Solar Energy is Transforming Africa
Photovoltaics panels, more commonly referred to as solar panels, are often cited as the best way to decarbonize the world’s energy grids and reduce emissions. According to MIT, the price per solar cell has decreased by 99% since 1980. These incredibly low costs have now unlocked the use of solar panels for the world’s poorest continent, Africa, with incredibly positive ramifications for the local environments of its citizens and the international effort to reduce emissions. Beyond emissions, however, cheap solar energy also improves the prospects for poor and rural Africans to access electricity, opening new opportunities to enhance standards of living and reduce poverty rates. With the majority of the world’s poor now located in sub-Saharan Africa, these cheap panels, along with the innovative thinking of African communities across the continent, have created new use cases for solar energy that are increasing water security, improving rural access to electricity and increasing economic resilience for Africa’s developing economies. Here are three ways solar energy is transforming Africa.

3 Ways Solar Energy is Transforming Africa

  1. Kenya’s Solar Desalination Plant: Kenya, a former British colony located in eastern Africa, is home to a population of approximately 50 million people. With an annual population growth rate of 2.2%, Kenya has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is set to see a population of 85 million by 2050, according to the World Bank. While a significant amount of Kenya’s population growth will be in urban developments, only 28% of Kenya’s population is urban today, meaning that Kenya’s government will need to find ways to provide water and energy infrastructure for its rural communities for decades to come. One small Kenyan fishing village known as Kiunga, home to about 3,500 individuals, has found a solution. Partnering with an American NGO known as GivePower, this village uses solar panels to desalinate ocean water, with the capacity to deliver water to 35,000 residents, 10 times the village’s current population. Today, over 300 million sub-Saharan Africans struggle with water insecurity, often leading to conflict and instability that causes poverty, according to global NGO The Water Project. Developments that can reduce such insecurities can go a long way in improving the future for Africa’s poor. While much more progress needs to occur on this front, this village of Kiunga is providing a template for villages across Africa to harness the power of the sun for water security.
  2. Tanzania’s Rural Mini-Grids: Tanzania, a neighbor of Kenya and a former British and German colony, is home to about 58 million people. Tanzania is East Africa’s largest nation and is home to its largest population and its lowest population density. With its urban population constituting only 35.2% of the country, Tanzania faces the challenge of providing electricity to rural communities far from its city centers. Solar power is uniquely capable of delivering power to these rural communities, and Tanzania has embraced new economic models called “mini-grids” in order to deliver this power. While traditional fossil fuel power plants rely on extensive supply chains and infrastructure in order to deliver electricity, in part due to the weight of the fuels, solar panels generate power on-site, directly from the sun. These “mini-grids” allow small Tanzanian villages to afford electricity for the first time, creating opportunities for rural education and improving security, ultimately contributing to the reduction of rural poverty in Tanzania. Although the current situation is poor, with more than 70% of Tanzanians lacking access to electricity, by 2040, 140 million Africans – including many in Tanzania – will get electricity from these mini-grids, according to the World Resources Institute.
  3. Morocco’s Mega Solar Plant: The North African nation of Morocco is becoming an increasingly important economic power in Africa, with a growth rate of nearly 4.1%. Despite this progress, however, Morocco’s rural poverty rate remains high at 19%. Though one cannot fault Morocco for prioritizing its economy over its environment, given its current poverty rate, Morocco has committed to ramping up its solar energy production, seeking a 50% renewable energy capacity by 2030. The benefits of this development, however, are more than environmental, as Morocco is now a net energy exporter to Europe, decreasing its domestic electricity costs and enhancing its economic resilience, all while improving its economic and political relationships with Europe. Thus, Morocco has used solar energy to not only maintain its commitments to emissions reductions but also as a tool to diversify its economy, allowing the nation to not only lift its citizens from poverty but to sustain its citizen’s incomes in good times and bad.

