Akon Provides Electricity To 80 Million Africans – Collective Evolution

  Here in the west, Akon is a celebrity mostly known by his musical hits like “Locked Up,” “Lonely,” “Belly Dancer,” and “Ghetto” to name just a few. But his most amazing noteworthy achievement and legacy, which has not been mentioned much in the mainstream western media, is that through his entrepreneurial endeavors stemming from …

Read more

the kayoola sustainable bus uganda

Ugandan Engineers Built A Solar-Powered Bus for African Roads

Ugandan engineers have built a solar-powered electric bus that they say is a first of its kind in East Africa and think it will revolutionize the automotive market in the region. The Kayoola, as its called, is a 35-seater that can run for up to 80 kilometers on two power banks that can also be recharged by solar panels installed on the roof of the bus.

Paul Musasizi, chief executive officer of Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), the state-funded company behind the vehicle, says with the potential for solar power in Uganda, it only made sense that engineers started to leverage the energy source for cars.

“The bus is purely electric and our idea is to test the strength of solar energy in enabling people to move,” he told a local newspaper.

The company built the prototype with funds from the Ugandan government. But KMC is hoping to attract investors to the project to start producing the buses for the mass market by 2018 at a retail price of $58,000. Typically, 35-seater buses retail between $35,000 to $50,000.

“As we continue with developing concepts, we are also studying the market,” Doreen Orishaba, one of the engineers in the project, told Uganda’s Observer newspaper. “We want to see that we don’t make vehicles for stocking but for production on orders.”

This is not KMC’s first foray into energy efficient car-making. Last year, the company introduced the Kiira Smack, a petrol-electric hybrid that it said would come into the market by 2018 as well for a $20,000 price. But analysts were doubtful at the time of the project’s commercial viability. The price could prove prohibitive, they argued, in a market that sells an estimated 20,000 cars a year. Additionally, in a part of the world where electricity is not a widely available commodity, electric dependent cars could put undue pressure on national grids.

But by using solar as a power source for the Kayoola, KMC may have found a way to overcome that challenge in this instance.

“Uganda being one of the 13 countries positioned along the equator, gives us about eight hours of significant solar energy that can be harvested,” Musasizi says.

Barefoot College Masaai Kenya Solar Grandmother

From Dishonored Grandmother to Solar Engineer

We’re all looking for stories of hope – that the world can be changed, that we are not limited by our culture, our backgrounds, our histories. Lucy Naipanoi, a grandmother of the Maasai in Kenya, one of the last hunter gatherer tribes left on the planet, represents the potential for evolution and advancement that has …

Read more

Can A Grandmother From A Hunter Gathering Tribe Become A Solar Engineer?

We’re all looking for stories of hope – that the world can be changed, that we are not limited by our culture, our backgrounds, our histories – and few stories are as inspirational as that of Lucy Naipanoi, a grandmother of Maasai, one of the last hunter gatherer tribes left on the planet. With the …

Read more

Two Indigenous Solar Engineers Changed Their Village in Chile

Liliana and Luisa Terán, two indigenous women from northern Chile who travelled to India for training in installing solar panels, have not only changed their own future but that of Caspana, their remote village nestled in a stunning valley in the Atacama desert.

“It was hard for people to accept what we learned in India,” Liliana Terán told IPS. “At first they rejected it, because we’re women. But they gradually got excited about, and now they respect us.”

Her cousin, Luisa, said that before they travelled to Asia, there were more than 200 people interested in solar energy in the village. But when they found out that it was Liliana and Luisa who would install and maintain the solar panels and batteries, the list of people plunged to 30.

“In this village there is a council of elders that makes the decisions. It’s a group which I will never belong to,” said Luisa, with a sigh that reflected that her decision to never join them guarantees her freedom.

Luisa, 43, practices sports and is a single mother of an adopted daughter. She has a small farm and is a craftswoman, making replicas of rock paintings. After graduating from secondary school in Calama, the capital of the municipality, 85 km from her village, she took several courses, including a few in pedagogy.

Liliana, 45, is a married mother of four and a grandmother of four. She works on her family farm and cleans the village shelter. She also completed secondary school and has taken courses on tourism because she believes it is an activity complementary to agriculture that will help stanch the exodus of people from the village.

