Lifeline Energy

Lifeline Energy is a non-profit social enterprise that provides sustainable information and education access to vulnerable populations. We achieve this by designing, manufacturing and distributing solar and wind-up media players and radios for classroom and group listening. Since 1999, we have distributed more than 500,000 power independent radios to provide on-demand access to information and education, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years we have received numerous awards including the Tech Museum of Innovation Award, a World Bank Development Marketplace Award and an Index: Design to Improve Life Award. In addition, our founder and CEO Kristine Pearson was named one of TIME magazi...
May 26, 2016

We're working with Farm Talk radio producers on conservation farming practices

Farm Talk producer, Ndabile
Farm Talk producer, Ndabile

We’ve recently returned from an immensely gratifying trip to Zambia’s Eastern Province, where we spent a week working with our partner Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO). COMACO began using 1,000 of our Prime radios nearly four years ago. They have now doubled that number and included Lifeplayer MP3 units for those areas with poor FM reception who are unable to receive the weekly Farm Talk radio programs. COMACO works right across most of the Luangwa Valley in the Eastern Province.

We worked with Farm Talk radio producers, Filius and Ndabile, to certify them as master trainers who would then set up a train-the-trainer system for COMACO listening groups. Being the recognised trainers keeps them in front of the farmers and in touch with both the impact of their radio programs and of the Lifeplayers.  

The lead master trainer, Ndabile, has produced dozens of radio programs and has been the female voice heard on the radio by farmers for more than two years. However, she had never dealt with groups of farmers herself. At first she was nervous, but was a natural and it was our pleasure to watch her in action. She said, “I am going to enjoy not just producing the radio programs. Now I will be able to meet many of the farmers myself and help teach them to use the Lifeplayers. This device will really assist COMACO to spread farming information to places that don’t even receive a radio signal”. The farmers were hugely responsive to both Ndabile and to the Lifeplayer.

The local radio station, BreezeFM, broadcasts from Chipata, the capital of the Eastern Province. Three times a week, BreezeFM broadcasts Farm Talk, which advises farmers along the guidelines of COMACO's Better Life book. The Farm Talk programs and the Better Life book review on a monthly basis what needs to be done in terms of soil, seeds, irrigation, planting, harvesting and readying crops for market. Becoming a farmer means committing to conservation farming and wildlife and habitat preservation.

For us, working with COMACO is hugely satisfying, as they understand the importance of creating a comprehensive training programme. Trainers are identified and trained not only in how to use, maintain and repair our Lifeplayers, but also to create and sustain listening groups. These trainers then go out and help form listening groups that each have a leader who is responsible for looking after the Lifeplayer. We also spend time with listening groups, to understand more their needs in terms of content. This content may not be directly farming, but is farmer related - topics such as nutrition, early marriage and health issues, which impact everyone.  

We thank you for your continued support of Lifeline Energy and our work with farmers in Eastern Zambia.  

Apr 28, 2016

Training is key to ensure the success of a women's listening group

Another consignment of Lifeplayers is arriving in Zambia during May for distribution to women’s listening groups in the Eastern Province. This is more complex than it might seem! First, they have to clear customs and then training sessions need to be organised in the rural areas prior to the distribution of our Lifeplayers.

One of the keys to the success of any listening group is training: our experience over many years has repeatedly shown that this is a vital part of any project. Training covers not only how to use and maintain the Lifeplayer, but also how to form, facilitate and manage a group to maximise discussion and debate.  We’ve also found that the best time to set up monitoring and evaluation is at the initial listening group training.   

We do our best to ensure that our products are never just given away or handed out. Community involvement is paramount to ensure that the Lifeplayer's potential is maximised. Recipients also sign an agreement outlying their roles and responsibilities on behalf of their group.  These agreements are written in local languages and read aloud to ensure everyone understands, irrespective of whether or not they are literate. 

Working in rural areas, with women who have little access to technology, takes more time that you might think it would. An invitation to join a listening group is often sent out by foot, as many women don’t own mobile phones. Once a group of 15-20 women is established, they agree to meet at a specified place and time.  They usually give themselves a name and appoint a leader and co-leader.  These are the women who would typically attend training and be responsible for the Lifeplayer’s care. 

The investment made in planning and training at this stage is time well spent later, and helps ensure that a listening group will continue to meet and support one another well into the future.

Given the success of and appreciation for 1,000 Days of Motherhood, the Zambian Ministry of Health is currently creating additional radio programs with their in-country partners, as there are many other health issues that still need to be addressed.  

Investment in health and nutrition initiatives benefitting children can help break the cycle of poverty by supporting the physical and cognitive development that helps children learn better in school and earn higher wages in adulthood. Further, evidence shows that malnutrition and related conditions decrease a country’s GDP by 2-3% annually.  1,000 Days of Motherhood is one of the most important initiatives we’ve ever been involved in, and we remain dedicated to ensuring as many women as possible have access to the programming.  

We are deeply committed to this project and hope that you will continue to help us.   

Apr 5, 2016

Lifeplayers for Lusaka!

We’ve started 2016 with some exciting developments on our “Solar MP3 players to educate Zambian children” project. When we began working on this high impact initiative more than 12 years ago, the Learning at Taonga Market radio lessons were envisaged as a viable solution for children living in rural areas, with either no access to schools or with parents who could not afford to send them to school. For these highly vulnerable children, one-third of whom were orphaned, Learning at Taonga Market offered the best chance at a quality basic education.

Zambia today is facing tough economic challenges from a collapse in the price of its major export, copper. This has meant mass layoffs in the mining sector, and a related influx of families streaming into the capital city, Lusaka, looking for work. With this has come severe overcrowding in schools, particularly in the lower grades.

In some of the schools we visited in and around Lusaka, primary school classes average more than 100 learners, and some schools run two shifts a day to try and cope with the numbers. Teachers are overloaded; and this is made worse by a lack of basic teaching supplies. Some of the schools are electrified; however, with the high cost of electricity and regular power cuts, they operate mostly without power.

In an effort to try and alleviate the teachers’ burden, the Zambian Ministry of Education has informed us they they require more Lifeplayers to help fill the gap.  It’s already an official Ministry learning educational tool for urban, as well as rural, schools. Given their own budget cut-backs, they’ve appealed to us to fund an urgent supply of 500 Lifeplayers for pre-schools and grade 1-3 classrooms in and around Lusaka. We will be sending the first consignment of Lifeplayers to Lusaka in June, and conducting training teachers how to use and maintain them.  

“This is the exact type of situation that the Lifeplayer was designed for,” said Kristine Pearson, our CEO, who has been visiting Zambia regularly for nearly 20 years.  “It is impossible for a teacher to manage and provide meaningful instruction to classes of this size.  The Lifeplayer will help ease the burden while the children have fun learning.”

 
   

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