Location: Syria

Solar Aid is an international charity  founded by Jeremy Leggett in 2006 with over 10 years’ experience of working to deliver solar lighting to the developing world. They provide access to solar lights in Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia to help catalyse solar markets and eradicate the kerosene lamp.

Most schools in Syria are now built underground for fears of shelling and bombardment. As a result, children are unable to study in the hours of darkness and, where used, kerosene-powered lamps cause air pollution which presents a serious health hazard. NextEnergy Foundation made a donation to fund 1,140 SM100 solar lights for school children in Syria. These lights were shipped directly to Syria Relief, a charity established in 2011 in response to the beginning of the Syrian crisis, and they covered the costs of shipping the lights to Syria and distributing them. Syria Relief has provided NextEnergy Foundation with photos of how the solar lights benefited families and communities in Syria.

Location: Uganda

Solar Aid is an international charity founded by Jeremy Leggett in 2006 with over 10 years’ experience of working to deliver solar lighting to the developing world. They provide access to solar lights in Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia to help catalyse solar markets and eradicate the kerosene lamp.

In 2018, NextEnergy Foundation funded the provision of SM100 solar lights to Bidi Bidi, the largest refugee camp in Northern Uganda. The camp was opened in 2017 and is currently home to approximately 270,000 Sudanese refugees. Sudan’s civil war has been ongoing since 2013 and, according to Global Conflict Tracker (2020), almost 2.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers are estimated to have fled the country. The introduction of solar lights in Bidi Bidi has helped families to survive, and children to continue studying, in the camp which they now call their home.

Location: Malawi

NextEnergy Foundation is supporting a new project with SolarAid to recruit, train and back women entrepreneurs to run solar light businesses across rural Malawi.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, energy poverty disproportionately affects women and girls, and women entrepreneurs face far more barriers to running sustainable businesses in rural communities than men. However, it has been shown that women are key change-makers in providing energy access to rural communities.

Accordingly, SolarAid launched its Mayi Walas programme last year; Mayi Walas means ‘Shining Mothers’ in Chichewa, Malawi’s national language. Mayi Walas combines access to training, financing solutions and long-term business support to enable women entrepreneurs to break through the barriers they face in launching, growing and scaling successful businesses.

The programme will support up to 150 Groups. With NextEnergy Foundation’s support, 15 Groups will be recruited and trained with the following wider impacts expected:

  • 9,000 people in rural Malawi reached with solar light;
  • 900 tonnes CO₂ emissions averted;
  • 4,700 people experiencing improved health; and,
  • 6 million additional study hours created.

More information about the programme’s dynamics can be found on the SolarAid website, including stories from some of the Mayi Walas entrepreneurs.

January 2023 Update: Key impacts to date of the 15 Mayi Walas Groups supported by the NextEnergy Foundation are below:

  • 230 women entrepreneurs, 120 more than forecasted;
  • 398 solar lights sold by the women entrepreneurs;
  • 1,974 people reached with solar light;
  • 208 tonnes CO2 emissions averted;
  • 1,089 people experiencing improved health; and,
  • 841,649 additional study hours created.

A number of challenges were faced in the first six months of the programme, namely a shortage of the solar light stock in Malawi; mistrust of micro-finance in rural communities; and, accessibility of the very last mile communities.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the Mayi Walas have reported increased income and savings; environmental wellbeing; social group cohesion; and, improved children’s education as tangible benefits from the programme. Florence Ndovi of the Kuwala Mayi Walas reported:

“People have learned to save the money they used to spend on batteries and candles. They are saving money and they can use the money to educate children. In this way, our community is developing.”

Linness Friday of the Chimwemwe Mayi Walas also said:

“I like solar lights because they don’t require money to work. Since we bought ours, we have never spent money on batteries. We just put it in the sun and are able to use them until morning.”

The focus of the next phase of the Mayi Walas programme is transitioning the groups of women entrepreneurs to be fully supported by their local Energy Businesses. Each Energy Business is independently run by an experienced local solar entrepreneur, acting as a central hub for all energy entrepreneurs operating within the territory to access to a range of solar light stock and ongoing business support. The next project update will be provided in July 2023.

July 2023 Update: NextEnergy Foundation’s grant period ended in June 2023. Key impacts from the 15 Groups supported by the Foundation are below, and photographs of some of the groups are above:

  • 234 women entrepreneurs;
  • 560 solar lights sold;
  • 2,980 people reached with solar light;
  • 313 tonnes CO2 emissions averted;
  • 97% yearly household savings compared to previous expenditure on toxic and unsustainable light sources;
  • 2,166 people experiencing improved health; and,
  • 521 more children studying after dark.

To date, 146 Mayi Malas Groups have been formed across 17 of the 28 Districts in Malawi. There are 2,625 individual Mayi Wala who have collectively sold 6,221 solar lamps, reaching over 33,000 people in the most remote rural communities with solar lights and providing reassurance about the benefits of the lights before their purchase. The final impact of these sales is:

  • 23,500 people experiencing improved health;
  • USD 786,000 cumulative savings;
  • 61% customers reported feeling safer after dark; and,
  • 5,783 more children studying after dark.

Margaret Nkhata is one of the Mayi Wala entrepreneurs from the Tikondane Group – she is proud to have a successful women-led business and enjoys working in a group:

“Taking part in the women’s business group is very exciting. We share knowledge and there is power. We also bring cash together.”

