Occupation: Salt Farmer
Location: Jogad, Hadvad block, Surendranagar District, Gujarat
Family Size: 5
Dipuben's story: Dipuben Harilal was brought up in the saltpan. She remembers working in the saltpan long back when she started helping her parents. She spent her childhood and youth in the extreme weather conditions of the saltpan desert, where the days are very hot and the nights are very cold. Her entire life has been spent in the deep, dry and isolated desert, working day and night. She has to work for 8 months in open desert with scorching heat on her head and burning legs pushing the saltpan and pumping out brine from the ground to dry it in the sun. She says, “All salt pan workers have the same life as mine.” They don’t have lights in the desert, so when the dusk starts falling rapidly around 7pm, they had to light oil lamps to complete routine household chores after just coming in from the saltpan. In that dim light, they cooked food and ate every day. Wild animals also threaten saltpan workers. Children are so afraid of them that saltpan workers must keep light on throughout the night for safety. Dipuben used a ration card to buy 7 liters of kerosene on a concessional rate; the entire 7 liters of kerosene was used in the oil lamp, which costs 150 to 200 Indian Rupees a month. During a previous BeFair campaign, GFI provided 6,200 solar lanterns to salt farmers like Dipuben. These lanterns have allowed the salt farmers to save 19,500 to 24,375 Indian Rupees per season, while also allowing the workers to reduce pollution and benefit from a more consistent and safe source of light. By joining GFI in this year’s BeFair campaign, you can provide a similar impact to India’s saltpan workers. Salt farmers like Dipuben still cook using ‘dirty’ stoves that require expensive fuel and 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 Dipuben Harilal 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.