What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
It will address energy poverty in rural Malawi, which impacts many different aspects of people’s lives. As there is no electricity, people depend on unhealthy, unsustainable and expensive sources of energy like paraffin, biomass, candles and one-way battery torches for cooking and lighting. Smoke from paraffin lamps and indoor cooking is known to cause serious health issues and studying or working after dark with just a dim light is very difficult.
For charging their phones, people in Malawi often cover very long distances costing them valuable time that could otherwise be spent in productive ways. It is often the children who are sent to do this, which is causing additional health risks and takes their time otherwise available for playing and studying.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
While the official national electrification rate in Malawi is at 10%, only 1 in 100 households in the rural areas (where 85% of our population live) has access to electricity.
It has been shown in studies that poor people, especially women and children are over-proportionally affected by the lack of sustainable energy. Poor households in Malawi spend up to 30% of the little income they have on basic energy sources, again and again. Most of this money can easily be saved for the things people are struggling with the most, like food, school fees and health costs, if they can be empowered to access long-lasting, quality clean energy devices at an affordable initial investment.
Communication is quickly gaining importance here just as everywhere else in the world. As of now, about 40% of Malawians own a mobile phone with that ratio continuously increasing. Mobile phones increase business activity, information, and are used as cheap radios, music players and torches. Since the rural population of Malawi makes up the great majority of the country, this means that it is not only city people who use mobile phones. In the rural areas people cover many kilometres either by bike or walking simply to charge their phones.
What is your solution?
The community-based Energy Kiosks bring electricity and energy solutions to places far off the national power grid in a self-managed way that is owned by the community through their local entrepreneurs or committees. They create awareness, access, and enhance affordability of clean and more sustainable energy solutions for families. The Kiosks use solar power to charge energy devices like lights that are rented out or sold on pay-as-you-go basis and offer other energy-dependent services, which cannot be accessed normally by the people. This way, everybody in the community can get access to healthy and clean energy while saving money. Apart from financial advantages, the kiosk also allows people to save time by providing a phone charging service so that they don’t have to cover several kilometres to reach a place with a grid connection.
How will you deliver this?
The two Kiosks started their operations in the beginning of 2013. They are run by a team of managers and overlooked by a committee of 12 members of the community holding meetings on a regular basis. They are supported by the expertise of the team of Renew’N’Able Malawi who pay regular visits to see how the Kiosks are doing and where help is needed. The turnaround strategy was developed in close cooperation with both the managers and the committee members, who know best what their community needs and how the Kiosk can deliver this.
All the money raised will go directly to Renew’N’Able Malawi who will deliver the above named goals with the communities.