Sustainable Energy and Blacksmiths during COVID-19 | Stories of Resilience

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In the vicinity of Kodiyala for 20-25km, champion blacksmith entrepreneur Lakshman runs his small blacksmithy business from his home. There are very few entrepreneurs who are involved in the blacksmithy craft in the area. Also, with an experience of more than 20 years in the craft, Lakshman is a very well-known entrepreneur in the region, with a good number of farmers coming to him to get their agricultural tools done or repaired. He sources the raw materials for the tools from the town nearby, and quite often, the farmers bring their own raw materials from their abandoned farm equipment which Lakshman turns into useful tools. He has always been very careful about having a good stock of raw materials as sometimes farmers come to him with immediate requirements without bringing raw materials. Adhering to his business etiquette, he has never said no to any of the customers due to his judicious use of raw materials along with a diligent way of working, prompt delivery time, and mastery in the craft which have resulted in him building great trust with the farmers of the region.

However, due to the drudgery involved with the process, especially the necessity to have a constant airflow to keep the fire burning for which Lakshman was using a manual blower which needed constant efforts from another person, he wasn’t able to expand his customer base. But after the solar-powered blower intervention over a year ago, his incomes and overall situations have improved significantly due to the increased efficiency, reduced dependency, and drudgery involved in the process. The solution was installed with a 50W motor after carefully assessing the types of tools that he needs to create, which was financed by SKDRDP after designing it to suit his cashflow.

COVID Context and Continuity of Business:

Although the majority of the small businesses are either closed or operating with significantly lesser revenues during the COVID-19 crisis, due to the decentralized way in which Lakshman’s business operates, the lockdown hasn’t affected his business to a greater extent. Since Kharif is the main season to cultivate crops in the region, the months of April – May is when the farmers start getting their lands ready for the crops in Monsoon. Thus, the need for newer agricultural tools, repairing the older ones arise during these times.

Since Lakshman shifted to a solar-powered blower for his blacksmithy workshop, he is not dependent on external labour anymore; labour which during non-lockdown period was hard, and would have been harder during the lockdown period. Lakshman’s business is based out of his home and his son helps him with some of the work, and this has allowed him to keep his business running during the lockdown period. Although there is a shortage of raw materials for a lot of businesses around, his conservative way of consuming raw materials has helped him in serving the farmers even in these times.

I used to depend on an extra person to support manual bellowing, which could have been really difficult now as a lot of people are not able to go to work. But with solar, I can do the work alone, so I didn't have to stop after lockdown. Many farmers from other villages are also coming now to get their sickles, iron ploughs, spades, pickaxe, leveller, axle blades done.​

Impact

The entrepreneur has been able to continue the business due to his local market access, the trust built with farmers, uninterrupted energy access, careful use of raw materials, and the very nature of home-based entrepreneurship.

Since this is the only blacksmithy facility available during the lockdown, many farmers from other villages are also coming to him to get their agricultural tools done. So, the lockdown situation has in fact given him wider market access with services being available for farmers from other villages as well.

Due to the constant availability of services provided by Lakshman, the farmers in the region have been able to get their tools ready for farming activities. Although, farming has been considered as one of the essential services and the lockdown wasn’t supposed to restrict the activities, due to the lack of decentralized farmer allied services, a lot of farmers have been struggling to carry on their preparation for Kharif/ Rabi cultivation activities. The presence of Lakshman ensures that the farmers aren’t affected by the lack of agricultural tools.

Financial Contribution

Bank Transfer

Domestic (India) and International

Direct Online Transfer

Domestic (India)

Direct Online Transfer

International

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