BW LPG powers us on towards rural Resilience

BW LPG powers us on towards rural Resilience

Covid brought with it, an unprecedented threat exposing the vulnerabilities of the current healthcare and livelihood systems particularly in rural India. COVID inspired our initiatives in healthcare, and accelerated our initiatives in Livelihoods… We are proud to share that BW LPG joined hands with us to power them both! Partnering with BW LPG gives us the momentum to seize the unprecedented opportunity COVID presents us to create and establish long term, systemic solutions for Healthcare, and Livelihoods.

Healthcare Context: COVID has made it extremely difficult for the rural population with health problems other than COVID to access hospitals or any other healthcare centers either due to the fear of infection, or because the facilities are clogged with COVID patients. We wish to take definitive initial steps in the direction of providing them access to good healthcare services.

A medical camp organised at ProtoVillage pre-covid times

We plan to prototype a rural healthcare solution for a cluster of 50 villages, that can eventually be replicated in collaboration with the district administration. The focus is on building local capacities for healthcare services.

This solution has the following components:

The first step is to create digital health profiles (DHPs) of the villagers in the 50 villages, in a format prescribed by the apex health body of the govt. This will give us a clear picture of the types of health problems most prevalent in each cluster of villages. This documentation will be the core of the hybrid tele-medicine solution.

Our trained nurse will travel in a mobile clinic across the 50 villages, organising tele-medicine camps each week in a different Panchayat (50 villages ~ 10 panchayats). Based on the DHPs of the villagers in given panchayat, the hybrid tele-medicine system will connect the villagers to qualified doctors with the most appropriate specialisations, thus taking quality healthcare right to the rural homes.

Besides this, a key component of the solution is to create a healthcare hub for the 50 villages – around which the hybrid tele-medicine and the mobile clinic operate. This space will be set-up in ProtoVillage, and will host villagers for regularly scheduled medical camps with qualified and highly experienced doctors. This hub will also offer naturopathy based healthcare services and training to the villagers on an on-going basis, that will empower them with the skills to practice preventive healthcare right in their villages.

Though the system is being built during the current pandemic times, it will assume even more significance in the post COVID days because it will lead to the prototype of tele-medicine facility for the villages.

In addition to this, we are super excited about not only building an oxygen concentrator from scratch using a globally popular open-source design (www.oxikit.com), but also training enthusiastic youth in the villages to build the same. This will help us add oxygen capacity very quickly in times of sudden need in the villages. This design has been validated by several groups within India, including Tata Consulting Engineers (From Page 18 in the attached document: https://www.tce.co.in/wpcontent/uploads/2021/05/O2-Concentrator.pdf), and works flawlessly providing the much-needed succour. While a commercial 10 Litre per minute Oxygen concentrator costs over INR 100,000, the concentrators that are based on this design cost around INR 45,000 for a 20 Litre per minute Oxygen concentrator i.e., twice the capacity at one-third the price.

Livelihood Context: COVID pandemic severely affected the livelihood prospects for the rural people, particularly in a drought prone arid region such as Anantapur district. The men and the younger women in the villages who migrated out of the villages in search of greener pastures, were forced to return to their villages with a conundrum – heavy sense of insecurity about life outside the villages on one hand, and lack of opportunities within their villages on the other. Given this context, the situation is dire and there is an onset of desperation across the villages.

Solution: Over the last 4 years, we have been prototyping within ProtoVillage, a comprehensive design for the rural economic system that is good for the villagers, good for the villages, good for the customers, and above all, good for the environment. The design is robust, and is called Graameena Aarthika Mandali (Graamam for short). Going beyond the popular objectives of empowering rural women to be employable, Graamam aims to empower the rural women to be entrepreneurs. All this within the boundaries of their respective villages. At its core, Graamam is a network of rural women entrepreneurs who commit themselves to challenge their circumstances and make their families and communities Resilient.

This needs us to not only continue to micro-prototype appropriate enterprises based on the principles of Graamam, but also to augment our R&D, training and marketing capacities to the next level, so that we have a comprehensive prototype of a rural economic system, and not just bunch of enterprises.

Therefore, besides the existing spaces for micro-enterprises, the workings of the Graamam system can be comprehensively showcased over an organised 4000 sq ft space, that can house our R&D, training, Quality control and marketing facilities. Our near term aspiration with this space is to be able to train 9000 women from 100 villages by 2024. The whole idea of prototyping is to design for replication if found effective, and keep refining till it’s effective…

We are initiating the network of rural women entrepreneurs with enterprises in the food category, and eventually plan to extend it to the other two categories (Personal Care and Home Care).

About 10 years ago, we started ProtoVillage to deliberately work on long term, intentional, systemic transformation, resisting the temptations for instant gratification based metrics, choosing to pursue what’s right and meaningful over what’s easy and immediately achievable. We are immensely happy and deeply thrilled to have found in BW LPG, a partner with a vision beyond the horizon, the shared dream of a happy world, and a deep commitment to make it real.

The tone of the post is deliberately definitive future tense, because it’s such partnerships that make the space for us to hold and nurture our vision and find the courage to stay the course. Thank you BW!

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