Helping others to help themselves.
From Aunty Beeb (BBC)
By Tom Heap BBC
Radio 4's Costing the Earth and Newsnight
"Spreading the word
But in remote villages of Africa, a quieter
energy revolution is underway which could change lives more rapidly. Seven in 10 Africans are not on the mains grid, but wires and pylons are not the only way to deliver electricity.
Solar lights are now illuminating the homes of seven million Africans and
sales are doubling every year.
In recent years solar technology has improved and the price plummeted
Harnessing the African sun has been considered before and foundered due to high cost and complexity. But in the last few years the price of technology has plummeted - solar panels, batteries and LED bulbs are now better and cheaper.
Also the need to charge millions of mobile phones has created an enormous appetite for relatively small amounts of power - the kind that solar can generate.
I join a company called Sunny Money in their Solar Roller - a minibus which carries the message of the benefits of solar power and the hardware needed to utilise it to remote villages.
In the Kenyan Highlands customers gather to see a demonstration of how the solar lights work - the majority are teachers interested in buying for themselves or parents buying the lamps for their children.
Many green ideas have been exposed as wishful thinking by the realities of life in Africa, so when the solar salesman throws his lamp on the ground three times, stamps on it and then reveals it still works the gasps are genuine.
At the nearby Kemba primary school the headmaster, Stanley Rugut says 600 of his pupils already have solar lights and he wants to help them buy more as they enable students to read in the evening, do more homework and get better results:
Student Enoch says he able to read for three extra hours a day thanks to his solar lamp "Because of the light we have double the number going to good schools," he says. "At 700 Kenyan shillings (£5) a light is the same price as a hen."
In recent exams star pupil Enoch came 55th out of all of the students in Kenya. His ability to study improved considerably when his mother purchased a solar lamp.
"Before there was this light I used to read up until seven only, but when it was brought I read up to 10," Enoch, who hopes to one day be a doctor, explains.
It is about health too. Most homes in rural Africa are lit by paraffin lamps, and being exposed to an evening's lighting is thought to be as damaging to health as smoking 40 cigarettes.
The United Nations and many NGO's want to see them replaced by solar, and it now seems to be happening."
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