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Sunrise Kat

Recycling and repair: a new project

We’ve got some more exciting research news to share at SolarAid! We have received funding for a three year collaborative PhD project with the University of Edinburgh looking at the waste, recycling and repair of solar lights in Africa.

The issue of recycling is something  that is really important to us at SolarAid as in a few years some of the solar lights we sell will come to the end of their life and we want to make sure that they are disposed of properly, or that parts can be reused or recycled.

The project will look at existing processes, practices in similar markets and make recommendations for a sustainable solution.

Dr Jamie Cross, Lecturer in Anthropology and Development & Deputy Director of the Global Development Academy at the University of Edinburgh, will supervise the project, as well as support from me. The student will also work closely with an international advisory group created to inform, shape and support the project to ensure the work stays relevant and appropriate for use in the sector.

The deadline for applying for the project is 16 May and you can find the job description here. If you’d like more information then just get in touch.

Ray of Sunshine: *Leonard in Malawi*

This week’s Ray of Sunshine has been chosen and written by guest star Abraham Mwenifumbo. Abraham has been a SolarAid Research Assistant since November 2012, he’s pictured above conducting a phone interview with a solar light customer.

* Leonard Nyondo is a father of five from Mbande rural village in Karonga district, Malawi. With farming as the main source of household income and an average monthly income of less than $12, Leonard and his wife had been using kerosene/paraffin lamps to light their house and  their children’s homework. In September 2012, Leonard bought a solar light during the SunnyMoney School Campaign.

Leonard now saves approximately $60 a year – around half of his income. A happy Leonard rated the solar light 5 out of 5 “very satisfied”, and told the SolarAid research team, “This is because I can now buy things I failed to buy when using paraffin, for example sugar and exercise books. I benefit a lot because we save more money some of which my wife uses to buy salt and other household items. I buy soap for the children as well as clothes. I was spending a lot of money buying paraffin and batteries.”

Not only has the solar light helped the Nyondo family save money but has had a positive impact on family health. Leonard told the team, “Smoke in the house which caused coughing has stopped. Our clothes no longer smell of smoke.”

In our interview with Leonard, he did not hide the solar light’s impact on his children’s education and family union since he now has 12 lighting hours at night as compared with only 3 hours using kerosene. He told the research team:

“It is used when eating together and reading in the night by the children. The children no longer suffer to read at night unlike in the past when the paraffin lamp would go off. Their performance at school has also improved.” *

Check out more of our work at 

Ray of Sunshine: *Josephine in Zambia*

This week’s Ray of Sunshine has been chosen and written by Chinyama Hansonga, see her last case study here.

Solar lights are increasingly making a lot of families happy in Zambia.

Josephine Sialubinda a teacher and single mother of four children bought a solar light from Sibanyanti Basic School in Choma district.

During an interview, she explained how happy she has become since the purchase of a solar light.

She explained that she used to light her house with candles and kerosene and spent K12 (~$1.93) per week on these lighting products. The solar light is brighter than candlelight or kerosene lanterns. [With the savings] I buy books for my school-going children.”

Apart from the expenses she used to incur on lighting products, she noted that there are a lot of negative effects associated with using kerosene and candles.  “Before the solar light, we used to find some black soot in the nose when we woke up in the morning because of the smoke from paraffin.”

Josephine expressed her gladness during an interview and further revealed how solar lights have benefited her family, as her children are now able to study for 3 hours compared to 1 hour they used to study before solar lights.  Not only that, Josephine is now able to prepare the lesson plans for her pupils and do many other things that she was not managing to do before.

“[The solar light] I bought has made my work easy especially when preparing the lesson plan, and my children are able to study longer hours than they used to study before and we also use the solar light to light the kitchen when cooking. Apart from that, I no longer spend money on lighting products anymore.”

Josephine did not only keep the happiness to herself, but she’s been recommending the solar lights to her neighbours and friends.

Did you hear that we’d reached ONE MILLION lights in Africa? Check it out here:

Ray of Sunshine: 18 months of research

Have you ever wondered where these impact numbers come from each week? Well, since it’s the end of this financial year, it seems as good a time as any to give you an overview of just what SolarAid have done in research since we began, in earnest, in late 2012.

  • over 11,000 research interactions: market observations, surveys and interviews with customers, headteachers, the public and traders,
  • collected by a team of 20 trained Research Assistants across our five programmes, including Senegal,
  • with both baseline and follow up data from over 36 counties/ districts/ regions across these countries.

There’s lots more to do, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what we’ve done. Thanks to our Research Assistants who work hard in the field and in the office to gather all this invaluable information; this helps us to understand our impact, adapt our programme delivery and reach more people.

Find out more at and follow me on @Sunrise_Kat

Ray of Sunshine: solar vs candles

This weeks Ray of Sunshine is straight from some new SolarAid research in Kenya. Joan Madegwa a mother in Bungoma county bought a solar light just four weeks ago. The SolarAid research team got in touch with her to find out more:

Joan Madegwa lives in Bungoma county in Kenya. She has two sons and a daughter. It was Joan that made the decision in the household to buy the solar light. She explained, her children used kerosene lamps and candles to do their homework and this affected their study time and motivation negatively.

[Traditional lighting] is risky and expensive. One time the candle lit the mosquito net and the house almost burnt down so the children are scared of using candles now.

She told us that she is prioritising the use of the solar light for her children.

This is some of the first results we’ve got from a new set of research tools with a specific focus on finding out about differences for boys and girls. More soon…..

