Ahmedabad: People from across the globe celebrate April 22 as ‘World Earth Day’ to combat climate change and ill-effects of industrialisation. On a similar pursuit is Gujarat-based thermal engineer Alzubair Saiyed, who is silently changing the lives of hundreds of tribal women by training them in making low cost solar cookers.
Saiyed, 29, who has completed his M.Tech in thermal engineering from Nirma University in Gujarat, used his technical skills to solve a critical social problem which, by large, benefitted a number of tribal and rural households. His empathy towards the environment and daily drudgery of the rural women motivated him to initiate the campaign to promote the usage of smokeless cooking stove – the solar cooker. He marked a movement towards the usage of renewal sources of energy by creating his own prototype.
“During my visits to villages, I noticed that houses still relied on conventional and obsolete stoves that run on firewood to cook everyday meals. These stoves are usually located in the kitchens that are mostly cordoned off, poorly lit and ill-ventilated. I found this oddity appalling. I came across a WHO report that equated exposure to pollution from burning firewood to smoking 400 cigarettes in an hour. Not surprisingly, this poses a serious health risk, particularly among women and children. Women, especially the tribal ones, can’t afford solar cookers that are available in markets. So I decided to design low cost, portable prototype that were easy to make,’’ Alzubair Saiyed told News18.
Some of Saiyed’s former students helped him in this initiative as volunteers. “There are two kinds of solar cooker available in the Indian markets. One is a box-type solar cooker which costs Rs 2,000 to 2,500 under subsidised rates, and the other is parabola solar cooker which costs anywhere between Rs 7,000 and 11,000,” he says.
Saiyed’s prime concern was that poor families, especially the tribal ones, can’t afford solar cookers available in the market. “So I designed a new solar cooker prototype which could be made easily at home with paper, cardboard or other waste material and costs only Rs 100. We use aluminum foil and card boards to make solar cookers. Even children and illiterate women can make it easily and it can be used to cook food for 5 to 6 people,’’ he said.
The 29-year-old used his limited savings two years ago to start a campaign on teaching women how to build their own solar cookers. So far, he has trained more than 1,500 women in villages of Gujarat. He also conducted several workshops for children, college students and for NGOs working in the countryside.
The new solar cooker designed by Saiyed is portable and people can also take it to farm as well and cook while they work in the fields.
“My objective is to save the environment by promoting renewable energy by promoting low-cost solar cooker in families that are dependent on fuels generated from wood or cow dung. This not only holds a negative impact on the environment but is also a root cause for severe health issues,” Saiyed said.
He left a job of as assistant professor in engineering college in Rajkot two-years ago and is now a senior manager at GAIN (Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network), Ahmedabad.
His team is providing free training, seminars and workshops to rural women. They also give live demonstrations in different schools, universities, charitable organisations, villages and tribal areas to bring about awareness.
“Usage of solar cooker can prevent deforestation, reduce pollution and also prove beneficial for the overall health. What makes me happy is that the initiative to free women from the daily drudgery has also acted as a catalyst to evoke a sense of empowerment among these women. We have a number of women representatives in every village who belong to the local community and now support our initiative,’’ he said.
On December 5 last year, on the occasion of International Volunteer Day, Saiyed was awarded V-Awards -- an initiative by UN Volunteers India and ministry of youths and sports. The V-Awards recognise extraordinary young people who are changing their lives and of the communities around them.