Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. On April 28-29 he visited the village of Kantipur in southern Nepal, which received solar lamps three months ago. His “Postcard” from the visit:
It can be difficult when I visit projects, particularly those which seek to achieve less tangible goals like women’s empowerment or a greater environmental ethic in children, to see definitive signs of success. It was therefore a pleasure to stay the night in Kantipur and see how many people were using ECCA’s solar tuki (Nepali for “lamp”) simply by walking up the street (unannounced). The result was promising: Though I only had time to see a fraction of the 60 homes who received a solar tuki, each of the homes I visited was using theirs:
An old man used his while preparing dinner. A woman, taking advantage of its portability, used it while she rinsed off in a stream. Another woman and a family of three a few houses down from her ate Nepal’s traditional dal baht by its light. An old woman added to the light from her traditional stove as she cooked (see picture). And two boys poured studiously over their books (see picture). All of the people I asked said they hadn’t bought kerosene since receiving the lamp (a savings of about three days’ wage per month). You can judge for yourself (see picture), but I think the solar tuki gives more, better quality light. It also undoubtedly gives off fewer fumes and is less of a fire hazard.
It sounds as if ECCA is taking steps to make solar tukis sustainable on a local level. They’ve chosen a simple design, which uses locally available materials (other than the solar panel). They train people in the community to maintain them. They try to ensure ownership by charging a nominal fee for the devices—sometimes facilitated by a local microfinance institution. The main feedback they’ve gotten from users is that they’d like them to provide even more light so they’re designing bigger models.
In a country where large sections are still not electrified, it is a win anytime renewables beat out dirty, loud diesel generators—particularly when the organization behind them is as capable and committed to sustainable development as ECCA.
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