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Live-in-Labs teams develop Solar Powered Lemongrass Steam-Distillation System For Tribal Community

two women hold a glass tube used in the oil distillation process.
The easier, more efficient and sustainable solar powered process produces a high quality essential oil.

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3 January 2015
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Rural Development

The people of Valaramkunnu, a village in  the Wayanad district of Kerala, make lemongrass oil as a source of income. They use firewood as an energy source for the oil distillation process – trekking long distances into remote fields and forests to collect firewood and grass to burn. After a recent government ban on cutting trees, the villagers ceased producing the lemongrass oil and had to seek income through day-labor, which is intermittent and insufficient.

Researchers at our Live-in-Labs determined that another, renewable power source could be used to continue their generations-old practice of producing lemongrass oil. Over the course of three years, multiple Live-in-Labs® teams developed a solar-powered prototype for the steam-distillation of lemongrass oil. The easier, more efficient and sustainable process produces a high quality essential oil and has enabled the villagers to become self-sufficient – no longer relying on exploitative jobs for their livelihood.

This project is still going on, and research is being done to replicate it in other Indian villages which face similar conditions.

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