Solar Lamps: the first step
Please help me to deliver solar lamps to households without electricity in Ndroudé - a small fishing village in the Comoros Islands of the Indian Ocean - as a first step in creating an eco-community here.
This is the first step in an exciting new sustainable development project that aims to build an eco-community in the village of Ndroudé in the Comoros Islands (off the coast of Madagascar).
We are working with the people in the village to improve their standard of living while reducing their impact upon the local environment. One effective way to do this is to provide solar-powered lamps to light up the home at night - thereby reducing dependency on both dangerous kerosene lamps and the unreliable (and expensive) local electricity supply.
The funding we are requesting will cover the pilot project, which involves collecting solar lamps from the nearest distribution point (in Nairobi) and delivering them to some of the households in the village who are most in need (the ones without any electricity at all).
Your donation will also allow us to employ (and train) one of the villagers as on-site project co-ordinator, providing technical support to the villagers and monitoring the project so that we can properly evaluate it before commencing the next step (a wider roll-out of solar lamps).
Thank you for taking a look...
In 2007 I worked in the Comoros Islands for 5 months (surveying sea grass beds and interviewing fishermen) and I fell in love with this charming, crazy and beautiful archipelago. Although it has many of the problems associated with less developed countries, it has a wealth of natural riches, from unique wildlife like the dugong, to beautiful scenery and friendly people with a rich cultural heritage.
If they can gain access to the latest green technology, the Comorian people have a chance to leap-frog some of the problems usually associated with the process of lifting communities out of poverty. The Comoros has the potential to become an innovative, self-sufficient island community, harvesting its energy requirements from the sun, managing its unique natural resources responsibly, and growing an alternative economy rooted in eco-tourism.
Last year I returned to the Comoros to initiate a project in collaboration with the people of Ndroudé, a small fishing community on the North-East coast of the largest island in the group. Our mission is to discover and implement ways to radically improve the lives of the villagers and protect their environment, in ways that are both sustainable and durable.
We have received a donation of £300 to buy solar lamps for households in the village who have no electricity. These villagers have little… so the first batch will be provided free as part of a pilot scheme to test this type of lamp in the community, and the feasibility of scaling the operation to the wider community.
We need to raise the funds for my next flight out to collect solar lamps from the distributor in Nairobi and deliver them to the villagers of Ndroudé, as well as funds to provide some training on maintenance of the solar lamps and a small stipend for a coordinator of this pilot project within the village.
[Note: Somebody has to go in person to deliver the lamps - there is currently no distributor in the Comoros Islands. Having consulted with SunnyMoney we have established that it is necessary to pick them up directly from their office in Nairobi in order to obtain a V.A.T. exemption certificate.]
A medium-term aim of the project is to work with SunnyMoney to extend distribution of the lamps into the Comoros, engaging local entrepreneurs to set up a sustainable business selling these using the business model established by Solar Aid. A meeting to discuss this with SunnyMoney, and research into potential Comorian distributors will also be undertaken during this trip.
What you will help to achieve if you donate
The impact your help will have on the people of Ndroudé will be literally life changing. They will be able to light up their homes at night without having to pay the only electricity company in the country (for an unreliable electric supply) or use expensive and polluting kerosene. It would also be a great demonstration to people here, of the potential of harnessing solar power.
Here are a few facts from the charity Solar Aid on the impact of switching to solar:
- Inhaling the fumes from a kerosene lamp is the toxic equivalent to smoking 170 cigarettes a year.
- On average children study for an extra hour each night after switching to solar and the improved light source is shown to increase motivation, attendance and performance at school
- Money saved from solar is commonly spent on better food, education and farming inputs. On average solar lights save rural African families around $70 per year.
- A solar light brings people together and can help make people feel safe and secure in an otherwise dark rural environment
Solar Aid have made it their mission to eliminate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020.
Solar power is the energy source of the future.
Thanks to efforts by forward-thinking countries, particularly Germany and China, the cost of this technology is plummeting.
Once installed, solar technology requires little maintenance and no supply chain ... and of course, the one resource the whole of Africa shares is sunshine!
Unfortunately for the people of the Comoros they are off the beaten track and out of the media spot-light when it comes to investment from the west. A French colony since 1757, the Comoros Islands (or Islands of the Moon) have a unique heritage of Arabic, French and African peoples. Since 1975 the Islands became independent of France but they still rely almost totally on imports for most of their basic needs. Notably oil but also food staples such as rice and flour.
The model of lamp we will be supplying is the SunKing Pro 2, a proven technology used by Solar Aid which has:
- 3 brightness settings
- Up to 30 hours of light on a full day charge
- Two year warranty
- Up to five year battery life
[Price per lamp (converted from Kenyan Shillings, for orders up to £330) = £21.79. Therefore for £305.58 (closest price to £300) I will buy 14 of these lamps to take to the village.]
I will be recording the impact on each household that receives a solar lamp during my visit and getting honest feedback about how much they have helped and any problems that come up. The project coordinator from the village will carry on this monitoring work once I have left, on an ongoing basis, depending on how much funding is received.
The target I am aiming to raise is £1,200 and will help to cover the cost of flights to the Comoros via Kenya. It will also cover training and a small stipend for a project coordinator - Said Kasssim - from Ndroudé to provide ongoing support for the project by being a point of contact, providing maintenance advice and collecting feedback on use of the solar lamps and any problems that may come up.
Any money raised above the target will be put towards future project activities within this community. Future work could include:
- Providing more solar lamps,
- Providing agricultural equipment to help with growing food,
- Providing solar powered battery chargers,
- Research into other solar technology to help the village such as a solar powered pump for the well,
- Providing a stipend for an overall project coordinator based in the village to help support and oversee any future activities
Said Mohamed from Ndroudé
Thank you for reading this far. I hope you feel inspired to help the people of Ndroudé and the Comoros and I am sure that you can see the benefit of doing so for purely altruistic reasons. However no one who contributes goes unrewarded. The people of the Comoros need a hand-up, not a hand-out, and all contributors receive not only our most heartfelt thanks and appreciation but also a personalised thank you email and update report from the trip and its outcomes post-completion.
See the relevant section of this webpage for more details on rewards.
Please click on the link below if you would like further information on this project:
An extra note
I’m very much of a view that people in countries such as this are not helpless victims who just need pity handouts of aid from the west to keep them going. Nor do I believe in the ‘we know best’ attitude of some western aid projects or funds given out to poorer countries. The Comorians I have met and got to know are intelligent, resourceful and caring people who just want to get on, make a living and have a reasonable quality of life ... but unfortunately, a large number of circumstances outside their control have made this difficult. Which is why our vision is to give this small country a head start in the race to global sustainability and avoid the mistakes many developed and richer countries have made.
I am not naive about the challenges that stand in the way of my larger dream here but I don’t believe that is a reason not to try. Although I have never set up a project like this myself before, I do have significant experience of managing development/conservation projects in Africa and Asia, as well as having fieldwork experience in Africa.
There is obviously a limit to what one person can do by themselves but I am trying to make just a small start in working towards this vision in one community. And over time I hope this will grow - with the help of the community of Ndroudé, other communities in the Comoros, and with the funding and partnership of like-minded organisations.
Other ways you can help
I realise that not everyone can afford to give a contribution to this campaign but you can really help by spreading the word and sharing this with friends over facebook and any other ways you can think of.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have learnt something about a country you may never have heard of before. Please contribute if you can and spread the word!