Solar power enterprise gives light, livelihood to the poor

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In the slums of Tondo, Manila, hope flickers in broad daylight for poor communities in the form of solar power technology.

Amid makeshift houses, piles of garbage and mud-covered walkways, young mothers are operating a container van which has been transformed into a renting station of solar-powered rechargeable lamps in Sitio Damayan (Smokey Mountain).

The station, which houses about 400 lamps and serves more than 300 families in the area, was an initiative of nongovernment organization Life Project 4 Youth that started in 2013.

Team manager Cielabel Gaditano, 20, said renting a lamp would cost P5 or P8 depending on the power duration of the battery—some lamps last up to 30 hours, with others even exceeding that mark.

The case of the solar site in Tondo backs the principles of 2011 Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient Harish Hande, cofounder of Solar Electric Light Company (Selco). Known for his social enterprise of solar power technology in India, Hande believes it is not impossible for the poor to achieve sustainable energy.

In a conference on solar energy for the poor at Ramon Magsaysay Center on Thursday, Hande, who also toured the Tondo site, said social enterprise would not only give the poor access to electricity but also uplift their quality of living.

“[We should] not look at the poor as beneficiaries but as partners,” Hande said. “It’s not about the market. It’s about being inclusive, including the poor in the process.”

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social enterprise, solar