Transforming Puffed Rice Making MicroBusiness Unit
Dharwad, India
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Location:
Dharwad, India
Category:
work & business
Phase:
design development
Updated:
10 August 2021
In Dharwad, the community has been puffing rice (like popcorn) under high pressure to make key ingredients for the famous churmuri dish. The trade has provided livelihood for 3 generations of puffed rice makers. Poor working conditions render them less productive. With rising temperatures affecting their livelihood, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty. It is critical to develop built environments to improve their wellbeing and reduce drudgery.

The current structures are made with mud plaster and brick walls and with metal sheet or asbestos roofing sheets. The proposed design will be focused on constructing a new factory/ workspace.
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Introduction
SELCO Foundation has been working with the puffed rice (churmuri) community in Dharwad since the pandemic affected their day to day livelihood in capacity of relief work. The community was evicted from the city 25 years ago to the current settlement location. They have been living and working in hazardous conditions due to the nature of their livelihood and lack of access to better technology and building design. 

The immediate need recognised by the community was for decentralised energy and mechanisation of certain livelihood processes that were drudgerous. The community were keen to invest back into their businesses but their wellbeing and health was considered business as usual and not a priority. 

Year on year, heat stress due to external factors and inefficient appliances inside the workspace like the roaster and furnace were affecting their cash flows due to constant maintenance and replacement of assets. 

The built materials were usually tin sheets and asbestos that further increased ambient temperature and trapped air pollutants. The spatial layout, ergonomics and hygiene were other factors that triggered the initiative. 

SELCO will be co-developing built environment designs with the community to incrementally improve the working conditions, insulate the spaces against heat, improve the appliances for roasting and puffing the rice, provide systems to exhaust smoke and develop a new workflow that ensure productivity increase and comfort conditions.
View of the community built environment - puffed rice making units

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Impact
The livelihood activities in the community start at 3am to 1pm daily to avoid extreme heat stress in the afternoons. The roasting and milling of paddy, puffing of the rice, packaging and closing of shops are conducted within 10 hours. The temperatures indoors remain between 35 to 45degC at all times due to the presence of the furnaces and bad quality built materials. Extreme exhaustion and breathing in sooth and air pollutants reduces productivity in 5 to 6 hours. Rain and overheating additionally damage the finished goods.
The community leaders encourage retirement of workers in 8-9 months to avoid long term health issues. The trade is not aspirational to the community.  

The new workspace/ factory is being planned with the intention to improve ergonomics and workflow. The building will be constructed with
a) Climate responsive built design to optimise natural (north) lighting and natural ventilation
b) Sustainable materials local to the context of Dharwad to reduce heat stress from the roof (with innovative cool roofs like Modroof, Hourdi(hollow burnt clay) Block Slab, Filler(clay tiles and pots) slab) and walling materials built in rat-trap bond construction methodology to improve insulation.
c) Further the workspaces will be made self-sustained by integrating solar energy to run the various applications within the space.

Architecture in practice has to address all the needs and the wants of the potential occupants. Especially when co-designing solutions with the community entrepreneurs, the approach to designing solutions encompasses all aspects from the built environment to the products or machineries people will use in the space depending on its function. 

To give an example to our past work and design approach, the pottery community in cyclone affected Puri, Odisha were facing a lot of issues with their traditional livelihoods getting devastated by recurring disasters. Here we co-designed the (1 - building design) built environment envisioning the future of how the community will build workspaces and homes that are resilient yet reflecting their culture and heritage. Further we worked with the potters to develop an improved (2 - product design) pottery kiln and solar integrated (3 - clean energy and mechanisation) machinery for pot making, soil conditioning and kneading. Similar approach will be followed with the collaboration in the puffed rice making community.

