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Forest communities celebrate as they switch on to solar energy


It was all smiles, cheers and celebration when Fatuma lit the first ever solar lantern in the village, lighting the whole one roomed house. The night had literally turned into daytime.

Community members show their joy after receiving the solar lanterns.Community members show their joy after receiving the solar lanterns. Photo: Elias Kimaru / Amina Dubow / WWF

This is the village of Fihoni, bordering the Gogoni forest. It’s one of the communities now benefitting from a shift to sustainable energy thanks to the support of WWF and Size of Wales.

It’s part of a project called ‘Clean Energy Villages’ – which I have mentioned on this blog before.

In this village, as with many others in Kwale, over 85% of the community traditionally uses firewood for cooking and kerosene for lighting.

The firewood is often unsustainably sourced and used in inefficient stoves. This leads to the loss of forests and the wildlife that lives there. It also means people spending a lot of time gathering wood instead of being in work or education.

Kerosene is an expensive fuel source and so its use contributes to increasing poverty. The resulting smoke causes health problems. Burning kerosene also releases a lot of carbon and so, like unsustainably sourced firewood, its use can contribute to climate change.

All this is set to change as Fihoni and other poor rural communities around Kwale’s forests join the Clean Energy Villages programme.

Fatuma using the lantern to light her house.Fatuma using the lantern to light her house. Photo: Elias Kimaru / Amina Dubow / WWF

The initiative will provide more than 300 families in Kwale with clean energy.

It’ll help them switch to using solar lanterns for lighting and cook using new energy saving stoves, which need much less firewood.

The project will also support tree planting on farms, so communities have a sustainable source of wood fuel as an alternative to damaging the established forests.

As well as helping us to conserve and protect these forests, Clean Energy Villages will help improve the lives of people living in poverty.

WWF surveys show that rural families spend close to 40 Kenyan Shillings – around 28p – buying kerosene and charging mobile phones every day.

For families earning less than a pound a day, this is a lot of money.

It means that the project will help them save almost 40% of their earnings.

Additionally, women and children (mostly girls) spend on average 1 hour per day sourcing firewood. Together, with the smoke and poor lighting in their homes, this has a negative impact on education. The Clean Energy Villages will give them much more time to study and make their homes much better places in which to learn.

Me pointing out one of the solar panels.Me pointing out one of the solar panels. Photo: Elias Kimaru / Amina Dubow / WWF

For every solar lantern we provide, the community buys one more at a cost of around 30 pounds each.

This means each family has two lanterns.  We also support the local community bank, which has made special credit arrangements, ensuring every member of the community has the financial means to access the lanterns.

So far, close to 200 families have received the lanterns.  The initial results indicate massive changes in the lifestyle of the families.

One mother …Mama Zainab… captured the mood of many in the village…as quoted below….

“I am very happy and grateful for the solar lanterns provided by WWF.  This has helped me to save 40 Kenyan shillings everyday which I used to spend buying paraffin for my tin lamp and charging my mobile phone. In addition, my children are now able to study for three hours in the evening…. Before then, they would only study for 1 hour after which they eyes would turn red and itchy due to smoke from the tin lamp.

“This is like real miracle to us, I never imagined this kind of transformation…..we are so grateful to WWF…we request others to join and support this course so that many more households can be transformed”.

Make a donation today to help put a stop to the destruction of east Africa’s coastal forests and Size of Wales will match it pound for pound.

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