Solar Power - making a difference

Joe and Mary Braitch are keen ZAP supporters who have undertaken the new solar project entirely on their own initiative, under the ZAP umbrella. Here is the story so far in their own words...

SOLAR LIGHTING
The project to introduce solar lighting into Jambiani, a village of 1000 homes where 50% have no electricity and the rest suffer from daily power cuts, is gathering pace. 

The open-flame kerosene lamp widely used in village homes has major drawbacks: not only is it a serious health and fire hazard, but also more expensive to run than a solar light. We are delighted that an increasing number of people now understand this, and demand for solar lights is growing – in fact at the moment it threatens to outstrip supply! 80 homes in Jambiani now have a solar light with another 42 waiting until more finance is available.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though: firstly, since we set up the project back in July the repayment system has faltered, even to the extent that a few people are yet to make their first payment. This was a worry, and to address it the village called a meeting during our visit, chaired by Dr Hamza, when both the village chiefs - ‘Shehas’ - publicly re-stated their support of the scheme and threw their collective weight behind a new initiative, using volunteers to visit solar customers on a regular basis to collect outstanding payments. We were quite overcome by the enthusiasm and commitment of the Shehas and are extremely grateful for support from such a high level. 
 
We are also delighted that Mohammed Simai, Leader of the Jambiani Fundi Workshop, has agreed to manage the project for us. As a fully qualified refrigeration and aircon engineer and the owner of a small electronics business, he is a knowledgeable and ambitious young man, and we are feeling cautiously optimistic that the solar project is in safe hands. Mohammed will continue to have the support of Wadhifa, nurse at Dr Hamza’s clinic, who did so much excellent work for us in the initial stages of the project.
 
Ideally, we would like to ensure that any family who wants a solar light is able to afford one, particularly the poorer families with no electricity who rely heavily on kerosene. To that end, we have introduced a system of micro-finance. However it is important that ONLY the poorer families benefit in this way, as it is essential to keep enough money in the system to maintain a strong supply chain. We have given advice of course, but this will have to be an issue for Mohammed, Wadhifa and the Shehas to manage – we have no doubt that they are quite capable!
 
We are very excited about this initiative in Jambiani and look forward to seeing it benefit more and more people. If you would like to donate one or more lights to a particularly deserving family, or make a general donation to increase the supply of lights, we would ask you to do this through the ZAP donations page here so that Gift Aid at 25% can be claimed on your donation. The smallest transportable solar light costs £10, a medium light £30, and a larger system of four lights permanently installed in a house is £80. Please specify that you want your gift to be used for solar lights. Thank you so much!
 
Water for Farms – ‘SHAMBAS’ - in Jambiani
Many people in Jambiani describe their job as ‘farmer’, but in reality they struggle to feed their own family from a patch of poor soil known as ‘coral rag’, scorched by the strong sunlight. 
 
The real key to greater success is the provision of water, which would increase their yield and enable them to grow enough to sell in the local market. 
 
Some people are fortunate enough to have a well on their land (including our friend Mr Suha), but it is a back-breaking job to draw enough water every day from a well 25 metres deep, using only a bucket on a rope. Other people have no well of their own, and have to carry water quite a distance to their land from a neighbour’s well.
 
The solar-powered water pump which we took to Jambiani last year has not proved strong enough to use in Mr Suha’s deep well, but is now being put to good use by another local farmer who has a shallower well. Luckily Mr Suha has instead received (from a very generous Italian charity) an extremely impressive wind pump, made entirely from locally sourced materials which might otherwise have been thrown away! We have therefore arranged for further tanks and pipe work to be installed so that his neighbour (the very hard-working Hassan Sunna) can also benefit from this water supply. 
 
Having first visited these farms (or ‘shambas’) last year, we were highly delighted to see the progress that had been made since the advent of a reliable water supply. Both farmers have worked hard to increase both the quality and quantity of the plants they grow, and were keen to show off a nursery of small new plants (mangos, aubergines, bananas, tomatoes etc), all protected from the sun by a roof of coconut palms until they can be transferred to open ground. 
 
The people of Jambiani are so easy to help. Many of them just need a ‘step up’ from charities such as ZAP, so that they can go on to improve their own lives and those of their families. They are grateful for this help, but they are also proud and capable people whose hard work and initiative constantly impresses us and makes us realise how much we take for granted in our own lives. We will continue to support local farmers with additional water storage tanks and irrigation pipes, and any donations towards this work will of course be most welcome. The average cost of equipping a farm is £100. 
 
Joe and Mary Braitch
February 2012
 

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