Many families in rural areas of Nicaragua burn candles, wood or kerosene for lighting which can be expensive and dangerous, and can cause poor air quality. Families have to travel long distances by foot or bus to replenish their fuel source, wasting time and money. Solar lights significantly decrease household spending on burnable energy sources, saving money for other items like food, school uniforms and medicine. Solar lights also reduce the risk of injury, respiratory illness and the improved light quality helps prevent eyesight degradation from trying to see by candlelight at night. Solar lights make it possible for people read, do homework, work at home and perform other tasks that are not possible to do once the sun goes down. Some solar lights can also charge cell phones, further saving a family time and money.
Overall, solar lights are:
- more economical
- safer and better for health
- better for the environment
- time savers
- a place to charge cell phones
- better and more consistent lighting sources
GRID Alternatives invites women in the communities to we work in to participate in the Solar Lighting Program as small-scale salespeople. They purchase the lights at cost and sell them in their communities for a small markup, creating an additional income source for their family and providing an affordable and clean lighting source for their neighbors and friends. The lights are displayed in a catalog showing the retail price and the product features and benefits. The lights are not donated and no micro-finance model is used, making the distribution simple, fair and affordable.
About the solar lights
The Solar Lighting Program offers mutiple solar lighting options to meet a variety of needs and budgets in the rural communities we work in. We’ve done our research by testing many solar lighting options ourselves, ensuring that the light is a high-efficiency LED, the batteries are replaceable, the light level is bright enough, and the products will last when used in a tropical climate. We’ve chosen the products that are the highest quality with the best price and are the most sustainable for the long term.
- The Nokero light is a simple LED light in the shape of a lightbulb that is powered by a small photovoltaic cell integrated into the light itself. The light is charged by putting it in the sunshine during the day and is portable and easy to use. The Nokero light does not include cell phone charging but is an affordable light for many people that live in towns that have no cell phone access or that can only afford this lighting option.
- The SunKing Mobile light includes a half-globe light, a cell phone charger and a separate 1.5W solar module that allows families to leave the light indoors during the day while it charges. It also comes with a simple metal stand so the light can rest on a table and better illuminate reading materials. Its simple design makes it easy to use, and a numerical display on the bottom of the light indicates battery usage. It emits a bright light that is soft, making it more pleasant to see by than other LED lighting options.
Why aren’t we giving the lights away?
Many non-profits donate lights and other products to individual households. We believe that this not only increases dependency on foreign aid, but there is also no transfer of skills, it competes with local business, and it encourages individuals to ask for handouts rather than pursue job opportunities. Besides ‘basic need’ items like food, water, and shelter, responsible international development should always work towards empowering individuals by taking into account the long-term effects of the program being offered.
Cell phone charging
The parts of the world that have no electricity are often also places that have no traditional telepone infrastrucure. Cell phones have revolutionized communicatons in these areas, but cell phone charging still often involves traveling to a nearby city with electricity and paying a shop owner a fee to plug in. Many solar lights also offer cell charging, saving famiies both time and expense.