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How to Save Rural Kenyan Farmers $200 Per Year

When the sun sets in rural Kenya, about 96 percent of households light up their homes with candles and kerosene lamps. These sources of lighting are expensive, inefficient and unhealthy. And, on average, a rural household spends approximately 18 USD, or 20 percent of their total monthly income, on the kerosene for each lamp per month. To overcome this obstacle, the IFC and World Bank program “Lighting Africa” have been helping to develop commercial off-the-grid lighting markets. TechnoServe has capitalized on this work and established a sustainable method whereby rural farmers participating in its dairy program can now more easily afford and access these new lighting resources.

TechnoServe business advisors in Kenya have been supporting the development of the dairy value chain in rural communities for a number of years. (Read more about this program here). Central to this program has been establishing a dairy chilling plant for each active dairy community. Because of the daily bustle under way at these plants, more business has grown in and around the chilling plant. Each plant, for example, now has an agriculture and veterinary store (agrovet), a village bank, as well as other ancillary service stations. It is within this context that a device like a solar lamp can be quickly and efficiently introduced into the market.

To supply the lighting products at an affordable price, TechnoServe linked Nyala’s Agrovet store to leading global solar lighting companies such as d.light, Barefoot and Green Planet. Agrovet stores, which sell everything from livestock feed and drugs to motorbikes and water tanks, were able to supply portable solar lighting technologies at affordable prices through purchasing lights in bulk. (As an aside, these solar lamps also double as phone chargers).

While making this product available for purchase was a great start, smart banking solutions were necessary to ensure the rural communities could take advantage of this new efficiency. The cost of each solar lamp is anywhere between 22 and 97 USD and is guaranteed to last without any replacement charges for five years. While this is a heavy up-front cost, the dairy cooperatives agreed to introduce a loan product through the village bank, something that has been made possible by the security of the dairy business.

Once purchased, a household will realize the monetary benefits of having a solar light (while they will no doubt immediately appreciate the improved and “guilt free” light source) after just four months. Assuming a light lasts only as long as the minimum life span of five years, the household will save 144 USD over the course of the first year, and over 800 USD for the remaining four years, a total of nearly 1,000 USD in savings for these rural Kenyan farmers.

Business advisor Annah Macharia explains that these farmers could never have “imagined they would cease from using fuel wood, kerosene and dry cell batteries for lighting. Using natural energy is the most affordable, efficient and sustainable solution to lighting up poor rural households.” Mancharia is part of the Agribusiness Development Program of TechnoServe. This team is introducing a variety of natural resource management (NRM) efficiencies that they intend to replicate across a number of development programs; one being the solar lighting initiative introduced above.

(Above: Esther Gichangi, a member of Nyala Dairy, is one of these many excited farmers whose life has been impacted by use of a simple solar lighting system. She uses the light for her children to study at night, and to help with her record keeping. Esther explains, “Now, I use that saved money to buy more food for my family.” Image courtesy of TechnoServe).

Already the Agribusiness Development Program has succeeded in equipping 800 of Nyala Dairy coop clients, the team’s largest assisted milk producer coop, with new solar lighting and phone charging solutions. The team first introduced the concept through Nyala Dairy’s 30-member women’s groups. Having earned the trust of the farmers through a history of success in transforming the dairy industry in Kenya, the team easily transferred this new lesson.

In the short term, the team will continue to roll this lighting project out to the full 6,000 dairy farmers in TechnoServe’s Kenya program. Going forward, the team intends to leverage this work to benefit clients across all TechnoServe Kenya programs and beyond. Already, Macharia is paving the way to work with the East Africa Dairy Development program to introduce the solar lighting and similar natural resource management practices.

And this article only has space to highlight the single solar light project, which is just one of the many initiatives this NRM team is launching. Other work includes biogas capture, agroferstry, communal dams, and feed management/preservation.

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Agriculture, Energy, Environment
rural development, solar