Solar energy lighting homes to brighter futures

At sunset, Mr. Hezekiah Musemi happily milks his cow outside his compound using a solar lamp that he purchased from one of the CWS youth solar entrepreneurs. The lamp is hung on the wall and seated calmly on a stool, Hezekiah milks his cow while whistling away

Hezekiah.jpg
At sunset, Hezekiah Musemi happily milks his cow outside his compound using a solar lamp he purchased from a young entrepreneur in CWS’s Giving Hope program.
Photo: CWS

by Caroline Thuo

At sunset, Mr. Hezekiah Musemi happily milks his cow outside his compound using a solar lamp that he purchased from one of the CWS youth solar entrepreneurs. The lamp is hung on the wall and seated calmly on a stool, Hezekiah milks his cow while whistling away. Meanwhile, his wife Lillian is equally busy inside their house assisting their four children to do their homework. She cleverly hangs the lamp at an angle on the wall allowing the light to illuminate their modest living room.

The Hezekiah household has earned respect and awe from neighbours since they started using the solar lighting kits. Lillian is no longer making the long trek to the market center to purchase kerosene like all the women in her neighborhood and neither does Hezekiah have to ride his bicycle to go charge his mobile phone some 10 kilometers away. “People here think that my home is a minister’s (senior government official) house!”, beams Hezekiah as he milks away. Well, it’s not hard to figure out why the neighbors would think that way. The mango-sized solar lamp hung outside Hezekiah’s house as he milks, lights up the whole compound and is even visible to passersby from outside the home compound. For this community that has been off the grid for ages and with no hopes for electricity in the near future, the light from the lamp surely dazzles many and perhaps reminds them of ‘big peoples’ homes they have heard of from stories or that they have seen from their visits to the nearest big town, Kakamega. Moreover, they are used to using tiny kerosene lamps that hardly give enough light beyond a few feet away.

The Giving Hope program launched the solar enterprise pilot project in Kakamega involving 200 youth entrepreneurs through a collaborative partnership with international award winning energy company ToughStuff Solar. ToughStuff Solar Kenya supplies ToughStuff solar products to CWS who in turn supply to the youth entrepreneurs who then sell the products to the community at a recommended retail Price. The Youth usually benefit from the 20% profit margin. This entrepreneurship model has made participating youth responsible but also creates sustainability among them. ToughStuff also provides monthly trainings and technical assistance to youth entrepreneurs and CWS staff on product usage, sales training as well as providing ongoing support through a dedicated relationship manager.

So far, the project has provided income to 200 youth and reduced fuel/energy related costs for over 300 households in Lurambi and Shinyalu divisions of Kakamega. The customers speak of significant savings not only in fuel costs but also in transport costs used in traveling to recharge their phones and purchase kerosene. This they say has also saved them valuable time, which is now spent on other livelihood and routine household activities. Incidences of fire accidents resulting from kerosene lamps in the homes have also reduced with children being able to study and do house chores with ease and in safety.

Hezekiah and his wife Lillian are a happy couple who celebrate the gains of saving much of their little income that was previously used in buying paraffin and travel to purchase radio batteries and charge phones. They invested in a complete solar kit, which comes with mobile phone (charge) connectors; a solar panel, radio connectors and a power pack battery back-up. With this complete kit, Hezekiah can light his house, charge his phone and listen to his radio, which has saved him approximately, USD30 a month on energy/fuel related costs.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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