Friday, 25 March 2011

A Powerful Future

One in four of the world’s population has no access to electricity. This not only holds them back, reducing their quality of life and their chances of breaking free of the poverty trap in which they find themselves, but it is also dangerous as they attempt to heat and light their homes using alternative methods, such as kerosene. Kerosene gives off noxious fumes which make people ill and cause respiratory problems, and it is a huge fire risk. A house fire is a devastating event anywhere in the world. In the overcrowded slums of developing countries, it could lead to catastrophic loss of life.

Other methods of supplying power are no better. Small car batteries are used to power radios and maintain contact with the outside world. But these last a very short time, and they contaminate the water supply. Candles are ineffective, expensive and dangerous.

In our previous blog post, we mentioned a UK company that is working to provide a clean, cheap and viable alternative source of energy. ToughStuff uses solar power to bring energy to some of the poorest people on earth, improving living standards, saving money and increasing the life chances of those people.

A small and portable panel provides enough energy to light a home and charge a mobile phone. The panel is certainly tough, as this short video shows: This means it can be used anywhere, in any circumstances, from the grinding poverty of a Kenyan slum to displacement camps in Uganda, to emergency situations. Children can safely complete homework assignments, their parents can work after dark, and since local businesses can be used to supply the products, it also helps the local economy and employment situations. It’s cheap, it’s clean and it’s simple.

On 1st May, World In Need in Northern Uganda will welcome a team from ToughStuff. Based in Kampala, the team will visit Lira where they will train people to use the product and to teach others how to use it, as well as how to set up small businesses around it.

For the people of Lira, this is a step on the long journey to a better life, and we look forward to making that journey with them.

If you would like to know more about this aspect of World In Need’s work, or you’d like to be part of this project, please contact us at

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New technology can transform lives

Here's an interesting figure for you: 1.8 billion people in the world today live without any access to electricity. Can you imagine Europe without any electrical power at all (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain ...)? Well, Europe's population is only 0.74 billion! We're talking about masses of people in developing areas of the world left with little possibility of coming out of their poverty cycle, as we all know the electric power is absolutely vital for human development in today's world.

Even though they are not connected to any power supply people still spend 25-30% of their income on energy. Most use small kerosene lamps, which provide very little light, they use poor quality batteries to play radios, which only last a few days and contaminate local water supply. People are forced to travel long distances and pay to charge their phones every week. Many use car batteries to have light at home but still they need to transport these batteries every few days to a place where they pay to have them recharged. All these options are very expensive for poor families.

The technology available today doesn't leave the 1.8 billion people hopeless because even though they may not be connected to any main power supply there are other ways of providing the much needed electric current into their homes; solar energy being one of them.

Solar energy is free of charge. The only expense is a panel which catches that energy and a converter that can then change this energy into an electrical current suitable for domestic use. Due to high energy consumptions the solar solutions in the West are quite costly, however, in areas of the world where electricity usage is minimal much cheaper options are available.

One of the recent companies to introduce an excellent domestic solar panel for developing countries is Tough Stuff. A little panel (tough as a rock) and a battery installed in a lamp can provide light for hours after the sundown. The same panel can charge mobile phones and power up radios. 

At World In Need we see the great need in all the countries where we work but we also see opporotunities to enhance the development of those communities. Currently we are in the process of introducing the Tough Stuff solar panels into Northern Ugandan displacement camps on microfinance conditions. If this partnership proves fruitful then we will take the idea to other countries. We are also working on bigger projects of trying to use the solar energy to power up some of the schools we support. That would enable us to teach children computer classes, have lessons after dark and would put the schools at the centre of technology in their local communities. Alternative sources of energy may just be an answer not only to our planet's atmosphere but also to over a billion people living without any electricity today.

NASA image, roughly showing where in the world electricity is least available.