One in five of the world's population in the less-industrialized world does not have access to a clean light source. Most live in very poor, remote communities where light scarcity traps many of the women in the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Furthermore, when there is no sun and no moon, these individuals live in the dark from sunset to sunrise, able to navigate by touch alone.
Whilst recent years have seen rapid growth of businesses and organizations dedicated to the alleviation of light poverty, there remain communities in large areas of sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere who live too far off the beaten track and who are too impoverished to benefit from these new LED light sources.
Over the past decade, working with, and learning from some of these communities in East and West Africa, we have developed a standalone, solar powered lighting system kit suitable for assembly close to the point of installation by the end-users.
The complete lighting system is put together under a mango tree by the community for whom it is intended—reused plastic containers are used for the housing, through hole circuit boards for the LED drive, and battery charging circuits are assembled using battery powered soldering irons.
The LED lanterns, powered by a 6V lead acid battery available in local markets, are charged at a central community charging station comprising a charge controller, 100W PV panel and a local car battery—designed to distribute the cost of expensive components. Requiring only a weekly recharge since the lanterns run on full power for about 40 hrs (and reduced power for about 120 hrs), the charging station is able to support about 80 lanterns.
Although funds for this work have been provided by many organizations, the overall goal is to develop a self-sustaining organization. Users pay a small fee to join “a lighting club” and thereafter a “monthly charging fee”, both intended to cover the overall cost of components, assembly, installation and operation. Extra income is derived from cell phone charging facilities at the lantern charging station.
The kits are delivered by anything from a pickup through a donkey, a bicycle or hand carried on someone’s head. Expansion across terrain with no infrastructure is achieved through a series of communities taught to construct, install and operate the systems who subsequently pass on their learning to an even more remote community.
We now have an official SociaLite Lighting Systems Inc bank account!!