Over 80% of the population of Chato and Biharamulo Districts has no access to electricity having to rely on kerosene lamps, candles or torches for lighting at night. These forms of lighting are expensive, dangerous and bad for health, particularly for children. It is estimated that daily use of kerosene costs, on average, up to 15% of income (approximately £50 equivalent a year).

The cost of solar lighting has declined by around 80% since 2010 and, helped by improved reliability and quality, a basic solar light is becoming affordable for many individuals and families and there is also demand for systems that will provide home lighting, mobile phone charging, radios etc.

From our regular meetings with community leaders and committees it is clear that there is interest and demand for access to solar power. As a result we have recently established a social business – Malkia wa Jua – to distribute and sell a variety of solar products on a not for profit basis.

A basic solar light costing TZS18,000 (around £6) will provide light at night enabling children, for example, to do their homework without having to breathe in the toxic fumes from kerosene. This will lead to better performance and exam grades. The savings to the household on an annual basis will be in the region of TZS150,000 (£50) and there will additionally be a reduction in the incidence of respiratory diseases and the associated cost of treatment. These savings can be used more productively on education and increased economic activity.

In order to make solar lights accessible as widely as possible, we operate a ‘pay as you go’ system allowing individuals to buy on an extended credit basis. This is a system that is used widely by other solar providers throughout East Africa and which is proving popular with the population.

We have received specific funding in order to set up this operation and to date the results and general acceptance has been encouraging. We have a number of sales agents working on a commission basis in both Chato and Biharamulo Districts.