Nowadays most of us take energy for granted, forgetting that we use it for everything. From home to work, from the way we entertain ourselves to how we connect with our loved ones. Everything requires electricity. The lack of energy can affect everything, from business to education to public health. The reality is that today approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide still do not have access to energy. This also involves the rural, disadvantaged communities in North West Namibia. But with support from TOSCO and LightForce, we have shown that the power of the sun can make a real difference.
Technology to change the world
2019 was the second warmest year recorded in history and every day there is more evidence that our unsustainable impact on the environment is causing disasters worldwide. We can notice how fragile and vulnerable the ecosystem is by looking at African countries. Namibia, for example, is not one of the countries that generates the most carbon emissions, in comparison to western countries. However, it is one of the first countries strongly affected by climate change.
Technology is changing almost faster than we can keep up. Technology is changing the way we live, work and, relate to one another. Now more than ever, the use of new technologiesy has the potential to reduce environmental degradation.
Could solar lights offer a solution?
There are a lot of debates on how to bring energy to underprivileged rural areas. To expand national electricity grids is one of the options. However, to build a large-scale infrastructure in remote areas like Kunene region is expensive and difficult to maintain. Besides, the concerns about climate change combined with the battery prices are unattractive for national investment and international donors.
While climate change has made many Western countries increase their efforts to improve energy investing in renewable energies, developing countries are still facing this challenge. And that while most developing countries are geographically located for optimal absorption of sunlight. Could solar lights offer a solution?
Scientists, social entrepreneurs and big tech companies around the world are working to make strides with solar power. These products have low up-front costs, need little maintenance and do not pose the running problems typically associated with electricity grids.
LightForce is a global initiative helping companies and individuals to change the world by bringing solar powered lights to communities.
After the success of the first edition in Kenya in 2018, the LightForce project was expanded in 2019 in three more countries: Brazil, Senegal, Philippines. The operation took place simultaneously in the first week of February 2019 with 60 Salesforce employees, 30 employees from other companies and around 50 volunteers of the NGO Liter of Light; resulting in:
- Over 3000 volunteer hours
- More than €350 000 raised
- 11 000 lives impacted
- Over 100 employees and customers.
The project in Namibia
In May 2019, the LightForce team contacted TOSCO Trust (Tourism Supporting Conservation) , asking to assist them in developing the project in Namibia by organizing the logistics beforehand and helping on site. TOSCO arranged vehicles, drivers, transport of material and components and, communicated with the conservancies.
The first week of February 2020, TOSCO Trust welcomed 17 members of this International NGO coming from France. Our common goal? To assemble and install, together with the local people, solar powered LED lights systems in the North-West of Namibia.
In consultancy with the conservancies and lion rangers, TOSCO identified the locations where the solar light was needed the most: villages and kraals Anabeb, Torra, Purros and Tomakas conservancies.
We built two different types of solar LED lighting systems that are cheaper, brighter and healthier than the kerosene lights that the locals normally use in the villages:
Many people in the North-West of Namibia rely on candles, wood fires and kerosene lightings in their houses, which often offer poor light and produce highly polluting black carbons. The emissions of kerosene lights contribute to global warming and to severe indoor air pollution which are dangerous to health, causing respiratory infections. Besides that it is also expensive for the locals.
Streetlights are more powerful than house lights. They provide light in a village, around schools and kraals to chase away predators.
To involve the local communities and for them to understand the project, the LightForce team members shared their knowledge with them and with the lion rangers’ team. Everybody could participate in the assembling of the solar systems. This way they got familiar with the equipment to be able to do basic repairs and maintenance when required in the future.
The first 3 days were dedicated to demonstrating how to assemble the different light systems. Explaining the role of every component, soldering, drilling and testing it to make sure that the system was working correctly.
Most of the streetlights were installed around kraals and in villages. The house lights were given to the farmers and local people for them to be used as they deem necessary.
The followings kraals and villages are now equipped with solar lights in Torra and Anabeb Conservancies:
- Palam Pos
Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) and the Lion Rangers will continue install solar lights on kraals further North, within Purros and Tomakas conservancies.
TOSCO would like to thank all the participants to the project and to address a special thank you to:
- Lightforce team: Fabien, Julien and Julien, Jérémy, Adrien, Laura, Héloise, Corentin, Rebecca, Micha, Juliette, Sébastien, Olfa, Maud, Aurélie, Amin and Isabelle.
- Hosts at Werelsend: John, Wendy and Leonard
- Matiti Safaris: for the logistics and whose experience and involvement played a big role in the success of the project
- Ecosafaris® for the logistics
- Wilderness Air: for delivering components by plane to Kunene
- IRDNC: Russell, John, Linus and Cliff for their assistance, especially on the field
- The local tour guides involved in the project: Arnaud, Samuel, Benoit and Serge
- TOSCO team: Rodney for his assistance on the field and Charlotte for all the logistics