Sustainable Technology and the Real Cost of the Kerosene Lamp

Sustainable Technology and the Real Cost of the Kerosene Lamp

Environmental sustainability and poverty reduction go hand in hand, addressing one can elevate the other.

Let’s take the Kerosene lamp for example. You live near the equator and it gets dark at about 6pm. In the Western world this is easily defeated with the flick of a switch but if you are one of the nearly 2 billion people that have no access to the electric grid you are left in the pitch black. A homemade lamp, a match and Kerosene seems like the answer.

Problem solved?

You need several litres of Kerosene each week, you have to walk miles to buy it and you have to ask your husband for the money for it which regularly results in friction. He knows it’s needed but has to watch his hard earned money go up in smoke.

You spend about 25% of your weekly budget on Kerosene which is money that you would have much rather spent of your daughter’s school fees.

You have to make the choice today between selling your produce and walking several hours to buy more Kerosene. If it’s dark your children cannot see to study and you can’t see to cook. If you don’t sell your produce then there will be no food to cook in the first place. It’s a no win situation.

Dirty and expensive

Kerosene keeps poor people locked into poverty. Cookstoves for example are a cheap and dirty way of providing hot food for your family. Smoke inhalation from traditional cookstoves and open fires cause nearly 2 million deaths annually with young women and children being the most affected.

In the UK we spend on average 0.5% of the household income on lighting whereas inKenyafor example it’s 15% typically on Kerosene. It is impossible for development to happen without sustainable access to energy.

Solar as a solution

Solar energy is a realistic way to tackle this problem but it does come with its own set of hurdles. The cost of a solar lamp is around what the average Kenyan family spends on Kerosene in a year. Microfinance is a practical way to enable this technology for some of the world’s poorest people. In Bangladesh, Grameen Bank, BRAC and ASA have helped to bring clean energy to millions of people through solar panels. You pay back over a relatively short period of time and then the panel is yours. More often than not the panel produces so much electricity that the surplus can be sold to other members of the community spreading the benefit further.

Supporting entrepreneurs and cooperatives that are using green technologies is something that Deki is very interested in doing in the future. Our new International Programmes Manager Diane Rafla is excited to start exploring how microfinance can fuel the growth of sustainable energy production in developing countries.