Poverty remains a significant problem in Africa, with more than half of the world’s deeply impoverished peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa. However, through remarkably low costs and a variety of unique use cases across Africa, solar panels are now increasingly capable of delivering energy, water security and economic growth. From LED-powered lights in rural African schools to increasingly reliable electricity for African small businesses, solar energy is transforming Africa by contributing to its economic rise and modernizing its rural life. And, with solar-powered desalination moving from fiction to reality, water security is increasingly possible across the continent, leading to greater community stability and resilience. All of these factors play an essential role in decreasing poverty rates and improving the quality of life on Earth’s poorest continent. Sunlight, it seems, will brighten Africa’s nights in the future.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: UN Multimedia

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Solar Energy in Rural Madagascar
Tech companies Groupe Filatex and Bboxx are teaming up to extend their solar panel services to rural Madagascar. The companies aim to install 170 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2022. In a country that receives about 2,800 hours of strong sunlight every year, implementing solar energy in rural Madagascar can be a “viable way to go.” Roughly 85% of Madagascar’s population has no access to electricity and they do have a national grid. Providing solar energy in rural Madagascar can give the people of Madagascar electricity, thus improving their way of life and reducing poverty.

Solar Energy Versus Fossil Fuels

Some argue that implementing solar energy can help alleviate poverty. Providing “access to a small amount of electricity could lead to life-saving improvements in agricultural productivity, health, education, communications and access to clean water.” Some consider it a better alternative to the current option of expanding electricity. The current option involves fossil fuels, which can be impractical and expensive.

Also, solar energy can be a cheaper option compared with fossil fuels. Many villages in Africa use kerosene lamps as a source of light. Kerosene can cost a household from $40 to $80 per year, compared with solar lamps which can cost between $27 and $35. Kerosene can also emit pollutants proven to be dangerous to health. Examples of these health hazards are respiratory and eye infections, kidney or liver problems, and house fires.

Solar Energy Benefits

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can be the first step out of poverty by providing new skills and sources of income. An example of this is Barefoot College’s program for “solar engineers.” These engineers are from rural areas and are taught to install, repair and maintain solar lighting units to promote rural solar electrification. Consequently, this boosts incomes for poor villages.

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can help reduce current poverty levels. About 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. This is higher than the regional average, which is 41%.

Growth in Economic Development

Despite the high poverty rate, Madagascar has experienced a growth in economic development. During the past five years, Madagascar’s economic growth increased to around 5%. This was due to a peaceful transition after years of political instability and economic stagnation. The peaceful transition was considered “instrumental to this economic revival.” It contributed to “restore investor confidence, reopen access to key export markets, reinstate flows of concessional financing and encourage structural reforms.”

Implementing renewable energy is not new to Madagascar. In 2014, the Madagascar government decided to take on intensive reforms. With the help of the World Bank, the government started the Electricity Sector Operations and Governance Improvement Project (ESOGIP). The objective of the project is to increase production capacity and reduce energy loss. It also aims to expedite progress on renewable energies to provide a reliable, more affordable alternative to expensive and environmentally unfriendly diesel generators. The goal is to provide energy access to 70% of households by 2030.

The World Bank offers many solutions to reducing poverty in Madagascar. One of the main solutions is providing electricity. The more affordable, electrification in rural areas — the better the quality of life will be for citizens of Madagascar.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

solar sisterWith nearly 75% of rural Africa lacking access to electricity and only 26% of women acting as entrepreneurs, several African countries remain behind the developmental curve and bogged down in poverty. Lack of light and decreased business-building based on gender and status stall improvement in nearly every facet of life. Therefore, access to electricity and increased female entrepreneurial activity could be pivotal in overcoming poverty. The nonprofit organization Solar Sister empowers women to conquer economic, healthcare and education challenges in developing nations by encouraging female entrepreneurship related to increasing electricity availability.

What Is Solar Sister?

Founded in 2011, Solar Sister is a women-led empowerment movement aimed at encouraging female innovation and entrepreneurship through solar technology. The organization trains and equips participants with the necessary skills to create and distribute clean energy solutions that help combat community problems. The overarching goal is to increase electricity access in the world’s most impoverished places. According  one successful Solar Sister, “to progress, first you need light.”

Like most business ventures, many Solar Sisters report that their businesses are built largely on trust and willingness to “take risks.” Solar Sister empowers women by focusing intently on its founder and CEO Katherine Lucey’s motto that everyone deserves access to clean, affordable energy. By employing women’s personal knowledge about their peers’ and villages’ needs, the organization is quickly approaching Lucey’s goal by creating specialized clean energy solutions and promoting female entrepreneurship.