But these soft-spoken indigenous women with skin weathered from the desert sun and a life of sacrifice are in charge of giving Caspana at least part of the energy autonomy that the village needs in order to survive.

Caspana – meaning “children of the hollow” in the Kunza tongue, which disappeared in the late 19th century – is located 3,300 metres above sea level in the El Alto Loa valley. It officially has 400 inhabitants, although only 150 of them are here all week, while the others return on the weekends, Luisa explained.

They belong to the Atacameño people, also known as Atacama, Kunza or Apatama, who today live in northern Chile and northwest Argentina.

“Every year, around 10 families leave Caspana, mainly so their children can study or so that young people can get jobs,” she said.

Up to 2013, the village only had one electric generator that gave each household two and a half hours of power in the evening. When the generator broke down, a frequent occurrence, the village went dark.

Today the generator is only a back-up system for the 127 houses that have an autonomous supply of three hours a day of electricity, thanks to the solar panels installed by the two cousins.

Chile Solar Mamas Barefoot College
The indigenous village of Caspana lies 3,300 metres above sea level in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. The 400 inhabitants depend on small-scale farming for a living, as a stone marker at the entrance to the village proudly declares. Now, thanks to the efforts of two local women, they have electricity in their homes, generated by solar panels, which have now become part of the landscape. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Each home has a 12 volt solar panel, a 12 volt battery, a four amp LED lamp, and an eight amp control box.

The equipment was donated in March 2013 by the Italian company Enel Green Power. It was also responsible, along with the National Women’s Service (SERNAM) and the Energy Ministry’s regional office, for the training received by the two women at the Barefoot College in India.

On its website, the Barefoot College describes itself as “a non-governmental organisation that has been providing basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities for more than 40 years, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable.”

So far, 700 women from 49 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America – as well as thousands of women from India – have taken the course to become “Barefoot solar engineers”.

They are responsible for the installation, repair and maintenance of solar panels in their villages for a minimum of five years. Another task they assume is to open a rural electronics workshop, where they keep the spare parts they need and make repairs, and which operates as a mini power plant with a potential of 320 watts per hour.

In March 2012 the two cousins travelled to the village of Tilonia in the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan, where the Barefoot College is located.

They did not go alone. Travelling with them were Elena Achú and Elvira Urrelo, who belong to the Quechua indigenous community, and Nicolasa Yufla, an Aymara Indian. They all live in other villages of the Atacama desert, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta.

“We saw an ad that said they were looking for women between the ages of 35 and 40 to receive training in India. I was really interested, but when they told me it was for six months, I hesitated. That was a long time to be away from my family!” Luisa said.

Encouraged by her sister, who took care of her daughter, she decided to undertake the journey, but without telling anyone what she was going to do.

The conditions they found in Tilonia were not what they had been led to expect, they said. They slept on thin mattresses on hard wooden beds, the bedrooms were full of bugs, they couldn’t heat water to wash themselves, and the food was completely different from what they were used to.

“I knew what I was getting into, but it took me three months anyway to adapt, mainly to the food and the intense heat,” she said.

She remembered, laughing, that she had stomach problems much of the time. “It was too much fried food,” she said. “I lost a lot of weight because for the entire six months I basically only ate rice.”

Looking at Liliana, she burst into laughter, saying “She also only ate rice, but she put on weight!”

Liliana said that when she got back to Chile her family welcomed her with an ‘asado’ (barbecue), ’empanadas’ (meat and vegetable patties or pies) and ‘sopaipillas’ (fried pockets of dough).

Chile solar mama barefoot college
The primary school in Caspana, 1,400 km north of Santiago. Two indigenous cousins who were trained as solar engineers got the municipal authorities to provide solar panels for lighting in public buildings and on the village’s few streets, while they installed panels in 127 of the village’s homes. Credit: Mariana Jarroud/IPS

“But I only wanted to sit down and eat ‘cazuela’ (traditional stew made with meat, potatoes and pumpkin) and steak,” she said.

