POWERING THE XOs USING SOLAR PANELS

Basic Google search will show you that less than 20 % of Kenyans are connected to the National electric grid. The rest of Kenya including Eshibinga village is in darkness. Now, as if to add insult to injury, the government of Kenya announced that it cannot generate enough electricity for its citizens. As such it begun from this week a program where some parts of the country are cast into darkness certain periods of the day. This is has come to be known as power rationing.
As you may have read or heard, the Eastern Part of Africa sometimes called the Horn of Africa that includes, Kenya, Somali, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia etc is currently undergoing a bitter drought never seen in the recent past. Masses of people are facing starvation since rains have failed and hence no farm produce to feed them. To make matters worse, the rivers that are usually damned up so at to generate electricity have now dried up. Darkness! But some rural women in some remote part of this country are saying!
“Let there be light”
And thanks to the efforts of a group from India, rural women in one of the most remote corners of the Kenyan republic are turning on lights as the rest of Kenya plunges into darkness. Goodness! Let me explain!
Tucked away in the remote villages of Olando and Got Kaliech in rural Kenya, residents in this poor outpost in south-western Kenya today have light after darkness falls. The light is thanks to Phoebe Jondiko, Joyce Matunga and Phoebe Akinyi, the three solar “women engineers” who have literally switched on the lights in the two villages with a view to lighting up more villages in the remote Gwassi Division in Suba District.
Blessed with year-round sunshine, Kenya is quickly waking up to the realization that it can successfully tap into one of the vast natural resources on the planet – the sun. Solar energy has for a long time remained largely untapped in Kenya due to a combination of factors with the single biggest obstacle being the hugely expensive solar kits. The three women engineers in rural Kenya got support and training on how to handle solar panels courtesy of an Indian college.
Victor Ndiege is the coordinator of a Kisumu-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that is geared towards empowering women in rural areas through the provision of renewable power, easing domestic chores, especially when night falls and helping village women come up with income generating activities. He got connected to a college in India to further his vision and now the rest as they say is history.
According to research conducted by Ndege, village women spend between Kenya Shillings (Kes) 850 and 1,200 [approximately US $10 to $15] every month on lighting alone. The women, notes Ndiege, use various sources such as paraffin and firewood to light up their homes after dark and to cook food.
“This has negative effects on the environment as they have to cut down trees for firewood, while paraffin poses health risks to the women and their families on inhalation of the harmful fumes from paraffin lamps,” said Ndiege. “In that case, we identified solar energy as the most affordable alternative energy source that we could use in the villages. We partnered with the Barefoot College in India, which trains semi-illiterate rural women to fabricate, install and maintain solar lighting systems in the villages.”
Ndiege said that the women acquired vital solar engineering skills that they are currently applying in the remote villages of Olando and Got Kaliech. Under the Village Solar Committees (VSCs) program, village folks will contribute between Kes 500 and 800 [approximately US $7 to 10] in monthly subscriptions from each household to keep the program running.
“The village women have also started income generating activities that include a posho mill that is powered by solar energy to generate some income for the women groups and a small workshop where local youth can gain skills and eke out a living while supporting the village solar program as well,” explained Ndiege.
I visited their offices in Kisumu to get more information on how this solar power can be harnessed and be of use to our xo laptop project in Eshibinga primary. And for sure I learn a lot that I felt I shoul blog.
The group that is helping these villagers in Kenya is called Barefoot college. I hope that title rings a bell. (Remember my computer class at Eshibinga has pupils who come to school barefoot.) The college is located in Tilona, India and is the brainchild of Indian-based social-entrepreneur Bunker Roy. This is the first time the college is partnering with a Kenyan-based community organization. The college has so far trained more than 100 semi-illiterate rural women and electrified more than 5,500 households in about 72 remote villages in 15 third-world countries.
A such a time when 80% of Kenya is not connected to the National power grid, and even the few households that are connected now facing power rationing, then solar is the way to go. Kenya has to adopt green energy technologies to power its booming economy into a middle-income economy. Solar energy will play a pivotal role in Kenya’s green energy policy. This has been exemplified not only in the solar energy lighting program in rural Kenya by this Barefoot college. And it was here that I learnt that the IT bosses in Kenya are coming up with a new data center in Nairobi the capital city.
Within East and central Africa, Kenya is the regional ICT hub, the Kenya Data Networks (KDN), a Nairobi-based internet service provider, has plans to build the first ever solar powered data center in Nairobi. The data center will be the only one of its kind in Africa. Building cost estimates are around Kes 600 million [US$ 7.5 million].
According to CEO Kai Wulff, KDN is also planning to use solar energy to power most of its digital villages spread in remote parts of the country under the Green Solar Power initiative. Wulff said that the initiative will be a two-pronged project that will take technology closer to the village folks through the provision of fast and cheap internet connections, while at the same time, providing cheap power to power the rural ICT centers. Now this is music to my ears. I want internet in Eshibinga village as soon as possible. I want those barefooted boys and girls to reach out to their counterparts across the globe. Kenya Data Networks is promising it can deliver. But when? Worries and fears envelope me whenever the word Kenya government is mentioned. This A government bogged down with corruption, (recently money meant for free primary education disappeared), A government that cannot feed or educate its citizens! Can it provide solar energy to my village? Can it provide internet to those poor kids? I doubt it! May be we at Eshibinga will keep hoping and praying that like the rural women I have mentioned above, we will get a sponsor. May be Jane, May be Sandra, anyone who may be reading this, who can say YES! Lets do it. Let us get some solar panels to Eshibinga, Let get internet connected. Let us do it. YES WE CAN.

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3 Responses to POWERING THE XOs USING SOLAR PANELS

  1. sv3rma says:

    Here’s the college in Tilonia, India: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot_college

  2. Pingback: Kenyan teachers on strike, XOs and volunteers take over | One Laptop per Child

  3. KANYARU says:

    I also wonder when I was doing my research on the renewable energy I came across your blog and my eye was caught by what you are writing about my country Kenya and the Africa continent in general. I cannot say that what you write about your school which is also my former school is true. to say that Kenya is them most corrupt country that is bringing your western propaganda to your beautiful article about what you are doing in Africa. For your information I am a USA educated fellow with MBA from New York University, MA in international policies from Harvard University, and a PhD in economic and asset management from Brandeis university. To always use corruption allegations to draw your point home is uncalled for because most of the corruptions we have in Africa come from you guys. In fact western countries are the most corrupt places on this planet for example take the case of the former US VP under Bush administration with his oil scandal in Nigeria:http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gUGZpuLK-VOVNBA8pPojQnb7FAKg?docId=CNG.347958328eebaf1a5122e531750726d6.ee1 but do you even talk about it?in fact all the years I have been in the states I never seen any stupid USA media talking about this scandal…so get your life men and thank God there is Africa where you can carry out your try and err projects

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