Quantitative benchmarks: 
  1. Zero heat loss from the appliances - 60-70% efficient fuel consumption
  2. Clean energy for night time activities, Natural light optimised during daylight hours - 100% renewable energy
  3. Passive and active ventilation and built insulation resulting in ambient 26 to 30degC and Relative Humidity to between 40-60%
Impact 1: Health and Wellbeing
  1. 100% mechanisation resulting in drudgery reduction
  2. Safe air quality levels
Impact 2: Productivity and Quality of Work
  1. Ease of work
  2. Increase in number of productive hours
  3. Reduction in spoilage
The intention will be to use the pilot demonstration of built spaces and products used in the trade to provide financial linkages to the entrepreneurs in the community for improvement of housing and workspaces in the community impacting 240 people directly leading to better social security and quality/ dignity of life
sdgs
Core team
Narayan Koleyennvar is a community leader and owns the only women run milling and puffed rice production unit. He along with Mehboobsab Attar, who runs a puff rice unit, were introduced to the benefits of solar energy and championed the need for better quality workspaces. They have been working for over 20 years in the industry and are second generation. Mehboobsab has been intently supporting the team to identify various approaches of designing appropriate products and systems catered to the community’s need.

SELCO Foundation’s team of Huda Jaffer(lead), Nirmita Chandrashekar, Prajna Aigal and Rajendrakumar Geete co-developed the program with Narayan and Mehboobsab to approach an integrated development model that could positively impact their working conditions and increase income level.

Huda Jaffer is the Director of SELCO Foundation and is a product/-system’s designer with a keen interest in user-centric design specifically for sustainability and developmental issues. Over the past 10 years at SELCO, she has played a critical role in growing the capacity and processes of the Foundation to build the ecosystem for sustainable energy access for the poor.
Nirmita has been an architect for 8 years working towards solving systems-based issues in how we live, work and engage as a community. She leads the Built Environment program.
Prajna is an architect specialised in energy Efficient and sustainable architecture and is currently working as a Analyst in the Built Environment team.
Rajendrakumar Geete works in the capacity of community liaison as a Program Coordinator with SELCO.
Mehboobsab Attar engaged in rice puffing

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Image gallery
An entrepreneur puffing rice - 6am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Sleeping in the workspace awaiting their shift - 3am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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The workstation at 2am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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The furnace at 3am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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The datalogger indicating hazardous air quality

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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External workspace at 2am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Dimly lit Workspaces at 4am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Women at work - Narayan's milling unit

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Another entrepreneur puffing rice - 9am

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Activities at day break

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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Technical drawings
Outlining the Problem Statement - Activities, Working Conditions and Negative Impact -1

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Outlining the Problem Statement - Activities, Working Conditions and Negative Impact -2

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Design Approach and Benchmark for Positive Impact

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Detailed Design Visuals of the integrated puffed rice making workspace

image: SELCO Foundation | CC-BY_black.png some rights reserved
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04 Example of a completed community workspace (pottery) project

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Help bring our project to life!

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Help bring our project to life!
Where are we now
The project in the first phase is piloting 3 workspaces. One of the workspaces is used by the community to mill the paddy, roast the rice as well as rice puffing. This space will be incrementally improved to prevent the factory from shutting down for a few months and avoiding any livelihood losses. Two other workspaces are used by the community solely for rice puffing and this would require

1 unit - 600 sqft area - EURO 22824.80
2 units - 300 sqft area each - EURO 14988.68
Total project cost - EURO 37,813.48

Financials have to be raised for
  1. Efficient appliances
  2. Built Environment/ Construction costs
  3. Decentralised Renewable Energy 
An indication of our team’s capacity:
50% funding already raised
80% expertise already found
50% materials / equipment already found
Finance: € 15,000
There are many vulnerable communities that conduct clustered trade activities liked puffed rice making in India. SELCO believes in democratising the design process and integrating intentionality into how the poor communities invest and build assets for living and work. The overall output being improving the quality of life.

With financial support provided to construction of the workspaces in Dharwad, we intend to demonstrate the finished sites to the local government and administrative bodies to scale similar interventions to the 240 other individuals in the community and provide better housing and workspaces to all. Further financial institutions like small banks and credit cooperatives will be capacitated to provide credit to the community who will be able to take loans for housing and construciton activities but also for education, investing back into their businesses etc.
  • Construction (gap funding required)
15,000
Skills: PR & Marketing
  1. Showcase problems within a selected community with respect to built environment to highlight the need globally
  2. Outreach evidence of positive impacts of built environment on communities like the puffed rice at Dharwad
  3. Develop tools to outreach further with similar communities that conduct livelihood in hazardous working conditions
Outreach with communities burdened by heat stress - Poster 1

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