On their return, they both began to implement what they had learned. Charging a small sum of 45 dollars, they installed the solar panel kit in homes in the village, which are made of stone with mud roofs.

The community now pays them some 75 dollars each a month for maintenance, every two months, of the 127 panels that they have installed in the village.

“We take this seriously,” said Luisa. “For example, we asked Enel not to just give us the most basic materials, but to provide us with everything necessary for proper installation.”

“Some of the batteries were bad, more than 10 of them, and we asked them to change them. But they said no, that that was the extent of their involvement in this,” she said. The company made them sign a document stating that their working agreement was completed.

“So now there are over 40 homes waiting for solar power,” she added. “We wanted to increase the capacity of the batteries, so the panels could be used to power a refrigerator, for example. But the most urgent thing now is to install panels in the 40 homes that still need them.”

But, she said, there are people in this village who cannot afford to buy a solar kit, which means they will have to be donations.

Despite the challenges, they say they are happy, that they now know they play an important role in the village. And they say that despite the difficulties, and the extreme poverty they saw in India, they would do it again.

“I’m really satisfied and content, people appreciate us, they appreciate what we do,” said Liliana.

“Many of the elders had to see the first panel installed before they were convinced that this worked, that it can help us and that it was worth it. And today you can see the results: there’s a waiting list,” she added.

Luisa believes that she and her cousin have helped changed the way people see women in Caspana, because the “patriarchs” of the council of elders themselves have admitted that few men would have dared to travel so far to learn something to help the community. “We helped somewhat to boost respect for women,” she said.

And after seeing their work, the local government of Calama, the municipality of which Caspana forms a part, responded to their request for support in installing solar panels to provide public lighting, and now the basic public services, such as the health post, have solar energy.

“When I’m painting, sometimes a neighbour comes to sit with me. And after a while, they ask me about our trip. And I relive it, I tell them all about it. I know this experience will stay with me for the rest of my life,” said Luisa.

This reporting series was conceived in collaboration with Ecosocialist Horizons. Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

U.S. Navy Invests in World’s Largest Solar Farm

The U.S. Navy is investing in what will be the largest solar farm in the world in order to provide power for 14 of its bases.

The climate of Arizona, where the two earlier phases of the Mesquite solar farm are already up and running, provides 300 days of sunshine a year. And the Navy’s deal to extend the farm is the largest purchase of renewable energy ever made by a U.S. federal government agency.

The solar farm project is one of a growing number being installed across what is known as the American Sun Belt-the southern states of America, which have expanding populations, plenty of sunshine but also large areas of arid and unproductive land.

Solar Prices Fall Farm

The price of solar panels has now fallen so far worldwide that, in sunny climes, they can compete on cost with any other form of energy generation. This new generation of huge solar farms produces as much power as a large coal-fired plant.

China and India are also building similarly massive installations, taking advantage of their own sun belts and desert regions. It is doubtful that Mesquite 3, huge as it is, will manage to remain the world’s largest for long.

Barren Land

In the same week that the U.S. Navy disclosed its plans, the central Indian state of Madya Pradesh announced it was to construct a 750 MW plant (one megawatt is roughly enough to supply 1,000 typical British homes) on barren, government-owned land in the country’s Rewa district.

It is claimed that it would be the world’s largest solar plant and the state’s energy minister, Rajendra Shukla, says the plan is to have the plant up and running by March 2017.

A number of other giant projects are also in the pipeline in India, as part of government plans for a dramatic expansion of the industry, although they have yet to be constructed.

REPO Calidornia US Nacy Invests Solar InfoGraphic

Mesquite 3, which will be sited 60 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona, will provide the Navy with 210 MW of direct power. This means the installation of more than 650,000 extra solar panels, which will move to track the sun as it crosses the sky, to get the maximum value from the intense desert sunshine. The Navy says it will save $90 million in power costs over the 25-year lifetime of the contract.

Some solar power plants in India have caused controversy because they need teams of people to wash off the layer of dust and particles from air pollution to keep the panels efficient. This uses a lot of scarce water.

However, in the cleaner desert air of Arizona, this is not a problem. The Navy boasts that Mesquite 3 will require no water, so saving “this precious resource for other needs.”

