Recently, a small community in rural Tanzania has turned to solar. How does solar power transform everyday life for rural families across the globe?
For years, residents of Melela Mlandizi rely on dangerous kerosene lamps to light their homes after sunset. Today, they use safe, clean solar power to improve safety and quality of life.
“A baby cries and it’s dark, and sometimes you don’t have kerosene. And here where we live is very far from where you can get kerosene. So solar is perfect,” said solar technician Idd Ally Kapazi.
The program allows flexible payments, so those struggling financially can even pay for power on a day-by-day basis.
Every innovative undertaking faces challenges as well as victories. The program has been trying to address issues with obtaining reliable solar batteries and ensuring that solar is affordable for all residents. The government is taking note of the village’s progress, which may boost infrastructure in the isolated area.
Melela Mlandizi is an important example of how solar power is an ideal fit for rural communities across Africa. As more villages add solar, programs will improve battery storage and payment options. This means that millions of people will benefit from expanded productivity, safety, and convenience.
Why Going Solar Matters in Rural Africa
We at Community Renewable Energy believe deeply that bringing renewable energy to rural communities across the globe can enhance millions of lives. That’s why solar power fulfills the triple bottom line– it makes financial sense, but it’s also good for the planet and people.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), “The lack of access to electricity for at least 1.4 billion of households creates health risks, e.g. burns and injuries.” Kerosene lamps in particular are a major cause of injury and death in communities without electricity.
Aside from burns, indoor air pollution can gradually harm health.
“Indoor air pollution from kerosene wick lamps can cause fatal respiratory problems over time,” explains Patrick Avato, director of the Lighting Africa.
Other forms of fuel-based lighting are equally bad for health. According to WHO: “Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal. Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.”
In addition to providing light, renewable power can help keep food and medicine safer longer.
It’s easy to take for granted the ability to walk down the street at night, but for many communities, it’s safer to stay indoors than venture into the dark. When rural communities are grid-connected (or have off-grid battery storage), community members can choose where and when to leave their homes, rather than letting sunset dictate their movements.
Additionally, solar power technology is ideal for keeping cell phones charged, which means people can stay in touch and reach out for help.
Kerosene is expensive, and the light it creates is dim and difficult to work in. With renewable energy, small businesses can stay open later, craftspeople can work past sunset, and children have more opportunities to study and complete homework. Aside from lighting, solar technology helps businesses by powering refrigeration and other machines essential to running businesses.
When rural areas are electrified, local community members have the opportunity to learn a new, in-demand skill installing and maintaining power systems.
The Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India is just one example of how solar power can give people a fresh start. The Barefoot College trains women over 35 years old (many of whom are illiterate) to build solar power circuits, mobile chargers, and lamps.
“It makes sense to choose older women, since they are more loyal to their roots and less impatient to try out new pastures, which men do as soon as they’re given a certificate,” explained founder Bunker Roy.
We’re excited about the potential that renewable power holds for millions of people of all walks of life.
Listen to “Solar energy lights the way for one forgotten Tanzanian village” from RFI.
Learn more about how Africa is capitalizing on its massive solar power potential: