Lights of learning
About 80 million households in India, or half of the country’s population, have little or no access to on-grid electricity. These households rely on kerosene lamps for lighting because such lamps are portable and easy to make. However, kerosene is expensive and extremely harmful to health.
Solar lamps are available on the Indian market, but at CHF 15 CHF to CHF 20 per lamp they are expensive by the standards of many households. More important, in rural villages it is difficult to get solar lamps repaired. As a result, even people who invest in a solar lamp often revert to a kerosene-powered lamp when the solar lamp breaks.
As women and children spend a good deal of time in the home, they are generally most impacted by poor lighting as well as by the health hazards posed by kerosene.
The social enterprise LEDsafari envisions a world where every student studies by the light of a solar LED lamp built by his or her own hands using mainly recycled materials. It offers a low-cost do-it-yourself (DIY) solar lamp as well as instruction in how to build it. The key to its approach is sharing technology through training, not providing lamps per se.
In this collaboration with the Swiss Re Foundation, local government and partner organisations including schools, LEDsafari is providing DIY solar lamp kits at low cost to secondary school students in Ongole, an off-grid tribal region on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh, India. Using LEDsafari’s gamified learning materials and supported by on-site trainers, participating students will make their own solar lamps, developing a complete understanding of the physics behind the circuit and the lamp design. Once they know how to make the lamp, they will also be able to repair it in case of damage.
LEDsafari focuses on training the trainers, who may include schoolteachers and representatives of NGOs. It encourages trainees to adapt the technology to their needs, for instance, by customising the lamp’s brightness and aesthetics. Local partners are free to use LEDsafari’s training materials.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
The project reached more than 1 500 high school students in Bihar, New Delhi and Chhattisgarh. They and their families will enjoy the benefits of having a safe source of lighting in the home, and their villages will benefit indirectly from the resulting improvements in the families’ health, productivity and educational attainment.