Many people in low-income countries–over 1.6 billion people–live without access to electricity. Another billion people live with unreliable access to power. This creates a web of problems that we set out to solve with this project.
Living without reliable lighting limits the productivity of nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Basic activities such as cleaning, reading, schoolwork, and household business cannot be done in the dark. In Africa the lack of reliable lighting is growing worse with population growing faster than electrification, a condition that leads to a permanent marginalization of both rural and urban poor.[i]
The great majority of people with no or erratic electricity illuminate their homes and businesses with fuel-based kerosene lamps,[ii] which creates another set of inter-related problems.
The health implications of fuel-based lighting are two fold: chronic illness due to indoor air pollution and risk of injury due to the flammable nature of the fuels used.
Kerosene lamps emit fine particles of Black Carbon, or soot. These particles are a major source of indoor air pollution because they quickly become lodged in the bronchial system and can result in chronic disease and death. Chronic pulmonary disease is a leading cause of early death in developing countries primarily due to poor indoor air quality.The World Health Organization has determined that individuals breathing kerosene fumes and soot inhale the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.[iii]
In addition to giving off toxic fumes, kerosene lamps are dangerous! A study conducted in Irrua, Nigeria showed that more than 50% of burn victims brought into hospitals were victims of fires caused by overturned or exploding kerosene lamps.[iv]
Kerosene lamps produce more greenhouse gasses per unit of illumination than any other common light source.[v] The environmental effect of 1.6 billion people using kerosene fuel and candles contributes to global carbon emissions at a rate of 100-150 million tons per year.[vi] Beyond CO2 emissions, incomplete combustion of kerosene leads to the release of soot or Black Carbon, which also contributes to global warming and poor indoor air quality.
The light intensity produced by kerosene lamps is inferior to electric light, but kerosene lighting is more expensive per unit of light than what we pay in the developed world. Several studies in developing countries show that access to proper lighting (of high enough illumination to enable reading and doing household and business-related activities) has significant positive impact on productivity broadly and income-generating activity specifically.
John Barrie, established a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, The Appropriate Technology Collaborative (ATC) in 2008 in order to design technologies that improve the quality of life and provide opportunity for the world’s poorest people. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and San Marcos Guatemala ATC has designed unique affordable solar lighting solutions that cost less than what people are now spending on candles and kerosene lamps to see at night.
Drawings and specifications for simple home solar LED lighting systems can be found at: Link (TBD)
*photo is a composite of Mayan woman showing her work and ATC solar LED light. The light is actually above the picture frame.