It might surprise you but in Uganda, 90% of the population is not connected to an electric grid, which means most people rely on flame based lamps powered by kerosene. Not only are these lamps dim and expensive, they also come with health costs. Many people living in Uganda will cook over open flames, meaning indoor air pollution can make it equivalent to smoking about two packs of cigarettes in just one day, as well as many losing their homes and lives to house fires. Maybe less surprising is the fact that many have turned to solar energy to help developing countries.
Solar lamps can completely eliminate this need for kerosene lighting, with little or no ongoing costs. In the Western world, we are lucky enough to not have to worry about many of the luxuries that are placed in front of us being taken away from us, we accept them as normal. If we are without electricity for a slight moment of the day, the world as we know it for that moment is a nightmare – how do we watch TV, make a cup of tea or surf the web? No matter how important these things may seem at the time, for people in Africa, their problems are much less (sorry, I must say it)…trivial. Their worries revolve around not having lighting or healthy air to breathe and these worries continue to plague their minds, every single day.
There is a positive side to this; FINCA has started a project which brings solar panels into Uganda, which ultimately makes the lives of people living in Uganda literally and figuratively brighter. People who are now using solar panels in Uganda have said their livelihood and health has improved. The brighter more efficient light has enabled people to have much more freedom, allowing children to study at night and adults to run their business as it gets darker – both of which will have incalculable effects on their lives and community. The people using solar are now having longer, more productive days which they can fill with work, reading the newspaper or connecting with people via their readily charged phone. Everybody deserves a chance to flourish and solar lamps are giving people just this, with pride that their village is lit-up just like a town.
The people using solar have now been using them to earn extra income, which economically will benefit their whole village. Now, they can attract more customers with their brightly lit stalls and longer working hours. Some have started little niche businesses, all of which will allow them to prosper and be in more control of their own future. Not only that, the lamps are collected and used for school night classes, education is extremely important and teaching the next generation will have an amazing amount of benefits.
Uganda, however beautiful it may be, is extremely undeveloped; dirt roads fill the landscape, markets are rudimentary and products don’t work as well as they should. Solar panels in a community like this have countless benefits – and many more will definitely evolve from it, in ways which we may not imagine. FINCA is the big name for this project although many other charities are following. You can keep up to date with all their efforts and donate from their website, watching towns and lives light up. It just shows that the benefits of solar panels are universal.