Ashoka Fellow
Sri Lanka,
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when Lalith Seneviratne was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
Lalith is developing a sustainable model for rural power generation that allows communities and villages that do not have grid-connected electricity to set up their own biomass-based electrification systems and reap the social and economic benefits.
The villages Lalith is assisting are in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, where villagers are dependent on rain for their largely subsistence cultivation and are among the poorest Sri Lankan citizens. Lalith encourages villages to form cooperatives and cultivate gliricidia wood, while employing their labour in the construction of a power plant. The gliricidia, a woody biomass, is well suited for the climatic conditions of the dry zone. The villagers are then trained to use the technology to run and maintain the power plant, which can then supply power to 60 rural homes.
This idea has the power to create a new rural industry, and the dry zone farmers stand to gain substantial income by cultivating this fast growing tree in increasingly larger areas. Unutilized land is abundant in the dry zone, thus farmers can cultivate and sell gliricidia wood to larger biomass power plants all year, providing a new steady source of income. The power sector also gains a new sustainable source of electricity available throughout the year.
Lalith recognizes the financial demands of this project. He saw the urgent need to get commercial banks to provide credit and partnership for this power venture, and thus established a link between a financial institution and villages. The financial institution will use electricity to reach the vast and under-utilized potential for microfinance in rural areas, thereby allowing rural people to access market rate credit, a privilege previously denied to them.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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