exists for energy, education and empowerment. The area sees infrequent farming, and livestock rearing is more common. Women from some communities, however, have a great talent for hand stitched designing. During this assessment visit, possible areas of collaboration between SIGHT Karachi and AWARE seemed to be on energy, education and empowerment: design and installation of solar PV/wind turbine systems for energy access, working to make education a continued possibility in this region, and ensuring the communities are technically and financially sound enough to run and expand on these systems as to their needs.
The Green School Model at Hari Camp boasted 152 students, 95 boys and 57 girls, in two pre-elementary or early childhood classes, and in grades 1 to 5. Most children belong to parents who are in bonded labor, meaning their families work for a local landlord. Sadly, this makes it difficult for these children to attend school throughout the year.
Thanks to a project by some university students, which had a pump powered by PV modules, the community at Revi-ji-dhani enjoyed access to metered groundwater. A small community with about 30 households, and a total of 195 people. Revi-ji-dhani has mostly young demographic, indicating potential for education and the right business ideas and models.
Senhoi, a larger village than Revi-ji-dhani, comprised of about 5,000 people. Fortunate to be connected to the local power grid, Senhoi suffers from power outages that are long and frequent. A potential business model seemed to be working with women for handicrafts.
Volunteers from Karachi returned to their drawing boards with ideas and designs to battle real energy challenges on the ground, help the children attend school, and the men and women to become financially empowered.
You can watch a video on the site assessment visit here.
The team is currently working on design and development of ideas for the project. Our next steps include application for funding, collaboration with our NGO, and onsite work.
Hassaan Idrees, Parkash Lohana, Sarang Shaikh and Murtaza Hanif.