Sept. 24 - Non-profit groups aiming to replace Africa's deadly kerosene lamps with safe, solar alternatives say their campaign is gaining momentum. The award-winning Solaraid project says the dangerous lamps could be eliminated from the continent by 2020. Jim Drury has more.
International charity Solaraid wants kerosene lamps like these out of circulation within seven years....not by banning them, but by spreading a solar lamp revolution. Ubiquitous throughout Africa, kerosene lamps are extremely dangerous, producing noxious fumes and sparking deadly fires. Managing director Pippa Palmer says Solaraid's solar lamps are not only safe, but provide enough power for four hours of continuous lighting. SOUNDBITE (English) PIPPA PALMER, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SOLAR AID, SAYING: "These lights use the very best of PV technology, battery technology, and LED technology, and they're pulled together in one contained unit, and the really amazing thing is that they're made to immensely robust standards. We can throw them around, you can do all sorts of things with them. No moving parts. They don't trap moisture." The World Health Organisation says inhaling kerosene fumes daily is as dangerous as smoking two packets of cigarettes, and that's the least of their problems. UPSOT: PALMER SAYING OFF-CAMERA "This is a barbaric piece of technology...it's a little bomb." Solaraid's social enterprise, SunnyMoney, sells the lamps rather than giving them away, to help create a sustainable market, and ploughs profits back into production. Palmer sees the lamp as a gateway to other forms of microtechnology. SOUNDBITE (English) PIPPA PALMER, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SOLAR AID, SAYING: "This is the first product that they will buy into, but we see a proliferation of this technology into small electronics, televisions, radios, solar fridges, solar cooking." Palmer admits that persuading rural customers to pay 10 dollars for each lamp is tough. But as they can last for five years, she says the lights pay for themselves within weeks, whereas kerosene can consume up to a fifth of household income. Solaraid have sold half a million lamps in three years, but with 600 million Africans living off the grid, the charity faces a huge challenge in illuminating the rest of the continent.