Hilaria’s Story

Hilaria Paschal, one of Solar Sister’s first entrepreneurs in Tanzania, began her journey with clean energy in 2013. She is a farmer, basket weaver, businesswoman, wife and mother of three. Paschal’s husband kick-started her company with minor capital, but she has managed the operation since. She purchased only 12 lights at her business’s conception, yet managed to sell 25 products in her first month. Since 2013, Paschal has sold nearly 400 products that now power more than 2,000 homes. She attributes her success to her specialized knowledge of her village’s needs and to her immense creativity.

In 2015, Paschal formed Mshikamano, a group of basket weaving women ready to learn more about clean energy, entrepreneurship and the possibility of becoming a Solar Sister. Mshikamano translates to “solidarity” in Swahili, a perfect depiction of Solar Sister’s mission and Paschal’s work.

For her outstanding performance in the Solar Sister Program, Paschal was named the 2017 Women Entrepreneur of the Year by the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA). She was granted the opportunity to travel to New York, where she accepted her prize and was invited to speak at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum.

But Solar Sister’s praise and recognition does not end with Paschal. In 2015, former president Bill Clinton visited Solar Sister’s site in Karatu, Tanzania as a part of the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. His visit resulted in higher publicity for the organization and its entrepreneurial opportunities for women.

Solar Sister’s Impact

To date, Solar Sister has launched operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where its 4,000 entrepreneurs have collectively reached more than 1.5 million people and broadened electricity access in some of the world’s most energy-poor countries. Solar Sister products include clean cooking stoves, regular solar lanterns and even solar-powered cell phone chargers, all of which can improve several facets of life and surpass the abilities of simple light.

In an effort to explain just how beneficial affordable, clean energy can be in developing countries, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship conducted a 2017 study entitled, “Turning on the Lights: Transcending Energy Poverty Through the Power of Women Entrepreneurs.” The study concluded that Solar Sister provides much more than light to communities and opportunities for female entrepreneurs, as newly prosperous populations also experience an enhanced quality of healthcare and education. Women in particular are reaping the benefits of increased household incomes, greater respect in the workplace and higher economic statuses.

Empowering Women Helps Entire Communities

In addition, Solar Sister’s solar technology improves health and safety. Solar lanterns do not create the negative health effects that kerosene exposure causes, nor do they pose a fire hazard. Additionally, health clinics and hospitals can use solar lanterns to extend their services and increase their efficiency during night hours. In terms of education, 90% of parents believe their children have improved academically since obtaining increased access to light. This progress is partially due to children having more time to study at night, but mostly because kerosene savings can now be put toward education. Other benefits of solar power include eliminating the travel time required to acquire kerosene, which can now be used to work longer hours and increase household incomes. Higher incomes create more purchasing power and more opportunities for advancement which stimulates local, national and global economies. Overall, Solar Sister empowers women in Africa to live safer, financially secure lifestyles.

To follow the Solar Sister program and its progress, visit solarsister.org or search #IAmSolarSister on social media.

– Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

hybrid solar dryerFruit preservation is essential in Jamaica and Haiti due to relatively brief bearing seasons that produce popular fruits like mangos and breadfruit. Additional factors such as extreme poverty and natural disasters significantly increase Caribbean food insecurity. According to the World Food Programme, 30% of the Caribbean population lives in poverty. Michael McLaughlin, the co-founder of Trees That Feed, designed a hybrid solar dryer to combat food insecurity and preserve approximately 100 pounds of fruit in nearly four to eight hours. Trees That Feed is a nonprofit organization based in Winnetka, IL that planted close to 25,000 fruit trees across Jamaica, Haiti, Ghana, Kenya, Puerto Rico, Uganda and Barbados in 2019.

Hybrid Solar Dryer Design

Trees That Feed distributed 12 hybrid solar dryers in Jamaica and Haiti. Each dryer comprises six modules to ease assembly and material transportation. The modules include three solar collectors, a lower and an upper cabinet and a roof. The three solar collectors capture heat and feed warm air into an upper cabinet that holds five shelves of sliced or shredded fruit. The roof of the hybrid solar dryer contains a solar exhaust fan to pull moisture from the air and protect against harsh weather conditions, dust and insect contamination. Excess space is provided in the lower cabinet to include an optional fueled heater that functions in the absence of sunlight.

