Powering Africa Out of Poverty: Keeping the Lights On

July 2, 2013
‘I have been using a solar lantern for the last three months and it has saved money and improved my health because I don’t have to buy and burn fuel.’ Neema Pearson of Songambele
When Songambele’s residents had no access to energy, they were forced to rely on burning kerosene to light their homes.
But kerosene is expensive, and pollution from burning it causes 2 million deaths per year, so it levies an unacceptably high price on  people who are simply trying to light their homes at night.
With our partners ALIN, we have been working in Songambele to help people to improve their lives.
We are powering a  Maarifa Centre – a community hub containing information, computers with internet capability – and we are also providing solar lanterns.
The Maarifa Centre has a stock of lanterns and hosts sessions on their use and the advantages they can bring to people’s homes, including removing the need to buy expensive fuel.
The lanterns mean people can keep the lights on for longer, without impacting on their ability to buy essential food, clothing and medicine, and removing the dire health risk associated with burning kerosene.
Ainea Mudachi, Songambele B village’s Village Executive Officer (VEO) has been delighted with the lanterns’ effect on his community – and in his own life.
                                                                               Neema Pearson, at home
He has four children, three in the community primary school, and the other at Milimani Secondary School, and has seen their educational performance improve massively since installing the lanterns at his home.
He said: ‘Before we had these lanterns, my children could not study in comfort. The kerosene smoke got in their eyes, and had long-term health dangers. The solar lanterns produce clean, bright light.
‘My children can now learn at any time of night, and for longer hours as the lantern I have supports two lighting systems for eight hours. I have noticed a lot of improved exam performance from my children since the lanterns arrived. My daughter is using them to prepare for her national exams later this year.
                                                                    The youngsters study by solar lantern light
‘We have also saved money, at the same time as being able to keep the lights on for longer. I used to have two kerosene lamps, which consumed Tsh1,200 of kerosene each day, but the lanterns use free sunlight. Thanks so much for the technology!’