It Takes a Village to Save a Planet: Berinag, Uttarakhand

Geetanjali Prasad

Imagine a highly educated couple from a big metropolitan area. Would you think they would move to the Himalayas to live in a small village with no electricity, no roads, no home, no jobs and no plan? The answer would probably be "no." However, that is exactly what Rajnish Jain and Rashmi Bharti did when they moved from Delhi to Berinag in Uttarakhand. Over the years, the two literally changed the region’s way of life, environmentally and economically.

Through their nonprofit organization Avani Kumaon, a community built on the principles of sustainability and local empowerment, the couple has trained local women in weaving and extracting natural dyes, thus giving birth to a sustainable clothing brand.

The center also devised an ingenious way to avert frequent fires as a result of fallen dried pine needles, by gathering them and generating electricity, which in turn produces charcoal and reduces the use of wood for cooking. The center itself is run on 100% renewable solar and wind energy, and it recycles water and waste.

Training has also been imparted to villagers in using solar energy for electrifying the region and various other purposes. All these initiatives have resulted in widespread local employment, encouraging the villagers not to move to cities to find jobs, but to stay in Berinag.

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