Passive Solar Thermal Technology

Solar thermal technology captures heat energy from the sun and uses it to produce electricity or provide heat. Likewise, the hybrid solar dryer uses passive solar thermal technology to rely on design features when capturing heat. The dryer operates without photovoltaic panels or fuel to provide an efficient, hygienic and inexpensive method of food preservation. However, the hybrid design includes space for an optional kerosene or propane heater to incorporate alternative forms of heat energy. While fuel increases the cost of operation, it prevents crop spoilage that can occur on a day with minimal sunlight.

Fruit Dehydration Benefits

Fruit moisture content must be reduced below 20% to ensure a secure shelf life.  The design of the Trees That Feed dryer decreases fruit moisture content by 60% and increases fruit shelf life for over a year. Temperatures between 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit dehydrate fruit at a rapid rate that removes moisture content and inhibits the growth of mold or bacteria.

The benefits of fruit dehydration in developing countries include:

  • Access to fruit consumption during non-bearing seasons
  • Reduced dependence on imported fruit and grain
  • Increased variety of food production
  • Access to sustainable production methods
  • Increased shelf life that retains nutritional value

Breadfruit is a highly perishable fruit grown in Jamaica and Haiti. Tropical regions across the world cultivate over 120 varieties of the high-yielding breadfruit crop. The hybrid solar dryer extends the initial three-day shelf life of breadfruit to approximately one year.

Dehydration preserves the nutritional benefits of breadfruit such as riboflavin, protein, potassium and vitamin C. Also, dehydrated breadfruit is ground and used to produce high-value products such as flour, pastries and pasta that sell across local and national markets.

Moving Forward

McLaughlin reported the success of a hybrid solar dryer located at the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy, a Jamaican agricultural school in the parish of St. Elizabeth. Once Sydney Pagon extended dryer access to members of the community, St. Elizabeth locals noticed the efficiency of the hybrid solar dryer and requested an additional model. Trees That Feed recently provided the parish of St. Elizabeth with a second dryer to increase access to food preservation in the community.

Trees That Feed has designed a dryer that provides opportunities for economic activity in impoverished nations like Jamaica and Haiti. Efficient and successful food preservation allows Caribbean farmers to make small profits by selling excess dehydrated fruit. In turn, farmers can increase their economic independence and stimulate their local economy by selling surplus dehydrated fruit across community markets.

McLaughlin told The Borgen Project that “empowering people to become independent” is a crucial step in alleviating poverty and increasing economic opportunity. While Jamaica and Haiti are the only nations with current access to the hybrid solar dryer, Trees That Feed plans to implement its design in Kenya and Uganda to extend this unique method of food preservation to additional countries in need.

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Flickr

Solar Electric Light FundThe Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) advocates that energy access is a human right. Beginning in 1990, founder Neville Williams worked to build solar-powered home systems in regions where families lacked electricity. Expanding from an individualized approach to the “Whole Village Development Model” in 2001, SELF began installing solar-powered electric systems into community infrastructure. SELF combats energy poverty with clean, empowering solutions. These solutions include powering homes, schools, street lamps, healthcare facilities, water pumps and providing education on photovoltaic (PV) technology.

What is Energy Poverty?

SELF defines energy poverty as an inability to acquire modern energy sources. The U.N.’s 2020 Energy Progress Report stated that 789 million people across the world did not have access to a dependable source of electricity in 2018.

An unbalanced percentage of those living without energy access reside in rural areas due to the “last mile” problem. This refers to the difficulty in providing energy access to isolated individuals lacking proximity to a power grid. Approximately 85% of those without energy access live in rural areas, and 16 countries across the developing world recorded 5% or less of their rural populations had access to energy.

What Are its Effects?

Energy access is crucial for a community as it affects food, clean water, medical care, employment and education access. Without electricity, water pumps are unable to provide safe drinking water for consumption and irrigation. Also, without electricity, modern medical machines cannot operate and temperature-controlled vaccines are unavailable.

