Profile: Avani

Avani is a non- governmental voluntary organization which follows a community based model and primarily works to bring solar energy to rural areas, produce electricity and charcoal from pine needles and produce handmade naturally dyed silk and woollen textiles. Set up in 1997 (and formally registered in 1999) as the Kumaon Chapter of The Social Work and Research Centre, now known as the Barefoot College which focuses on capacity building of the rural communities to make them sustainable, Avani has come a long way.

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The isolation and the subsequent problems of one of the world’s highest mountain ranges brought in the idea for Avani. Our organization works on conservation rather than distribution, on development and dissemination of appropriate technologies to generate employment in a sustainable way. Awarded with the Uttarakhand Annual Green Award, we seek to promote self-reliance through sustainable energy and water sources, handmade naturally dyed textiles and generate employment and enhance rural income. 

Sustainable Energy

Uttarakhand is home to more than 340,000 hectares of pine forests and these pine needles are highly inflammable, even a half burn beedi carelessly thrown by a villager is enough to create a forest fire! After repeated trials, Rajnish Jain, the man behind this idea, came up with a plant that generates 9 kilowatt of electricity. It has become a sort of an employment generation as villagers are engaged in pine collection which also ensures that forest fires are prevented. The charcoal that emerges as a by-product is used as cooking fuel. 

The innovation has attracted many investors like Acumen Fund and Mahindra & Mahindra. AVANI Bio Energy seeks to provide electricity to more than 10 villages by setting up a 120 kilowatt plant in Chachret village in Pithoragarh. Renewable and solar energy devises have been introduced in some 2500 rural homes, including 25 villages that are now 100% solar users. Solar powered spinning wheels have been installed in unelectrified villages for home use in the villages to increase productivity.

Natural Dyes and Other Products

Since 1999, Avani has decided to revive the skill of natural dyeing through intensive training and experimentation with the integration of eco-friendly technologies that promote a zero waste approach and have a low carbon footprint. Water, a scarce resource here in the Himalayas, is conserved through rain water harvesting and used for natural dyeing, filtered and recycled through Canna plants and is then used for irrigation purposes. Natural plant products are used to create natural dyes and the cultivation of these trees are promoted. Indigo is not known to grow in Uttarakhand but with Avani’s initiative with the local farmers, there has been an extensive indigo cultivation in the region. The men and women of the Shaukas and the Bora Kuthalia communities are engaged in this work to enhance rural income through a revitalization of the traditional craft of hand-weaving, spinning and dyeing by localization and replacing synthetic chemicals. We have also built a rural business and introduced modern raw materials and have produced a range of contemporary products which are naturally dyed and hand made and are relevant in today’s markets.

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