Occupation: Salt Farmer
Location: Junakuda, Dhangadhra block, Surendranagar District, Gujarat
Family Size: 7
Bhavnaben's story: Bhavnaben Mangabhai was born and brought up in the Nauradi village in a family of ten brothers and four sisters. Her parents were involved in salt farming, which has been the traditional occupation since her forefathers. Her family’s only assets were two bullocks. Though her family was working very hard in harsh weather, still they were so poor that sometimes they did not have enough food to eat more than once a day. Ms. Mangabhai did not go to school due to poverty and societal and familial restrictions. It was also common in her village to skip education for daughters. Instead, she worked with her parents in the salt farm from a young age. At the age of 13, she married Mangabhai of Junakuda village. Her in-laws were also engaged in salt farming. She now lives with her husband, three daughters, and two sons. She is a full time salt farmer along with her husband, and they are away working on the saltpans in the desert for 8 months from October to May each year. During the other four months, she works as an agricultural laborer from 7 in the morning until 2 pm in the jowar fields earning $1.62 each day. Apart from these activities, Bhavnaben also sells products like chilli, turmeric and bajra in her village and work place, earning 7% commission on the sales, which helps provide year round employment and food security. Bhavnaben does not have a clean cook stove, so she must cook using expensive fuels that produce harmful indoor air pollution. With a small investment of $25 you can join GFI in providing a clean cook stove to salt farmers like Bhavnaben, and allow them to save money on fuel costs and reduce health risks from indoor air pollution.
For 8 months a year Bhavnaben Mangabhai earns her living working in India’s salt flats, a difficult job under any circumstances, but in India it is most often a job where predatory middleman provide essential equipment and the working conditions on the sun baked and isolated salt pans is severe. For the close to one million workers, mostly women and adolescent girls, who work in India’s salt flats, there are few alternatives to earn a living, but through a partnership between GFI and the Self Employed Women’s Association a new opportunity is being created to make work in India’s salt flats better, safer and more prosperous for women and girls across the region. One part of GFI’s SWEEP program is the creation of better working and living conditions for workers and their families in the salt flats, and a basic part of this goal is limiting the harmful indoor air pollution created by cooking in the small dwellings that house workers and their families during the salt harvest season. To address this GFI plans to provide access to cleaner and more fuel efficient cook stoves to families throughout India’s salt producing regions and create healthier living conditions for workers and their families who join them in the salt flats. With a small investment of $25 you can join us in significantly improving the lives of salt workers and their families and making one of the most difficult jobs in the world notably better.
The Salt Workers Economic Empowerment Program (SWEEP) is a collaborative project of the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) designed to improve economic opportunity and empowerment for women salt farmers and introduce environmentally sustainable energy solutions to lower production costs so that the poor too can benefit from “green technology.” Capitalizing on sustainable technology and production methods, improved links to high- value markets and greater local control of energy costs, SWEEP gives women salt producers the tools, access and voice to better realize profits and maximize their personal and community livelihood goals.
Drawing on SEWA’s successful capacity building work with the Surendranagar’s women salt farmers, the SWEEP project takes an important step forward by introducing environmentally sustainable energy technology to replace the existing diesel system and opening additional market opportunities as well as greater ownership over the production value-chain. The key underlying goal is to improve livelihoods and empower 30,000 woman farmers to profit from the product and the production process of their salt businesses. Through SWEEP, salt farmers retain profits and increase livelihood opportunities by replacing expensive diesel fuel costs with renewable, locally owner power alternatives built around environmentally sustainable energy solutions deployed at a large. Introducing a local ownership model also may also allow salt communities to leverage surplus power production and realize additional profits from distribution of power through community based or modular utilities.