In August 2013, One Million Lights conducted the electrification of the rural Maasai communities in southern Kenya, in the Transmara region. We work with local schools to identify families with school-aged children that would benefit their education with access to lighting.
We had 1000 lights to distribute, thanks to Energizer, so in conjunction with the local schools we donated one light to each family that had a child in school. Our focus was primary school (grades 1-8). The average primary school in rural Kenya has about 300 students, which equates to about 100-150 households. We donated one light per household, as that created the most benefit and least conflict within the community. With the 1000 lights, we were able to donate to 7 schools and reach around 5000 people.
The distributions involve a simple training as well. We called all the mothers to the school on a set day, and then trained them on operations and best practices for their new solar light, before going through the list of all families with a child in the school to ensure each household gets a light. The entire process took about two and a half hours, of orientation and speaking and about an hour and a half of distributing the lights in a controlled and equitable way.
The impact of these types of programs is huge. The educational benefit is clear, by going directly to the mothers; we give the lights the most use in domestic and educational applications. That also maximizes the financial and health impact of the light, because it’s used to replace kerosene light in a cramped indoor environment, which is where the emissions of the kerosene lamp are most intense.
Also the introduction of solar electricity to the community is a form of education in its own right. The Energizer/One Million Lights solar lantern is often the first solar device our recipients have ever seen, much less owned. By showing this clear and approachable example of clean technology, we literally bring the idea home.
The response has and will be joyous. Everyone likes a gift. Mothers appreciate any help with their families and teachers appreciate better students who can study more. Our model has been refined to maximize benefit, ownership and intended use while reducing internal conflict. We now have been able to affect tens of thousands of people in southern Kenya, where the population density is low and the prospects of the electrical grid are unlikely in any foreseeable future and provide them with sustainable lighting.