Bihar is India’s second largest producer of raw natural fibre or jute, which is a major cash crop for 140,000 local small farmers. However, in jute growing districts, the electrification rate is just 6 - 7%, which means that small weavers cannot process the material locally. Only 10% of the jute crop is processed by the two large mills within the state. Limited storage also causes farmers to offload their produce to middlemen at the earliest opportunity, reducing farmer profits by up to 2000 rupees (US$37) per ton.
Since the jute producing districts are also abundant in rice production, so locally available biomass resources can be utilized for biomass based electricity systems.
This initiative combines the work of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in biomass gasifiers with the Punrasar Group’s jute processing expertise and the Bihar Rural Livelihood Mission. The resulting Bhagidari Network aims to use a women’s self-help group to create a sustainable basis for decentralised processing of raw jute and for improving local livelihoods.