A Future for India within its GRASP

Grass Roots Action for Social Participation (GRASP), Aurangabad (Maharashtra State, India) is a voluntary organisation working for sustainable development of the rural poor through community empowerment and natural resources management with a scientific outlook.

A traditional clay stove, used in rural India

Working in drought-prone areas of rural India, GRASP aims to educate local farmers and the community in sustainable development methods. It hopes to do so with as little negative impact on the environment as possible.

GRASP is the brain-child of social entrepreneur Yughandhar Madhavkhar, a native of the state of Maharashtra in western India.

Speaking to Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) team in 2009, Mr. Madhavkhar explained one of the newest developments from GRASP – a fuel efficient stove. Due to sharp increases in the rural population, local resources such as firewood and trees are dwindling.

Communities which use this stove have noticed that their fuel and wood consumption has halved after adopting this eco-friendly option.

The idea of teaching the community how to use their land well, harvest rain water and manage natural resources in a sustainable way has meant that GRASP is giving locals the tools to take charge of their own future.

By setting up small groups within the community and empowering women through self-help groups, GRASP hopes to improve the community. These stoves can be bought on a hire-purchase basis or on the basis of credit.

Wood stoves are slowly being replaced by GRASP's fuel-efficient stoves

This is not a new idea – Muhammad Yunus believes that for his micro-credit schemes to be truly effective, loans and income should be given to the women of the village. His belief is that women are more aware of the needs of their families and are better equipped than their partners to provide for them.

In a GRASP report titled ‘Red Hot Stove is Green!’, plans and hopes for this project are outlined fully. The aim is to introduce these energy efficient stoves in three stages, over a period of a few years.

In spacing out this developmental process, GRASP wants to ensure that these new ideas are integrated fully into the community. This will also make sure that any problems can be solved by GRASP’s teams and the community. Slowly bringing about this shift towards more sustainable consumption also gives the community enough time to get used to any changes – in this way, when GRASP’s projects take hold (sorry), it’s more likely to be a change that sticks.

An energy-efficient stove

In the first stage, these new stoves are promoted as a new and better option to the traditional wood and kerosene stoves used throughout India. This alternative will be pitched as a more affordable choice. Initially, GRASP wants to attract around 300 people per district in rural India.

The second stage involves government cooperation and assistance; here, GRASP reaches out to the community. They want to create self-help groups of women – in essence, a group of individuals who will oversee the production, distribution and financing of this project. Eventually, they will take charge of this project in their own districts. The base of expansion will increase to 20,000 individuals in five different districts and will spread further as the project picks up speed.

The third stage is the most interesting – GRASP wants to provide the community with a chance to learn an extra set of skills by learning to make these stoves, take care of them and make any repairs as necessary. This will reduce project costs and gives local people almost complete control over it all.

Set up in 1992, GRASP’s approach to civil society improvement comes from its fundamental belief that the community should be at the heart of its own changes. Local people should be able to determine their progress. GRASP is here to provide them with the tools, technical and theoretical knowledge and funds necessary. Then, when it is time, complete control is handed back to the village.

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