Keep updated by following me on Twitter @Sunrise_Kat

Ray of Sunshine: homework and light

This week’s Ray of Sunshine shares a story from the monitoring exercise conducted in Tanzania for Twaweza on their partnership with SolarAid.

A young girl at a primary school in Rombo district shared some details of her life:

There are seven people who live at my house: my father and mother, my three sisters, my brother and me. We have one solar light. My sister, me and Mama use the light. My sister uses it to study, I use it to study, we share the light – Mama has told us the solar light is only for studying. Mama uses it in the kitchen. Mama doesn’t use the solar light every day, other days Mama uses a paraffin light.

[Before I had a solar light] I was using a kerosene light. It was not good to use a kerosene light. The kerosene went off and I would not have finished my homework yet. I was not studying all of the days, only some of the days. Some of the days there would be no kerosene. I would always ask my parents [to buy more], but they would tell me that they didn’t have money to purchase kerosene. I could only study a short time, because the light didn’t have enough kerosene.

[Now], the solar light, gives me enough light to study. Now I can study longer. [Before] I was at position 20 [in my class] and now I am at number 16.

You can find the full study here:

Ray of Sunshine: *Timothy in Zambia*

The Rays of Sunshine have now moved to Mondays to start the week with some positive news. What’s more, we’ll be having guest stars help write them…..this week’s Ray of Sunshine has been chosen and written by Chinyama Hansonga, one of SolarAid’s research team in Zambia (pictured).

*The introduction of solar lights by SolarAid has changed the lives of many people from different parts of Zambia. During an interview with Timothy Mwiimbili, a farmer from Cheelo Community in Choma district in Southern Province revealed that buying solar lights has had real impact on his life.

“From the time we started using solar lights, children are able to study for longer hours, apart from that, the use of solar lights has enabled us to sit and chat as a whole family in the evening, of which was not the case before buying the light.”

Apart from lighting the house, the use of solar lights has enabled Timothy to save about k12.00 (~$2) which he was spending for kerosene per week. Using solar lights has helped him save that money for other household uses like buying clothes and lotion for his school-going children.

The use of solar light has made Timothy’s household to have lighting on for about 4 hours per night compared to 2 hours of having lighting on when they were using kerosene lamps.

Timothy uses the solar lights for a lot of things, “we use the light when cooking, even when someone is sick, the solar light was helpful when I was taking my wife to the clinic in the night. Apart from that, the children also use the light when studying.”

Timothy also expressed his happiness of using solar lights as he noted that his children spend a lot of hours doing their homework without any worry of having health complications associated when using kerosene lamps. “We no longer experience chest problems, since solar lights do not emit any gases, so it has no effects to our health, apart from that, there are no charges or bills associated with solar lights. It is good for us who live in farms.” Timothy revealed.* 

If you have any questions for Chinyama, just comment below. Or find out more about our work at

Ray of Sunshine: a history lesson

This Friday here’s one of my favourite stories of how the solar light is used from Asiyami Batoni, a mother of five in Salima, Malawi:

[With the solar light], after supper my children easily chat with their grandfather listening to how life was in the past. It is almost free so we don’t bother to use kerosene lamps anymore, which requires us to buy paraffin every week.

Find out more about SolarAid’s work at 

Ray of Sunshine: Elifaya in Zambia

Elifaya Chalubika, a father from Choma district in Zambia bought a solar light in April last year in SolarAid’s SunnyMoney Campaign at his children’s school. His family of six rely on income from farming and have no access to electricity.

They used to use kerosene lamps to light their home and since having their solar light now spend nothing on lighting, saving them nearly $95 a year – around 15% of their income.

Elifaya told the SolarAid research team that with the savings, “I buy some more home requirements like soap and I also use it to buy animal medicine.”

“We use [the solar light] for lighting when eating, my wife uses it in the kitchen when cooking, the school children also use it when studying. I am able to go through my children’s school work, of which I was not managing to do when we were using paraffin and candles. Paraffin produces a lot of smoke which was affecting us, the smoke used to enter our nose. The benefit [of our solar light] is that there are no health problems because there are no emissions and I have been able to study the bible because there are no costs on charging it and the light is bright.”

Elifaya rated his SunKing Pro as five out of five – very satisfied as “the light is working well, it is bright and we have been able to charge phones.”

His children are studying for 1.5 hours extra a night, “because the solar light is very bright just like electricity.”

Find out more about SolarAid here.

Ray of Sunshine: Frolence and her daughter from Malawi

Frolence lives in Malawi with her daughter Vallet. SolarAid’s social enterprise, SunnyMoney, ran a School Campaign in Karonga district where Frolence and Vallet live in October 2012. The headteacher at Hangalawe Primary school, where Vallet goes, ran the campaign at his school so that students and parents had the opportunity to buy a solar light at a discounted price to support education and offer household savings.

Frolence does not have access to electricity in her house and used to use battery torches to light her home. She bought the solar light because, “I wanted to reduce torch battery cost since I had to buy them three times a day.

Frolence told the SolarAid research team, My daughter was failing a lot at school so I bought the solar light so that she could have more reading hours. My daughter now is number one in her Standard 6 class.

Vallet didn’t used to do homework, but now she does one hour of homework a night, which has no doubt contributed to her progressing in school. Frolence says, “the solar light lasts a long time unlike the torch with batteries which gives us some concerns.

Don’t forget to check out our big news on Google funding a large-scale study of the impact of solar on poverty alleviation here:

You can follow updates through Twitter with me @Sunrise_Kat