Bob Kokonya and his family in north-west Kenya used to rely completely on tin lamps for lighting their home between 6–10pm each day. The lamps used half a litre of kerosene a day, which cost Bob 60 Kenyan shillings (around US $23 each month). Also, the family’s nostrils would be blackened by the morning because of the sooty smoke produced when kerosene burns in the open air. ‘The house was very smoky and we were coughing all the time’, Bob said.
Kerosene is a non-renewable fuel. Fumes from burning kerosene pollute the air and lead to ill health. The fumes also contribute to climate change. Solar power, on the other hand, is a clean and renewable energy source. Solar-powered devices turn the energy in sunlight into electricity.
Bob purchased a solar-powered light. In his area, such lights cost between 1500 and 1800 Kenyan shillings (around US $19–23) – roughly the same cost as a month’s supply of kerosene. ‘In my daily life, I have seen a huge change’, he said. ‘When I was buying kerosene and using tin lamps, I would struggle with providing my family with basic needs. 70% of my income was spent on kerosene. Now I can afford bread daily!’
‘Around 50 families out of the 150 or so in my community are already using solar products. And those who don’t have them are yearning for them’.
Using solar power instead of non-renewable fuel protects natural resources and the environment, protects health and protects household income from the impact of unpredictable fuel prices. Solar products can seem expensive but over time a lot of money can be saved that would have been spent on fuel. Another important benefit is that solar power can be used to charge batteries which provide electricity when the main power supply is cut off or when there is no other access to electricity.
Anna Wells works for Solar Aid. Solar Aid trains communities to sell small-scale solar devices.
Do you have experience of using solar-powered products that you can share with other readers? Please write to the Editor using the details on the Letters page.