Based on the programme’s direction of travel, SolarAid expects all the Mayi Malawi Groups to continue to increase their number of sales of solar lights in the coming years. Importantly, the impact of the Foundation’s support will also expand as many of the Customer Repair Representatives from the Light a Village Programme which NEF is supporting from 2023-2024 will be Mayi Mala individuals.

Location: Malawi

NextEnergy Foundation is supporting a new project with SolarAid to bring solar energy to the poorest, last-mile communities in rural Malawi.

590 million people live in sub-Saharan Africa without access to electricity. Despite international commitments, the poorest are not being reached by solar energy because, even with PAYG offerings, they are unaffordable and off-grid companies do not go to the deepest rural areas.

Accordingly, SolarAid has launched the Light a Village programme to address this in Malawi. The programme involves free installation of solar home systems (“SHSs”); flexible payment terms for energy use; and, ongoing repair and maintenance services. Importantly, these services will be delivered by Customer Repair Representatives, many of whom will be Mayi Walas – groups of women entrepreneurs from SolarAid’s programme which the Foundation is supporting in 2022-24.

Light a Village was successfully piloted in 2022 in 500 homes in the Traditional Authority, Kasakula, Ntchisi District, Malawi (Phase One). This area was selected in partnership with the Malawian Government due to its zero grid access and since 97% of the population lives below the extreme poverty line.

Before scaling the programme nationwide, it must be stress-tested across a larger sample of homes; SolarAid is scaling the pilot to a further 2,000 homes in the Ntchisi District (Phase Two). NextEnergy Foundation has funded 92 SHSs. Together with match-funding from the Turner-Kirk Trust, 912 people will be reached with first-time energy access.

June 2023 Update: All 2,000 installations were completed at the end of April. The systems are SunKing Home 200x, a 3-light SHS with mobile charging capabilities and VerSol-approved to guarantee the industry standard for high-quality products.

The installations were led by SunnyMoney staff members and the installations funded by NextEnergy Foundation were supported by the following community members:

  • 10 Customer Service Representatives – these are locals who were previously trained in installations and run the day-to-day operations of Light a Village. One of the Customer Service Representatives is a Mayi Walas.
  • 10 Assistants – young people from local youth organisations who were trained on-site and each assigned a Customer Service Representative to deliver the installations together.

Please watch the video which SolarAid has created to see the impact which the programme has already made: Light a Village Innovation – YouTube.

SolarAid is now conducting a study to monitor and evaluate the impact of this expanded SHS pilot over time in order to sustainably scale the model across rural Malawi in future.

July 2023 Update: Due to the visible impacts of the SHSs in households, 76 additional systems have been installed on schools and the homes of teachers, at their request. This means that 100% of the households in the 5 largest units in Kasakula now have energy access.

Usage is extremely high – over 90% are in use every day – and families are significantly saving on energy as they no longer buy kerosene or candles. The Turner-Kirk Trust interviewed Brave Mhonie, the General Manager of SolarAid’s operations in Malawi, who spoke more about the transformative impact which SolarAid is having on communities in sub-Saharan Africa through programmes such as Light a Village.

SolarAid is now planning Phase Three of the programme to install a further 5,000 SHSs. Why 7,500 across all three Phases? This will provide solar power for the entire Kasakula community in which there are no electrification plans for the foreseeable future due to its remoteness. It will also enable SolarAid to reach the proof of concept level requested by the Malawian Government before scaling across the country.

November 2023 Update: Approximately half of the Traditional Authority has now been covered by the programme. SolarAid is planning a Phase Three in order to reach 100% of the households in the Traditional Authority in 2024.

SolarAid has commissioned Imani Development to conduct a local monitoring and evaluation survey on the programme; it will focus on customer satisfaction; customer service representatives’ performance; and, will help to understand why some individuals do not use the systems on a daily basis. The results will feed into Phase Three. This will be the first time a community in Malawi where the majority of households are living in extreme poverty has affordable access to solar energy.

Location: Malawi

NextEnergy Foundation is supporting Light a Village programme, launched by SolarAid to bring solar energy to the poorest, last mile communities in rural Malawi.

The programme involves free installation of solar home systems (“SHSs”), flexible payment term of energy use and repair and maintenance services.

Light a Village programme is structured as follows:

  • Phase One – year 2022: pilot test in 500 homes in the Traditional Authority, Kasakula, Ntchisi District.
  • Phase Two – year 2023: stress-test of the programme to a further 2,000 homes in the Ntchisi District. NextEnergy Foundation funded 92 SHSs
  • Phase Tree – year 2024: scaling up the model to the remaining 5,000 homes in order to guarantee 100% energy coverage of the district. NextEnergy Foundation will fund approximately 498 SHSs.

NextEnergy Foundation supported Phase Two of the programme (read more here) which was necessary to stress-test the model. SHSs were distributed across the Traditional Authority Kasakula, Ntchisi District, an area selected due to its high level of poverty (with 97% living below the poverty line). There is no prospect for this community to receive grid electricity in the next 20 years.

In 2024, NextEnergy is supporting SolarAid in the scaling up of the model into Phase Three, which involves installing 5,000 more SHSs, as well as upgrading the model with the addition of solar irrigation pumps. This will guarantee 100% energy coverage of the Traditional Authority Kasakula, Ntchisi District.

Phase Three will run from April 2024 to October 2025 (18 months) and serve as an exemplar of energy accessibility for the most disadvantaged communities in Sub Saharan Africa.

If successful, the Malawian Government has expressed a desire to roll-out the model at national level.

Through NextEnergy Foundation’s contribution to Phase Three of Light a Village Programme, 2,839 people will be reached with first-time energy access and 895 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be avoided over the renewable energy lifetime.