The building of the plant will require 300 construction workers but it will create only 12 long-term jobs. The plant also avoids controversy because it is sited on “previously disturbed land” and so is not damaging a pristine environment. It is also near existing power plants and transmission lines, so the plant will not need additional infrastructure.

Reduced Emissions

The Navy estimates that the station will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 190,000 tons annually—the equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road.

Ray Mabus, the Secretary of State for the Navy, who opened the project, has been pushing hard for renewables to be used for military power generation.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Defense was instructed by Congress to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025 but Mabus accelerated that goal and directed thatone gigawatt (1,000 MW) should be procured by the end of 2015.

The new contract adds to a 17 MW installation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and another of 42 MW at Kings Bay, Georgia. The Navy says that, in total, its renewable energy procurement will be 1.2 GW by the end of 2015, which is well ahead of target.

It will use the power for Navy and Marine Corps shore installations in California and surrounding states.

Opening the project at one of the installations, the Naval Air Station North Island, in California, Mabus said the project was “a triumph of problem solving” and would help increase the Department of the Navy’s energy security by diversifying the supply.

India Built The World’s First Solar-Powered Airport

The southern Indian city of Kochi is now the proud home of the world’s first solar-powered airport.

On Aug. 18, the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL)-India’s fourth largest international airport in terms of passenger traffic-commissioned a 12 mega watt (MW) solar power project. The airport already had a 1MW solar power plant, which can produce 4,000 units of electricity daily.

With its new solar plant, the airport can now produce 60,000 units of electricity every day, which is more than enough to meet its daily requirement.

“We initiated a pilot project in February 2013 as part of our plan to shift to renewable energy by setting up a 100 kilo watt unit,” VJ Kurian, managing director of CIAL told Quartz in a telephone interview. “When we found that feasible, we set up a 1MW unit in November 2013.”

“We did not want to be identified as just another airport and be confined to it,” Kurian added.

CIAL Airport Solar Kerala India World Largest Solar Airport

After the airport found the 1MW project financially viable, it invited tenders to set up a 12MW project within the airport complex. “Work on the 12MW project started in February 2015 and was completed in less than six months” Kurian said.

Spread across 45 acres of land-equivalent to 25 football fields-the project was built by German engineering company Bosch for Rs62 crore ($9.5 million). The area for the solar unit was earlier designated for setting up a cargo handling facility.

Since the airport expects to produce more than what it is likely to consume, CIAL is planning to feed some of the power into the state grid.

“Over the next 25 years, this green power project will avoid carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants by more than 3 lakh metric tons, which is equivalent to planting 3 million trees or not driving 750 miles,” CIAL said in a statement.

Meanwhile, close on the heels of Kochi, another Indian airport has also laid out plans to focus on solar. On Aug.18, Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, said that it plans to set up a 15 MW solar power plant on 60 acres of land.

India is currently in the midst of ramping up its solar power generation. The Narendra Modi government has plans to increase the country’s solar power capacity from the existing 4GW (gigawatt) to 100GW (gigawatt)by 2022.

To fund such an ambitious expansion, the government expects an investment of $100 billion in the sector in the next seven years. Some of Asia’s biggest billionaires-including SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, Gautam Adani and Anil Ambani-have already promised massive investments in the sector.

Alongside, smaller establishments like Kochi’s airport are also joining the party.

Dreaming the Dark Mountain: Time, Economy and Development in Senegal’s Ecovillages

“I would burn my right hand in a slow fire
To change the future … I should do foolishly. The beauty of modern
Man is not in the persons but in the
Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain.”
– Robinson Jeffers, “Rearmament”, 1935

