Addressing the increasing marginalisation of the illiterate, off-grid rural poor in remote parts of Eastern Uganda, who are overlooked by government and mainstream aid-givers.
The women in the photo live in the remotest parts of rural Uganda – they are now trainee solar engineers, thanks to this project funded by APE. They have gained no benefit from market liberalisation or agricultural support programmes, but have been hit by rising prices of staple foods, resulting from climate change and international market movements beyond their control. Family sizes are increasing whilst the size of the land on which each subsists is decreasing. As subsistence farmers, they cannot grow enough produce to sell for income. Women are only able to engage in income-generating activities in a very limited way, because of the constraints on their daylight time. Lighting alternatives are expensive, harmful and dangerous. This project aims to give a hand up to the subsistence farming communities of Kalalu and Kiwanyi, which lie between Lakes Victoria and Kyoga, through the provision of solar equipment which the APE funds will be used to purchase.
Solar power is not new: but too often lack of servicing know-how has rendered panels and batteries donated through various aid schemes, useless. What makes this project different is its sustainability through the involvement and training of village women to maintain and repair the equipment, so that it will last – without any further outside input. This, and the system of employing the women, is run by Mivule, a strong community based organization, working in partnership with the Barefoot College in India.
Barefoot was founded by social entrepreneur, Bunker Roy, 40 years ago and his successful social enterprise model is now being spread to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the South Pacific and Latin America. Under the partnership, Barefoot College provide six months of training, to locally selected women endorsed by their communities. In a tried and tested model, these newly-trained solar engineer women then install the solar equipment on each of the 300 target households, with the solar panels mounted for safety and efficiency on the roofs, and take responsibility for its maintenance and repair. They will be employed by the community, using money which would usually be spent on kerosene lighting. 3,000 people will be beneficiaries of this project; they will be enabled to engage in economic activity, and their children to study, after nightfall. Health, especially respiratory health, is expected to improve, from not using kerosene, and from better hygiene and cleaner houses. It is also expected that birth rates will reduce, as has happened elsewhere on the arrival of electricity. There will also be a positive impact on the environment with less use of kerosene and less foraging for firewood. The empowerment of the women is expected to have a wider impact within the community. If this project is successful it will serve as a model in other parts of Eastern Africa.