Lack of access to modern conveniences, such as the internet, also hinders the progress of businesses and educational institutions. Additionally, light is unable to illuminate studying or working activities after dark. Those using kerosene lamps are in danger of a malfunction explosion. For females of all ages, lack of light also heightens the threat of sexual violence when going outdoors. It also compromises maternal health for those who go into labor after dark.

SELF: Blazing The Trail

SELF works to create energy-efficient, cost-efficient, sustainable and replicable solar-powered systems. Utilizing PV technology to transform sunlight into electricity, SELF has operated in 25 countries, building 550 solar-powered energy systems. Currently, the organization is working on the following projects:

  1. Benin: In the Kalalé District, one clean water source might provide for 550-9,500 people. On the other hand, larvae or animal carcasses can infest unclean water sources. SELF recently received a grant to install 24 solar-powered water pumps that rely on energy during daylight and gravity at night to provide clean water for 82,000 people.
  2. Uganda: At the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF), SELF will install a solar micro-grid. This grid will provide electricity for social, educational, cooking and food refrigeration initiatives. RHF is an organization that grants victims and children of rape the necessary support. Furthermore, SELF built street lamps and water stations in the Bukyerimba area to mitigate sexual assault risks.
  3. Haiti: In the rural Southwest, SELF is rebuilding a solar and diesel hybrid micro-grid that was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 so that 2,120 homes can have energy access. SELF also founded the National Solar Training Center at Haiti Tec in order to strengthen solar energy installation education. Also, SELF pioneered an “energy harvest device” that is able to store solar energy to power refrigerators for vaccines. Refrigerators with this technology are being observed in Haiti and three other countries with the intention of submitting a progress analysis to the World Health Organization in 2021.

Past, Present and Future Progress

Other highlights in previous years include providing electricity to 62 health facilities in rural Ghana and Uganda, electrifying the indigenous village of Katamsama in Colombia, powering a school in Port au Prince, Haiti and providing electricity to the Xixuaú-Xipariná Ecological Reserve in the Amazon.

In each of these operations, SELF strives to provide income generation strategies to account for the cost of upkeep in the 20-25 year lifespan of solar modules. An article in the Global Citizen emphasized SELF Executive Director Robert Freling’s belief that enabling local inhabitants to care for these installations and empowering newly-electrified communities is a vital component of their work.

Over the past two decades, energy efficiency and the presence of renewable energy sources has increased worldwide. With these developments, the cost of PV solar technology decreased by 66% in the commercial sphere from 2010 to 2018. SELF hopes to capitalize upon these improvements in order to provide sustainable, reliable energy for those facing energy poverty. By providing integrated, innovative solutions, the Solar Electric Light Fund is illuminating a path for a more sustainable, connected world.

– Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Rise of Solar Energy in AfricaThe future is bright for Africa. The continent is beginning to tap into an energy source that is plentiful, clean, renewable and self-sustaining. Unlike other energy sources such as coal or oil, solar energy is a path to energy independence for African nations developing their economies. This desire for energy independence has led to the rise of solar energy in Africa.

Growth Potential

Since sunlight is the most intense closest to the equator, Africa has a great opportunity when it comes to solar energy. The equator runs through the center of the continent, earning Africa the nickname, “The Sunshine Continent.” Companies such as Kenyan-based M-KOPA are tapping into the abundant resource. M-KOPA has, so far, created 2,500 jobs in East Africa. Although the rise of solar power is relatively new, Africa’s access to sunlight could fuel the future.

Independence

Other energy sources are often imported and therefore create a reliance on other nations, whereas solar energy is often independently operated. Nations with vast oil reserves are able to consolidate control over the resource, but not all citizens benefit from the nation’s wealth. The average citizen is not able to drill for oil and process it. Although oil and coal provide money for the nation, only a few wealthy people can control the resource. Individuals cannot build dams or nuclear reactors, but they can install their own solar panels and power their homes. M-KOPA helps foster self-reliance by supplying 750,000 homes and businesses with solar panels to produce electricity.

