Light in the Philippines

Kerosene lamps are used all throughout the developing world as a way to have light at night. Unfortunately, these lamps produce carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide which harms the lungs and could cause asthma and even cancer. These lamps also produce black carbon, a major contributor to global warming. The harmful effects of kerosene lamps are why Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) is focused on bringing light to the Philippines.

Aisa Mijeno, engineer, co-founder and CEO of SALt, lived in the Philippines and through her time with the tribes, she found that they relied heavily on kerosene lamps to see at night. She knew that these lamps are harmful to your health, which is why she looked for a solution that could work easily for tribes in the Philippines. Mijeno realized that the Philippines have an abundance of saltwater, which allowed her to create a lamp powered by the saltwater surrounding the Philippines or through a glass of water and two scoops of salt.

The technology behind the lamp is actually quite simple, and it allows for less maintenance than a typical kerosene lamp. The lamp has two metal rods inside that are the electrodes, and when saltwater, the electrolyte, is added to the lamp, it creates light and electricity for eight hours. SALt lamps only last for six months, because the metal rods will wear out, but once these are replaced, the lamp is back to its working function.

Kerosene lamps are harmful to people and to the environment, and they also don’t last very long. These lamps can provide light for four hours at the most, half the time SALt lamps can run for. SALt lamps also provide electricity for the eight hours, as it has a USB port that can charge any kind of device.

SALt has called itself a social movement, as it looks to empower others to donate. Through their website, you can learn about different communities needing light in the Philippines and see how many lanterns they are in need of. This allows for anyone to be able to impact an entire community by providing safe and more efficient alternative to kerosene lamps.

Although 93 percent of Filipinos have access to electricity, there are still millions of people in rural areas like Mindanao and other surrounding islands that are left without this crucial necessity. By making and providing saltwater powered lamps, SALt is providing a solution for millions of Filipinos that reduces emissions and is safe for their health. Through the use of these natural resources in the Philippines, it allows for less maintenance than a kerosene lamp that can last twice as long, allowing them access to light and electricity throughout the night.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Filipino Siblings Help Unlock Electricity & Escape from Poverty
According to the World Bank, 1.1 billion people live without access to electricity. Many of them, including one out of every 50 households in the Philippines, rely on kerosene or battery-powered lamps for light. Kerosene lamps pose fire hazards, particularly in the Philippines, which the UN ranked the third most disaster-prone country in the world. Even further, for rural poor families, kerosene can be hard to come by, forcing people to walk many miles a day to purchase oil for their lamps.

This was an issue siblings Aisha and Raphael Mijeno knew they had to find a solution to. So they developed SALt, a lamp that provides a sustainable source of light and energy using saltwater and metal rods. With just one glass of water and two tablespoons of salt, the LED lamp, which is a Galvanic cell, can safely light a home for eight hours. Because it is composed entirely of a salt solution, it eliminates dangers and toxicity levels present in kerosene and battery-powered lamps.

The only maintenance the lamps require is changing the anode every six months. Because the Philippines is composed of over 7,000 islands and most residents live close to the sea, they can use ocean water rather than creating their own solution. In emergencies, the lamp can charge smart phones merely through the standard USB cable. This is an added safety measure that helps people get in touch with loved ones in an emergency or find access to food, water, safety supplies, or shelter.

Aisha Mijeno, an engineer at De La Salle University in Lipa and member of Greenpeace Philippines, says she will partner with NGOs to help distribute the lamps to poor families with no access to electricity. For poor families not represented by the NGOs, the lamps will be available for a price of $20. For general customers, the retail price will be slightly higher, and for each lamp sold an additional one will be given to a needy family.

The Mijenos have won numerous entrepreneurial awards for their invention, including the Kotra Award at the Startup Nations Summit 2014 and Ideaspace Foundation Award 2014. Both awards will help Aisha and Raphael fund and advertise their lamps. Their innovations will not only bring light to those who need it most, it will also empower them to better their conditions and gain more opportunities.

Says Aisha, “This isn’t just a product. It’s a social movement.”

— Jenny Wheeler

Sources: Huffington Post, Salt
Photo: Treehugger

Social Enterprise Helping India's Salt Harvesters
Sabras, a social enterprise organization based in India, is using micro-lending to help the country’s poverty-stricken salt workers gain freedom from predatory lenders and non-cooperative banks.

In the state of Gujarat, where nearly 70% of India’s salt is sourced from, self-employed salt pan workers are subject to harsh physical conditions as well as predatory loans leading to little profit. Temperatures reach harsh highs in summer and lows during winter, causing adverse health effects for workers. Since the workers are self-employed, a majority of them need to borrow money from lenders who fix the price of the salt much lower than it normally would be, cutting profits for the salt pan workers down to nearly nothing, most often just 1% of the market value. Most of the banks in the country are not willing to lend to poor people, leaving the workers without options.

Rajesh Shah, the founder of Sabras, recognized these hardships and created an organization that is not only for the poor but mostly owned and operated by the poor as well, with workers holding nearly 74% of shares in the company. Before there was an alternative lender like Sabras, workers were forced to take out loans with interest rates as high as 48%. Sabras’ interest rates are just 12.5% with the ability to purchase advanced solar pumps that allow workers to increase output over the long run.

Sabras has already made a large impact as nearly 70,000 people are employed in the salt industry in Gujarat. Shah contends that the company’s 400 shareholders have seen a profit increase of 400% within the last two years since they used Sabras loans to purchase the solar pumps.

Looking ahead, Sabras hopes to begin including women in the salt industry’s processes in order to increase profits and improve the quality of life for them as well.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian