In Uganda, 96% of rural households lack access to electricity. Without electricity, families have no clean source of light, forcing them to rely on expensive and dangerous alternatives. Many use homemade kerosene lamps which are a poor source of light and emit toxic black carbon. Emerging evidence has linked kerosene use with a number of respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis. Children are unable to study at night without increasing household costs and damaging their health, the working day ends prematurely and indoor air pollution presents a serious health hazard. Kerosene lamps are also a serious fire hazard, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people each year. Research taken from Solar Links, and Good Energy.
In January 2015, in consultation with Solar Links Terry and Bridget from Uganda Concern UK and four members of staff from UWCM had the opportunity to visit two communities in the Iganga area of Uganda who had solar lighting installed in 2012.
A home solar lighting system also includes a mobile phone charger. This makes possible regular phone use and access to information and to banking services and increases economic opportunities, as well as cutting out the time and costs currently expended on travel to the nearest towns and phone charging facilities there.
Two selected representatives, usually women, per hundred and fifty households, receive training in the systems as Lighting Champions – to oversee proper care and effective use and they themselves carry out, or otherwise organise with the local distributor of Barefoot Power products, the maintenance and replacement of parts as they wear out (lights and batteries after about three years and panels after about twenty years). Replacement is paid for through the Solar Lighting Village Savings Scheme, which also allows for remuneration of the representatives for their roles.
Some of the comments made by people who have had solar installed:
“Life has changed – smoke from candles and kerosene caused me and my children to cough – we are now healthy. My children are doing well at school as they can revise at night. The money I have saved from no longer buying kerosene I have used to buy books for my children.”
“I am no longer frightened to leave the children in the house – now nothing can catch fire.”
“It has taken away the shame from my family – we used to be called poor but this has raised our status. There is no longer any shame because we now have light and other people ask us how they can get solar installed.”
“Now that I have solar I can charge my phone and the battery is stable so that people can contact me 24 hours a day to book a ‘boda’ taxi. Business is good.”
Between May and August 2016, as a result of specific fundraising projects, we were able to fund the installation of 30 solar lighting units into homes in the Bulambuli District of Uganda. This project was co-ordinated by the Bulambuli Initiative for Rural Development (BIRD) in conjunction with UWCM and 10 panels were given to members of Tunyi Women’s Group.
Each system consists of a 6 watt photovoltaic solar panel which is roof-mounted, two LED lights, which can each light a room sufficiently to read, giving power for 6 hours a night, one 12V, 5 amp battery and 2 x USB outputs with the capability of charging mobile phones together with wiring and wall mounted switches
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