Cantika Marlangen
Monday, February 16, 2015 - 23:42

By Çantika Marlangen
Senior Analyst

The Local Link to The Last Mile

Have you ever been to India?

I’ve never been there, so I don’t know whether there really are as many elephants as I imagine. I do know, however, that the Baiga tribe lives in the remote jungle of Balaghat, in India’s Madhya Pradesh province, and they will not plow their land as they believe this hurts Mother Earth.

How do I know this? Because I work at Kopernik! Currently my team of three is managing 52 projects in 15 countries connecting simple technologies with last mile communities to reduce poverty.

How do I do this from Kopernik HQ in Ubud? I rely on Kopernik’s awesome local partners.

WHY WE WORK WITH LOCAL PARTNERS

Kopernik takes a demand-driven approach to designing and implementing projects, working with local partners located in the last mile communities where the projects take place. The local partner approaches Kopernik with their project idea, assesses the need, and chooses which technology is most appropriate for their community. Kopernik brings expertise in crowdfunding, technology adoption, logistics and social enterprise to the relationship, and provides guidance on sales strategies and financial management. But it is only with a trusted partner who already has a presence in the community that we can successfully serve their needs.

SPOTLIGHT ON A LOCAL PARTNER HERO

Our local partners are doing amazing work, often with little recognition, so I wanted to shine a light on one partner in particular: CDC Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, India. CDC Balaghat approached us because they were concerned about the use of kerosene lamps among the Baiga tribespeople they work with. In the Balaghat forest circle there is no electricity and kerosene is expensive and difficult to obtain. Tribal farmers often collect wood to burn for light when they cannot afford kerosene, but this is putting pressure on forest resources. CDC Balaghat thought that solar lanterns could offer a sustainable lighting solution.

The Baiga people are subsistence farmers with very little income. CDC Balaghat proposed an instalment system where the people could pay for the solar lights over time, allowing them to gain access to sustainable lighting solution fueled freely by the sun.

CDC Balaghat works with the Baiga tribe, because:

“… THEY ARE PEOPLE THAT WE MUST PRIORITISE. THEY ARE EXTREMELY POOR. WE CAN TEACH THEM HOW TO SAVE MONEY BY PROVIDING THEM WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO BUY A SOLAR LIGHT, WHICH REDUCES THEIR SPENDING ON KEROSENE OR THEIR PRESSURE ON THE FOREST RESOURCES.”

CHAMPIONING CHANGE

Our local partners have their work cut out for them. They work to encourage positive change in their communities by introducing new technologies. This is not always easy, but the proof of their success is in the sales. Kopernik doesn’t give technologies away for free (except in emergency response situations, and when working with schools and health clinics). If the community members don’t think the technology is useful and worth their hard-earned money, they simply won’t buy it.

Although I’ve never been to India, I do hope to be able to go there one day to meet our local partners for myself, and see firsthand how simple technologies are changing lives in the communities they serve. And maybe I will even see some elephants while I am there!