Farm Workers Enjoy the Benefits of Solar Lighting

dsc_0414“When I put in the new solar lights, my kid thought it was electricity and told me to turn on the TV! There’s no difference to main power (grid electricity), the solar is very bright. ”

Jacinta, 27, is a mother and employed at Olerai Farm in Narok, Kenya. She was able to purchase her lighting system, which includes a set of four solar LED lamps and a 5W solar panel and battery for recharging, through a scheme sponsored by the farm.

Farm employees have the option to buy either the Barefoot Power PowaPack 5W lighting system or the smaller Firefly 12 Mobile lamp by paying the first 50 percent upfront and then the remainder over three months.

This easy-to-pay scheme was conceived after the Lighting Africa Program introduced the farm management to Barefoot Power, a manufacturer of solar lighting products. Lighting Africa works to establish such contacts as part of its business development support activities.

Having converted to solar lighting, Jacinta is now the envy of her friends:
“One of my relatives saw the lamps at my house and took a pack straight away. Before, kerosene was costing me 800 to 1,000 (Kenyan) shillings per month (about $9.35 – $11.7). Now the new lamps are saving me a lot of money.”

“100% Better”

Modern lighting can expand the working hours for small businesses © Lighting Africa

This monthly saving helps Jacinta cope with a recent escalation in food and living costs. There are other benefits too. “Kerosene smoke caused eye irritation and the light was not enough. When I was not home, I always had to ask someone to go and sit with my kids because the paraffin lamps were not safe. Now the children can just switch the lights on and start studying safely.”

Jacinta runs three lamps from four to five hours each day and the fourth runs all night until morning. She installed the system herself. “You don’t have to bring someone to help you connect. I did it myself which was very nice.”

“We need more lamps!”

Kerosene can be scarce expensive. Twenty shillings is barely enough to buy 20ml of fuel from small distributors. As a result, farm workers are spending almost their entire daily wage on kerosene.  The Firefly 12 Mobile and PowaPack 5W lamps sell as soon as they are delivered to the farm.

Eager to own a lamp, farm employees have left deposits ahead of the next delivery; others are pleading for a full loan in order to buy the products. The surrounding community would like a shop where they too can purchase solar lamps.

Jacinta is happy with the phone charging facility on her solar lighting system. “Could we get a solar product that can run a TV and DVD player too?” she asks. The Barefoot PowaPack 5W and Firefly 12 Mobile are two of the eight products that meet Lighting Africa recommended performance targets for product quality.

Barefoot Power’s goal is to make off-grid lighting technology affordable to people at the base of the pyramid. Lighting Africa recognized the company’s commitment to quality when Barefoot Power won four Lighting Africa Outstanding Product Awards in May, 2010. The awards and recognition have assisted Barefoot Power in its marketing efforts.

Lighting Africa supports products that have met the recommended performance targets for quality through its consumer education campaigns and other market development activities. This includes business-to-business linkages with large corporates and microfinance institutions to support the growth of local distributors and importers and expand the reach of solar lanterns to small businesses and low income households.