Additionally, 46% of households that are powered by M-KOPA solar panels generate income from their solar panels. They can essentially sell their excess energy back to the grid. Solar power empowers individuals because they have control over their energy. The ability to sell excess energy allows the people of Africa to collect passive income and invest in their future. Most importantly, electricity is a requisite for many activities and is necessary to live a more autonomous life. Access to electricity allows people to be more productive with their time, as they can see and work at night. Unfortunately, only 43% of Africa has access to electricity.

Companies such as SolarNow provide solar power systems for people that live off the grid. Considering 60-80% of people in Uganda and Kenya live off the grid, companies like SolarNow have an enormous market to serve. SolarNow has sold more than 50,000 units in East Africa. The rise of solar power in Africa will continue to grow the economy of African nations and allow people to take control of their lives and energy.

Clean and Renewable

Unlike other resources, solar power is clean and does not pollute the atmosphere. Solar power is renewable, utilizing energy from the sun, which is relatively infinite. Since much of Africa lacks electricity, it is important that the continent develops sustainably. This way, people do not suffer from the harmful effects of pollution. The rise of solar energy in Africa has been successful so far, considering M-KOPA has conserved 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 since 2011. Although solar panels are expensive, they are a cleaner and more sustainable option than the coal that is currently burned to produce electricity.

A Bright Future

Despite having room for further improvement, the future is bright for the people of Africa. Investing in solar power is a key component to reducing poverty because it empowers individuals to harvest their own energy and potentially profit from it. Far too many African people lack access to the electrical grid, and solar energy is a viable path to powering the continent. The rise of solar energy in Africa will continue to create jobs and produce clean, renewable energy that can help grow the economies of African nations.

– Noah Kleinert
Photo: Flickr

Reaching SustainabilityIn recent years, numerous developing countries are attempting to reach a certain level of sustainability. Countries within Asia, Africa and South America strive to increase urban development in several ways including solar energy use, organic farming and an increase in job opportunities. This will allow numerous countries to improve their economy and living situations. Here are three ways developing countries are reaching sustainability.

Solar Energy

Used in millions of industries, solar energy has the capability to take sunlight from the sun and convert it to useful energy. Several countries are focusing on the implementation of solar energy to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainability.

While solar energy can be quite expensive, Anzaga is a new technological platform that provides affordable solar systems for citizens within developing nations. Through flexible payment plans, the company has increased the usage of solar energy within 20 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, allowing over one million African citizens to obtain energy. Within the last decade, there has been a vast improvement in solar energy usage. For example, the World Bank approved two projects within Bangladesh, beginning the installation of more than 1.3 million solar home systems.

Between 2006 and 2010, China updated its five-year plan in which a large portion of investments was dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency. China hoped to decrease the per-unit GDP energy consumption by roughly 20% in comparison to 2005.

Organic Farming

Numerous developing countries have focused on the use of organic farming to attain their goal of reaching sustainability. There is evidence that organic farming and agriculture yields approximately 80% more than conventional farming. Scientists believe that organic farming is one of the most effective ways for a country to farm sustainably.

Moreover, numerous developing countries have focused on the technique of precision farming. Precision farming is the ability to create large amounts of produce within small-scale farms. Millions of citizens in developing countries practice the technique of precision farming within organic agriculture to potentially increase revenue.

Uganda has transformed certain methods of agriculture and used organic farming to reach sustainability. Uganda currently has the world’s lowest usage of artificial fertilizers and hopes to increase organic produce immensely to boost revenue and its economy.

Job Opportunities

Lastly, the focus on creating unique job opportunities for individuals is one of the ways developing countries are reaching sustainability. Higher employment rates improve not only the livelihood of citizens but the overall economy as well.

New sustainable urban planning is practiced within cities of Brazil. Due to the increase in population, job opportunities increase as new and innovative systems for urban planning are necessary. Specifically, the Bus Rapid Transit system exemplifies dedicated planning. The UN Environment reported that the system “provides an example of integrated urban and industrial planning that enabled the location of new industries and the creation of jobs.”

In India, the government also focused on alleviating poverty sustainably. It created the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in which rural citizens receive enhanced security within marginalized households. Hoping to alleviate poverty within rural areas, the act promotes maintenance and growth of rural areas, while providing jobs for rural citizens.

