In Rwanda darkness falls at six pm and lasts twelve hours. For rural villagers, with no electricity, studying and working in the evening is difficult, and venturing outside in the pitch black can be hazardous. Any light is provided by kerosene lamps which are dangerous and can cause fires and accidents.
The remote village of Karambi, in Nyamata sector, is such a village. RUGO working in collaboration with Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College in India, and the Rwanda Women’s Network have completed a project to provide solar power to the village in a sustainable manner.
RUGO raised over £30,000 for equipment to provide solar power to Karambi’s 110 homes: a solar panel for each house to power a fixed light inside and charge both a portable lantern and the invaluable mobile phone.
What makes this project particularly unique and sustainable is that four ladies – "solar grannies" – were chosen by the village to travel to India for training in the assembly and installation of the solar equipment. For unsophisticated rural women: Claudine, Cecile, Odette and Dative aged 47 - 50 this was a huge and frightening undertaking. They had never left the tiny village of Karambi, let alone Rwanda, but were determined to succeed for the improvement of the lives of their families and the village. Their travel to India was supported by the Indian Government spending over three months at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, a small village in the desert region of Rajasthan.
To gain an overview of this particular aspect of the project click here to see a CNN video giving an overview of "The Barefoot grandmothers electrifying rural communities"
Whilst the ladies were being trained, and following their return to Karambi, the equipment for the electrification of Karambi had been specified and ordered. After a period of time to accommodate shipment and the various customs clearances etc. the equipment arrived in Nyamata near Karambi where it was initially stored. The next step was for the villagers to construct the workshop helped by students from the nearby ETO Nyamata School where RUGO had undertaken a previous project with further financial support from RUGO. Whilst this workshop was being built, two houses were given solar power as a Pilot exercise .The objectives were to prove and demonstrate the ladies' skills and to show the other villagers and families the huge benefits that they would derive.
From an idea in 2011 the solar electrification of the village to completion in late 2013 all 110 houses now have solar power providing light and power to the families of Karambi. Day to day management and maintenance of the equipment is undertaken by the "solar grannies" using the purpose built workshop, typically for one or two days a week,. The ladies are paid a monthly sum by each household, funded by the savings in kerosene, making the project totally sustainable.
RUGO intends to use this experience as a model for future projects in Rwanda. The ladies themselves are now keen to pass on their knowledge and, having identified two further villages in Rwanda without electricity, RUGO wish to raise further funds to enhance the workshop to be able to provide training to "new solar grannies" and fund the necessary equipment and maintenance workshops in the villages.
Certainly Rwanda has no shortage of determined and conscientious village women to act as "solar grannies"!
Please help us to continue to light up homes in Rwanda. You can pledge any amount or for a donation of £250 we can light up a house for you. We are always in need of aditional funding and we are currently raising additional funds to help to extend the Karambi workshop so that in addition to maintaining the solar equipment in the village we can begin to provide training to other "solar grannies" as they are recruited.
An overview of the project can be downloaded HERE
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