Elephant Energy

Mission: To improve the quality of life in developing communities by pioneering ventures that provide access to appropriate sustainable energy technologies. Vision: Light in every home, clean air in every kitchen, power in every hand...
May 1, 2013

Earth Hour: Namibian Women Happily Switching the Lights On

Annety - Solar Light Saleswoman
Annety - Solar Light Saleswoman

The power line to the school passes right over Annety's house. After the sun goes down, Sesheke village in the Caprivi Region is plunged into darkness - like most of rural Namibia. It's ironic that just before Earth Hour, when the world is supposed to switch off lights to raise awareness about energy wastage, many Namibians would be happy to switch a light on. And now, Annety Kachitomwa can do just that.

Annety sits in the living room doing the church accounts with the aid of a single bright light that illuminates the table. It's a Sun King, provided by Elephant Energy and powered - as the name suggests - by the sun. During the day the lamp's solar cell soaks up energy, and at night it provides light for reading and preparing food.

The Sun King provides more than light, it is also a source of income for Annety, who works as a representative for Elephant Energy, which a non-profit trust set up to provide solar lighting for rural communities. Annety sells the lights to community members and earns a commission on sales.

She needs the money. The family has a large field to plough, but hiring oxen for two weeks would have cost N$6 000. Luckily her husband is in the Namibia Defense Force, so there is an income. She reckons that an oxen for a small part of the field costs N$600 - that should provide enough maize for most of the year.

The Sun King is a popular lamp because it can charge a cell phone as well. It is known locally as the Divi light. Instead of buying it outright, which costs N$390 – more than many people can afford - customers can buy it by buying credit for light, in the same way you buy credit for a phone.

The lamps have chips inside that hold credit, rather like a SIM card. The agent buys credit from Elephant Energy in Katima Mulilo; Annety buys N$1 000 at a time. Then customers who have Divi lights bring them to Annety for a 'recharge'. The two lights stand next to each other and communicate by Bluetooth. The amount of credit is set and the customer's light is charged.

Of course the sun does the real charging. All the chip in the Divi light does is set a limit to how long the light will work. When the credit is exhausted, the light cannot be switched on, however much sunlight it has soaked up. The customer buys credit until the full cost of the light has been paid. Then the chip is switched off using the agent's light, and the customer's light will continue to work without further payment.

Credit for an hour's light is N$3. That's the cost of a candle, which also only burns for an hour. But candles flicker and are nothing like as bright as a Sun King, and you have to be careful; many houses have caught fire due to careless use of a candle. When you have spent N$350 on candles all you can do is go on buying more, but when you have spent N$350 on a Divi light, from then on it's free lighting from the sun.

Annety buys credit at two dollars and sells for three. She's developing a sense for business and sells flour, sugar, oil and sweets. She also sells candles, but Divi lights are better value, she explains to other village women. So far she has sold 18. The money will go to the ploughing and for the two young children who attend the local school.

One day, perhaps, the power line will be connected to the houses as well as the school. But maybe by then solar power will be lighting up whole houses. So while the world switches off for earth hour - Annety switches on.

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Feb 1, 2013

Lighting Hogans on the Navajo Nation

Lighting a Navajo Hogan
Lighting a Navajo Hogan

Eagle Energy volunteers travelled to Tuba City, Arizona in January to organize the first distribution of solar lighting and charging systems to elders on the Navajo Nation under our Solar Energy Empowerment Project, which is funded by Tucson Electric Power (via Grand Canyon Trust), the ABB Foundation, and your donations on Global Giving.  Through this project, solar lighting and charging systems will be provided to over 100 Navajo elders that have been identified by local Community Health Representatives and Public Health Nurses as having the greatest need, but no means to purchase these systems.  Many of the recipients live in traditional hogans (see photos) in remote areas of the Navajo Nation and suffer from health problems.  As a result of misguided government policies, these elders have been forced to live without electricity in their homes for their entire lives.  To ensure the sustainability of the project, health representatives will train and assist their patients with the solar lights during their periodic visits.  In addition, Eagle Energy is continuing its work with schools and shops in the area to ensure that a viable market for solar products will provide access to these life-changing technologies far into the future. Please support our work by donating on Global Giving, which will help us provide even more solar lighting/charging systems to elders in remote areas on the Navajo Nation.

Hogan on the Navajo Nation
Hogan on the Navajo Nation

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Dec 18, 2012

Women's Energy Project Success in 2012

Testing the Divi Light in Namibia
Testing the Divi Light in Namibia

Women are central to Elephant Energy’s success in delivering affordable energy solutions to rural households throughout Namibia. Since our Women’s Energy Project began over two years ago, the women of Kwandu Conservancy have tested dozens of energy products, sold hundreds of solar-powered lights and cell phone chargers, and pioneered new financing methods to provide even their poorest customers with access to Elephant Energy’s solar products. The combination of solar products and flexible payment scheme is nothing short of life-changing for rural Namibians, and now you can read more about the impact of your donation to support our work in our 2012 Women's Energy Project Final Report.  Please read this report and consider making a year-end donation to support the Women's Energy Project in 2013 by Clicking Here!  Just listen to what some of our Namibian partners have to say about their solar products:

“Since I bought it, I have saved money for cell phone charges. It is so helpful and not wasteful. I am not fearful to go walk outside at night any more. If I had to pay the full price up front, I could never have bought this light.”  -Rent-to-own customer Rosemary Malimi

 “I don't worry that my house will burn or that I can't see what is happening at night. I am saving money. Light is brighter than candles, it is like the moon shining.”  - Rent-to-own customer Malimi Mashebe

The women of Kwandu Conservancy are now working with Elephant Energy and Sonopro Power & Light to develop a new pay-as-you-go solar lamp called  the “Divi Light”. The technology embedded in these solar lamps allows customers to pay for their solar lamp over a period of months by purchasing credits from other customers or via a cell phone app.  Even more exciting, customers can physically pour credits equal to days of use from one lamp to another (just like your iPhone knows where it is in space, so does the Divi Light); in essence, Sonopro has created digital kerosene!  Initial surveys indicate that the Divi Light innovation makes solar LED Lighting more accessible to the poorest of the poor:

“The Divi light is flexible. I can pay when I am having money. It is safer than candles because it cannot burn the house.”  – Divi Light owner Mukuni Hoster

Learn all about Elephant Energy’s women entrepreneurs and our work to create digital kerosene in our 2012 Women's Energy Project Final Report, and please consider supporting this work with a contribution by Clicking Here. Your donation will help us accelerate the development of this groundbreaking technology and expand our work to new communities in Namibia.

Thank you for all of your support, and Happy Holidays from the Elephant Energy team!

Elephant Energy Sales Agent
Elephant Energy Sales Agent

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