‘Do It Yourself’ Solar Africa 2004 – 06
In 2004, following two years of fundraising, I started working in Kenya on ‘Do it Yourself’ Solar projects – DIY Solar for short.
These DIY Solar projects taught people how to make their own solar panels which can power radios, charge phones and lights. The idea was that entrepreneurs could learn these skills and start a business selling affordable solar products.
This BBC article summarises the work I was doing quite well:
Now, I didn’t come up with the DIY Solar concept. -that was a chap called Graham Knight, who lives in Ashford, Kent (http://biodesign.webeden.co.uk/). I wasn’t the only one promoting DIY Solar as an energy solution in Kenya either. Leo Blythe – Now working for Lighting Africa (http://www.lightingafrica.org/) was busy spreading the word too. But what I can say is that there weren’t many of us.
Back in 2004, affordable solar products (I mean less than 20 USD), designed for rural Africa, simply did not exist – but the demand for clean, renewable, electricity was (and still is) huge. So we taught enterprising Kenyans and Tanzanians to make and market these products.
It was challenging work, but you knew that you were on to something when, every time you demonstrated a radio playing through a solar panel, without batteries, large crowds would always gather. I have seen this happen across Africa in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Senegal, Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The sun shines everywhere and people need energy everywhere.
When CNN chose to cover one of the DIY Solar projects in Kibera with the Kibera Community Youth Programme (http://www.kcyp.net/) on their Global Challenges programme – a project which was being run on a shoe string – it was truly fantastic.
In one short programme, we felt that we were beginning to shout our message to the world. ‘Let’s change the way Africa powers its homes, one solar panel at a time!’
I’ll try and dig out that video and post it here soon.