Give Pedal-Generated Light to Millions of Nepalis

by VillageTech Solutions (VTS)

More than 200 households will be equipped with EcoSystems' latest home lighting kits in the next six weeks. Recharging energy will come from various sources: grid chargers, solar panels and the PedalGenerator. Funds from GlobalGiving's partners help to make this happen.

One installation may be with the same Sukaura community with whom we start building a bridge this week. Other communities will receive stand-alone solar lighting kits that we can acquire from local manufacturers.

After installilng the current phase of equipment, we will focus for some time--six months to a year--on substantial improvements to technical performance and cost reduction. During this time we do not plan to work in the villages so will not enlist donations.

Photographs and anecdotes we collect while organizing the current lighting program will be sent to GlobalGiving to share with those who have generously supported this program.

The story of creation, of new technology in the developing world at least, is not one of a single, brilliant, stroke but definitely one of evolution, trial and error, and survival of the fittest design. We are now in the third generation of the EcoPower systems, with a much clearer idea of the needs for particular features, and the overwhelming need to reduce cost. A few field trials will be under way by year's end; some of the original trial sites will be re-equipped with better equipment, and in some cases, many more households will be added to their village network. Your donations make this expansion practical.

We carried a full power system through the center of Tanahun District last week, spending two nights at diffrent villages to get their comments on the lights, radio, and of course, on the small 10" LCD TV. A companion DVD player provided a UNICEF cartoon with a social message--to the delight of everyone who could squeeze close enough to see.

It's clear that educational DVDs can be a powerful tool in the rural environment where schooling is so difficult and support materials so little. The PedalGenerator offers a way to ensure that the power won't go out.

Achane school faculty discuss A/V curriculum
Achane school faculty discuss A/V curriculum

First of all, an enthusiastic and heartfelt THANK YOU to our generous donors. For you who offered the challenge grants and the many who responded so enthusiastically--you are great. Our team in Nepal is now reviewing all of the test sites as well as several new areas to select a "Village 100". Having completed the necessary 'technical' trials, we now move on to refine the business model for a Village Power and Light 'company'. We will evaluate what it takes ~ probably a service market of at least 100 homes, plus one or more other 'business' applications. Your financial assistance will be used to get the systems into the hands of the users as rapidly as possible.

The first 'harvest' of data are in from the fifteen village test sites of the PedalGenerator and its lighting systems. This data identified parts of the system that need strengthening, and additional features that will make the systems easier to use and more beneficial.

With funding principally from the World Bank's Development Marketplace, EcoSystems provided fourteen communities in Nepal and one in Haiti with the PedalGenerator, PowerCentre (battery storage), and UserBox (home lighting) systems. In Nepal the village sites were selected by two NGOs that focus on rural development.

In each community an individual or group 'entrepreneur' was trained to operate and make minor repairs to the equipment. They kept records of the time the generators ran; the electrical output; the number of times each home-battery was recharged; villagers' ideas for improvements... At the end of November, in exchange for their cooperation in this trial, the entrepreneurs and the collaborating families were each given title to their equipment.

EcoSystems has been fortunate this year to have the assistance of a number of highly qualified volunteers, who have helped to train our Nepali staff, solve mechanical and electronic challenges, and redesign the equipment to include all he improvements noted during the field trials.

The new UserBox, which serves as the power source in an individual home, has been redesigned. The first batch of new circuit boards will arrive in Nepal in March, and appear in rural homes within weeks.

EcoSystems (soon to be known as VillageTech Solutions ~ VTS) is a finalist in a new Development Marketplace competition called "Lighting Africa". If successful in this competition, the DM program will enable VTS to find and train distributors in Africa to carry the EcoPower system.

PowerCentre with lid removed, and ChargingBox
PowerCentre with lid removed, and ChargingBox


Women and Children May Work and Study
Women and Children May Work and Study

In the pictures below taken in May we see how electricity after dark, even the smallest amount, a lamp with two tiny LED bulbs, transforms lives. The mother can perform house-hold chores more easily, and children can now study at night, both of which are of the extreme essence in the fight against poverty. Most children in Nepal have to work for money during the day when not in school. By providing this family with a "Mero Bakas", Nepalese for "my box", a small rechargeable battery recharged by a pedal generator every two months, people feel productive and hopeful. Children, in particular, feel that their minds are valued.

Children studying
Children studying
Two months of light with our battery
Two months of light with our battery

We have made good progress with the EcoPower systems in the past two months. Complete systems (PedalGenerator, Charging Centre with its 12 V battery), Charging Boxes and the home-lighting systems have been placed in three villages. By the end of May another twelve villages will be trained and equipped. The tests will continue through the end of November, at which time the first 'commercial' designs will be complete. There has been close attention to the electronics in each system component to ensure that the two batteries--the big 12 volt deep cycle storage battery, and the smaller 6 volt battery that shuttles power to the homes--are protected from abuse. Batteries that are protected from excessive charging or discharging last much longer.

The twin LED reading lamps in the picture below use only .06 watts. They are waiting to meet their clients. In the second picture, a woman is holding "Mero Bakas", the Nepalese "my box" refering to the rechargeable battery which they take home and connect to the lamps.

Holding "Mero Bakas", the rechargeable battery
Holding "Mero Bakas", the rechargeable battery

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Organization Information

VillageTech Solutions (VTS)

Location: Menlo Park, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
David Sowerwine
Managing Director
Menlo Park, California United States

Funded Project!

Thanks to 115 donors like you, a total of $31,081 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving. Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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