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Lighting churches and villages

Improving access to solar power in Zambia

Prisca Kambole 2021 Available in English, French and Spanish

Members of a self-help group with the lights they have been able to buy using a flexible payment plan.

Members of a self-help group with the lights they have been able to buy using a flexible payment plan. Photo: Partners for Life Advancement and Education Promotion, Zambia

Lameck Chibago in Tanzania carefully looks after the solar panel on the roof of his house.

From: Sustainable energy – Footsteps 114

Practical examples of how off-grid sustainable energy can improve people’s day-to-day lives

Doing schoolwork at home was a huge challenge for Mervis’s children because, after walking miles from school and getting home close to sunset, they had to rely on candles for light.

Mervis says, ‘Not only are candles expensive, but the light is not good for schoolwork and there is always the danger of my younger children accidentally getting burnt.’

Only about a third of Zambians have access to electricity, and in rural areas this number drops to four per cent. As a result, many households depend on kerosene lamps and candles.

Power from the sun

Light My Church Light My Village (LICLIV) was launched in January 2019. The goal of the project is to contribute to a reduction in damaging carbon emissions while increasing affordable access to off-grid renewable energy among households and local churches.

The solar power systems offered by the project include a solar panel, three high‑power lights and a battery to store the electricity that is generated. The battery is suitable for charging mobile phones and other small appliances.

Many jobs have been created for young people in the communities who promote the products and provide follow-up support and maintenance. They also raise awareness about solar technologies to protect people from informal traders who sometimes offer low-cost, low‑quality products that break after a few weeks.

LICLIV works with churches and self‑help groups to ensure that the project is relevant, sustainable and of benefit to everyone. A flexible payment plan allows members of self-help groups to pay for a home solar power system over 12 months.


Mervis was delighted when her self-help group decided to create a solar fund in addition to their existing savings scheme. Members can now buy solar equipment from the LICLIV project on credit and make monthly contributions into the fund until they have paid off their loan. This makes the products more affordable for all group members.

Lumbiwe, the group moderator, explains, ‘The group serves as a guarantee, so if anyone defaults on the monthly payment, the group deducts the money from their savings. We are grateful to be able to buy the solar products under flexible terms.’

Mervis says, ‘I now have three lights. One light is placed in the children’s bedroom, one is outside to provide security lighting and the other one is in the family room. Once fully charged, the lights can work for more than eight hours. The children’s school performance has improved because they can study in the evening.’

Thanks to their new solar-powered lights, Mervis’s children are able to complete their homework in the evenings after school.

Thanks to their new solar-powered lights, Mervis’s children are able to complete their homework in the evenings after school Photo: Partners for Life Advancement And Education Promotion, Zambia

Business opportunities

Ted and his wife own a poultry farm but were struggling to make a profit because of the high cost of kerosene for lighting. The flexible payment plan allowed them to buy a solar-powered lighting system through their self‑help group.

Ted says, ‘The benefits have been enormous. The costs of the business have reduced significantly now that we no longer spend money on kerosene.

‘I have extended the chicken run to increase bird capacity up to 400. Because of this our lives have improved and we are now able to make a profit and meet our household needs.’

LICLIV is implemented by a consortium of three organisations working in partnership with Tearfund: Chibuluma Baptist Church under the Baptist Convention of Zambia (BCZ), Prison Fellowship of Zambia (PFZ) and Partners for Life Advancement and Education Promotion (PLAEP).

  Prisca Kambole

Prisca Kambole is the Executive Director of PLAEP.

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