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Photo feature: Barefoot Power brings solar lighting to East Africa

 Dowser 23 May 2019

A couple hours drive on a dusty road outside of the southern town of Masaka, Uganda, you’ll find Musubiro Village. Miles from the closest electricity grid, there is little hope of government power coming this way anytime soon. (256 Words) - By Jonathan Kalan


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Ronald, one of Barefoot Power's first and most successful Solar Entrepreneurs, gives a night solar demonstration, or "activation", to the villagers in Musubiro Village, Uganda. Ronald earns his income from selling small, affordable solar solutions to individuals and families in off-grid villages like Musubiro.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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A child in Musubiro Village, Uganda, marvels at the solar light on display. Nearly all of the families in Musubiro use kerosene to light up their dwellings at night.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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The solar light in use.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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The 1.5w Firefly is one of Barefoot Power's most popular items. Well over 200,000 Fireflys have been sold in Uganda to date.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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Saidi Rukamata, of Musubiro Village, Uganda, purchased a Barefoot Power Pack nearly a year ago to provide clean energy for his family of eight. Previously, he would spend upwards of 9,000 Ush (around $4) per month on kerosene, which would provide insufficient lighting.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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Ronald explains to the crowd the benefits of solar energy, and how he has created a custom payment plan so that families can afford the cost of lighting their homes. Typically, compared to the price of kerosene, the smaller solar solutions pay for themselves in five to six months.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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Two workers at Barefoot Power's Nairobi warehouse, dig through a box of parts to fix a non-functioning Firefly device. Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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At Barefoot Power's office in Kampala, Uganda, employees help unload a 40ft container truck of products from China, via Nairobi. The shipment contained 16,000 Fireflys, 235 Village Kits, and 600 Power Packs.Photo: Jonathan Kalan

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Boxes of solar products await distribution at Barefoot Power's warehouse in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Jonathan Kalan

In Musubiro, like so many other villages across Africa, the main source of light is kerosene- which is not only expensive, but has a myriad of negative health side affects, and the risk that always comes when you mix open flames and straw thatched roof dwellings. Typically, the day's chores are done, children's studying is over, and small shops are closed when the sun goes down at 7:30 p.m.

Not anymore.

Barefoot Power, a for-profit social enterprise operating across East Africa, has built a network of "Solar Entrepreneurs" who are responsible for bringing solar lighting to towns and villages like Musubiro all across Uganda. Their products, ranging from the extremely popular "Firefly Mobile", a small 1.5 watt panel with 12 small LED lights and a phone charger, or their full "Village Kits" that can provide lighting to an entire house, are making solar power affordable and accessible to those at the base of the economic pyramid. The small solar panels are portable and once charged, act like a battery.

Barefoot Power currently has 160 Solar Entrepreneurs operating all over Uganda, and an extensive distribution network which makes its products available to customers across Kenya, Tanzania, India, and several other parts of the world.

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