In 2010, Empower Projects staff visited Kapita comprising 38 villages for a baseline survey. Out of a total population of approximately 5000 people in the area, 90% of the population was using open fire and kerosene lamps for lighting in their houses. The other 10% was using torches that run on dry cells. A Vision Workshop at Zatuba Village identified energy poverty as being a key concern for all households. A concern shared by all villages 38 villages in the region.
Empower Projects has enabled 200 households in Kapita to gain access to solar lighting!
Empower introduced solar lanterns to Kapita to promote clean energy for lighting while reducing the hazards of using kerosene and open fire for lighting especially on women and babies. The introduction of solar lanterns was linked with another project- Zatuba Village Fund. Empower bought 200 lanterns which people acquired via an energy loan from the Zatuba Village Fund. The loan was repayable in 9 months with no interest and was paid back to their bank. The revolving fund then supported businesses within the community. Empower further trained the committee so as to manage the revolving fund a s a community bank and the Zatuba Community Bank was born.
200 households now use solar lanterns for lighting and are able to charge their mobile phones. This has cut people’s spending, saving up to MK 1,400 ($4) per month on kerosene and batteries. Phone charging costs MK 50 (US$ 10 cents) at the phone charging station and with the solar lanterns people are now charging their mobile phones in their homes and some even make money by charging their neighbor’s phones. Some individuals after seeing the benefits of solar, have saved more money and purchased larger solar systems on their own. This signifies the positive mindset change the project has had on the people of Kapita. In partnership with Mzuzu University, Empower has also conducted several training sessions on the installation and effective use of solar technology – from simple lighting devices to higher level roof panels. In fact Kapita have their own “Solar Engineers” to tend to repairs when necessary.
Kapita Primary School was a beneficiary of a solar system through a joint UNDP GEF Grant by Empower and Mzuzu University. Another large stride for the region as it opens up the possibility of computers being introduced to the school and for greater inclusion through night school.
The introduction of solar lanterns in Kapita has reduced the risks of fire disasters in houses according to our baseline survey which indicated that cases of fire were common in the area. One tobacco farmer, Abshai Nkhata reported that because of the solar lantern, he can now grade his tobacco even up to 10 p.m compared to previously when he finished work at 5 p.m. In future, we expect even school performance to improve since pupils are now able to study at night using the solar lanterns. Without a doubt, the entry of solar lighting has had a tremendous impact on quality of life for people in Kapita.