As numerous countries continue to develop, solar energy, organic farming, and new job opportunities are three of the numerous ways in which development is possible. By investing in development that allows the growth of cities in a manageable, sustainable way, countries are more likely to reach a state of national sustainability.

– Elizabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr

solar-cookersAn estimated three billion people around the globe rely on open, bio-fuel based fires to cook. Open-fire cooking can cause injuries from open flames, generate long-term health issues from smoke inhalation, and aggravate deforestation. Furthermore, the time-consuming and often dangerous task of traveling long distances to collect biofuel and maintain the fire disproportionately burdens women and children. Solar-cookers offer a cheap, clean and safe alternative to cooking with an open fire. Implementing this technology can help families avoid the detrimental effects of open-fire cooking that contribute to the cycle of poverty. 

How Solar Cookers Work

Solar-cookers are oven-like devices that use mirrored surfaces to concentrate the sun’s thermal energy and heat the cooker’s contents. These devices are easily constructed with low-cost materials and even the most rudimentary model—the box cooker—can cook at a temperature up to 140° Celsius, or 284° Fahrenheit. 

How Solar-Cookers Help Break the Cycle of Poverty

  1. The only fuel needed to operate solar-cookers is both free and abundant—the sun. While some regions are better suited for harvesting sunlight than others, 85% of the 500 million people living in sun-abundant territories suffer from regional biofuel shortages. Due to these shortages, families either spend as much as 25% of annual income on biofuel or regularly travel long distances to collect it themselves. Solar-cookers relieve families of this financial burden. Besides the initial cost of purchase or construction, solar-cookers need only sunlight to operate. The funding typically allotted for fuel can then be spent on education, increased healthcare or more nutritious foods.
  2. Solar-cookers provide time for families to pursue other activities. Cooking with open fires can require as many as four hours daily to retrieve biofuels. Comparatively, solar-cookers eliminate the need to travel large distances in order to cook altogether. Additionally, the food in solar-cookers does not need regular stirring and can be left unattended for the total cook time. For the women and children typically involved in the process of maintaining the fire or gathering fuel, the valuable time saved can be spent on other economically beneficial activities, such as pursuing education, caring for family members or producing and preparing goods for sale.
  3. Solar-cookers can reduce the rate of infections and death due to water-borne illnesses. Solar cookers can be used to pasteurize water in locations where potable sources of water are unavailable. Eliminating the cost of biomass fuel to heat the water, solar-cookers make consistent purification of drinking water more economically viable. Water purification also saves families from unnecessary and costly expenditures on healthcare due to water-borne illnesses.
  4. Solar-cookers combat malnutrition. High levels of childhood stunting, a direct effect of chronic malnutrition, correlates directly with household poverty. Biofuel-scarcity contributes to malnutrition, as families exclude foods with higher nutritional value due to longer cook times. Solar-cookers eliminate this problem, allowing families to restore nutrient-heavy foods to their diets. Additionally, the slow cooking style of solar-cookers allows food to retain more nutrients than if cooked through traditional methods. Lastly, local food production and availability improve as solar-cookers reduce deforestation; the increased quality of soil and water lends itself to superior agricultural production.
  5. Solar-cookers eliminate the risk of health issues caused by open fires. According to the World Health Organization, household air pollution from open fire cooking and simple stoves are responsible for approximately four million deaths annually. Accidents from open-fire cooking can lead to burn injuries and disfigurement, as well as the destruction of property. Solar-cookers are entirely flame and smoke-free. These devices effectively eliminate the detrimental consequences of meal and water preparation and save families from burdensome healthcare costs.

Solar-Cookers in Action

The success stories are plenty. In the Iridimi refugee camp in Chad, distribution of solar-cookers by the NGO Solar Cookers International caused an 86% drop in trips outside of camp to collect firewood. This reduced exposure to violence from the Janjaweed militia group. Additionally, food consumption increased as families no longer needed to barter food rations away for firewood. In Oaxaca, Mexico, where households spend as much as 10% income on energy, Solar Household Energy supplied 200 local women with solar cookers in 2016. Today, users report that the cookers have reduced the use of their woodstoves by more than 50% and that they have more free time. Many of the women now organize solar-cooker demonstrations in their homes to promote the benefits of leaving open-fire cooking behind. 

– Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr