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When the helper in the house is the sun

The village of Roshorv, where 43-year-old Gulisandzhid lives, is located at an altitude of more than 3000 meters above sea level in the upper part of the Bartang Valley of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. The nearest main road is about two hundred kilometers away, a little less to the central power grid.

Families here depend on wood, shrubbery, or dried dung for cooking food and heating of houses. And for lighting, residents often use sometimes dangerous candles or kerosene lamps. Women give birth to children in the dark, toil in smoky kitchens, and endanger themselves by collecting brushwood in the mountains.

Photo: Roshorv village, author: Nodir Tursun-zade

According to Gulisandzhid, over the past few decades, all the vegetation around Roshorv has been destroyed and today the villagers are forced to gather shrubs far from their homes. They have to walk up to 10 km to get to places where it can still be found in sufficient quantities. Due to the harsh climate, trees hardly grow here.

Carrying heavy bundles every day and walking tens of kilometers with this load is a difficult job fraught with health problems. There were cases when people fell in the mountains with brushwood and froze their fingers when the capricious weather suddenly changed.

Photo: Collecting shrubs in the village of Roshorv, author: The Little Earth

Gulisanjid married early. Together with her husband, she is raising three sons and one daughter. The husband works as a teacher in a rural school. Gulisanjid is engaged in the household and children. Her usual day begins with household chores before dawn and ends after dark.

However, 4 years ago, the family's life changed, the family had more time and Gulisanjid was able to enroll in correspondence courses at the university in Khorog, the regional center.

The present

The Gulisanjid family received a set of equipment from the environmental organization The Little Earth, which included a solar parabolic cooker and a portable lantern with a small detachable solar panel that helps to charge his battery.

“After we got the equipment, our lives changed for the better. We have more time to deal with children and other household chores. Earlier in the summer we constantly collected and prepared firewood. There was not enough time for anything. And now you can take up the garden or spend more time with kids,” says Odil Bekov, husband of Gulisandzhid.

Cooking with the sun

I liked the solar cooker right away. No smoke, no firewood and no soot to be scraped off. It was hard to believe that you can only cook with the energy of the sun! In the first month of using the device, we spent half as much firewood as usual,” recalls Gulisanjid.

Photo: Water boils in a solar cooker, author: The Little Earth

We use solar cooker all the time. If it is warm outside and there is sun, then we cook food on it and boil water. In addition to saving fuel, I now have much more time for other things - now I don't have to go so far in search of firewood. The children and I began to breathe less smoke, because the usual stove began to be used less often."

Life has become brighter

Together with the solar parabolic cooker, Gulisanjid received a portable lantern with a small detachable solar panel that helps charge its battery. At night, the light in the windows of Gulisanjid's house shines more noticeably brighter than that of the neighbors.

There is a small self-made hydroelectric power station in our village. But its power is not enough for everyone and it often fails. We tried to do everything before dark. But when it gets dark early, you can't handle everything - drive the cattle, milk the goat, prepare a meal. The eyes were constantly sore from the strain,” says Gulisanjid.

Photo: Gulisanjid and the "solar" lantern, author: The Little Earth

At night, when the lighting is very dim, we use the lantern all the time. It is convenient in that it can be used as a table lamp or as a portable lamp. Children do their homework with it. I myself am a school teacher. I often have to write and read for work. The lantern helps us out a lot. We got our own light source, and it charges free of charge from the sun,” says Odil Bekov, husband of Gulisandzhid.

The solar lantern helped Gulisanjid to brighten the house and liven up the evenings. She constantly takes it with her when at night she does business in the yard or goes out into the street. In free time in the evenings, the lantern gives the opportunity to read, knit socks or discuss local news.

We now gather around the table more often. The lantern also reduced our candle costs. And we started paying less for electricity from our small hydroelectric power station,” Gulisanjid notes with satisfaction.

We take "sun" baths

Gulisanjid also has a solar water heater. She built it with other workshop participants. The water heater is small, but necessary. Hot water in conditions of limited access to electricity and a shortage of fuel is a great luxury.

To say that a water heater is a useful device for me is to say nothing. It used to be very rare to take shower, wash clothes and clean with warm water - when there is not enough firewood, where do you get hot water from?! And now you can bath children more often and do laundry. This is important for health and you feel like a human being,” says Gulisanjid.

Photo: Gulisanjid and solar water heater, author: The Little Earth

During the whole warm season, the water heater is in the yard of the house. The owners only have to add water to a homemade tank. Gulisanjid's water heater helps her family save money and time by reducing the consumption of traditional fuels.

My neighbors constantly come and use it. The husband laughs, says "I have never seen them so often before." We do not mind - the sun heats the water and at the same time it is free. So that’s how we take sun baths with neighbors,” laughs Gulisanjid.

Reducing vulnerability to climate change

Due to the fact that the inhabitants of mountain villages often use firewood as the main energy source and graze livestock uncontrollably, vegetation is seriously affected. The destruction of the already rare forests and shrubs, becomes the cause of soil degradation, deterioration of the condition of pastures and more frequent natural disasters. The ongoing climate change is exacerbating an already difficult situation.

With the help of such resource-saving technologies, we not only reduce pressure on limited natural resources, but also contribute to the development of local communities as a whole. By preserving ecosystems, providing mountain inhabitants with new opportunities, improving their living conditions and strengthening their potential, we help reduce the vulnerability of highland communities to climate change,” explains Anton Timoshenko, executive director of The Little Earth.

Photo: Gulisandzhid family, author: The Little Earth

Gulisanjid has become a real supporter of the introduction of renewable energy sources. She is happy to share her own experience, demonstrates the received equipment to everyone and talks about the advantages and benefits of using it.

This is because of your project and the solar equipment I received. Otherwise, I would just sit in my mountains without opportunities and education. You see how sometimes small things change our life,” smiles Gulisanjid.

Timur Idrisov, The Little Earth