I first discovered ecovillages on a small farm in southern Sweden. The farm itself was not an ecovillage, but it did have a small book called Ecovillages: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Communities. Between pulling weeds and trench digging, I absorbed the book in a single day. Like its author,I found provocative the idea of living in “community with others” and in “harmony with nature,” and became part of a Global Ecovillage Network​, a worldwide movement of people building a new world. It was an alternative, at least, to that dark “mighty cosmos of the modern economic order” that the German sociologist Max Weber prophetically wrote would determine the life of “every individual … born into [its] mechanisms until the day that the last ton of fossil fuel had been consumed.” Ecovillages seemed to me like a blueprint for a new world. Buzz-words like “Permaculture,” “small is beautiful,” and “sociocracy,” and technologies like reed-bed watering systems, passive solar houses, and communal living all seemed preferable to consumer capitalism, mass culture, and the dominance of rising towers of glass, steel, and concrete. At least, that is what I thought when I came across a puzzle: The Senegalese government was attempting to convert 14 000 villages-nearly half of Senegal’s rural communities-into ecovillages. How was it that the “model” of the ecovillage, a reaction to environmental and social problems of modernity in the global North, had come to be seen as a State-sponsored development solution in Senegal?


It was a question at once personal and intellectual: I had lived in ecovillages as an “environmental anarchist,” studying statecraft and development critiques by the likes of James Scott, Arundhati Roy, and James Ferguson. My challenge was to explore how a model of anti-modernity created in the North was becoming embedded in a decidedly pre- (or even post-) modern West African nation. I went to the land of the long boats- pirogues- to find an answer. Yet, what I found was anything but…


There were not, in formal ontological terms, any ecovillages in Senegal. What I encountered were not ecovillages being built “out there,” but a variety of experiments with alternatives to deeply held assumptions about Western development. Those assumptions centered on the axes of time or temporality, and value or economy. Ecovillages were, in this evaluation, a continuation of a much older history of people experimenting with, re-theorizing, and critiquing modernity in situ, effacing conventional boundaries between thinking and doing, analyzing and acting, and between the worlds of theory “in here” and of built models “out there.” In a country where the phrase ” la modernité“-in North America more often the preserve of an educated elite-came instead from the voices of Senegal’s youth; I came to see ecovillages not as a solution to the problems of modernity, but as opening up a broader questioning of modernity itself. The problematic, it became apparent, was not solely a question for the privileged intellectuals of the West, but a subject of live, political discussion about the right forms of life in Senegal, a country that has yet to experience totalizing modernization. In failing to find model ecovillages, I encountered instead ways of thinking that problematized some of the most deeply held assumptions of development.

Traditional development policy assumes a sort of that time progresses linearly towards the future. In Senegal, I saw this view of progress reflected in le Monumentde la RenaissanceAfricaine, a statue depicting an uncharacteristically small nuclear family in its advance towards a wind-swept future-trash strewn below. I read this as an inversion of Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History: an Angel of Progress oblivious to the cultural and environmental havoc wreaked by a globalizing detachment that subsumes capital interest at the behest of those at the bottom of an exploitative hierarchy. Here modern time, as E.P. Thomson brilliantly observes, takes “time as money.” While the State continues with visions for that model of growth, I encountered communities hoping to reverse the logic of time converted into value. One ecovillage advocate wanted to return to an imagined past where “at night the children … would play hide-and-seek between their parents’ rice warehouses … [and] the elders would remind them of the region’s reputable populations of lions, hyenas, crocodiles, hippopotamus, and brilliant multi-colored birds.”


Contradicting the ideal image of development-the standardization and formalization of markets managed by a rationalized bureaucratic State-I found myself a disruptive economic agent in a world disrupted by Western capital. GEN Senegal, the NGO of my first contact in the country, dissolved after the promise of potential “millions” from the UNDP and the Global Environment Fund to build ecovillages at the national level. Once they realized the national government would only be appointing its own agents, many of GEN Senegal members felt disillusioned and disenchanted with the money they felt was already poisoning Senegal’s hopes for a better future. The National Ecovillage Agency, a government program I was also trying to explore, turned out to be a gate-keeper for corruption, eating away the funds provided for it by Western development agencies without engaging in the sort of disciplined work that donors foresaw. While the goal was to build ecovillages, it seemed more that foreign funds were being turned into an economy of non-sustainability, low quality solar panels, non-performing villagers and agents, and endless piles of government development documents with economic calculations being the “solution” to Western imaginaries of development. Everywhere I went, I found myself viewed as a lifeline to such notions of foreign investment. In the final weeks of my visit I even encountered a marabout (Islamic religious leader), who did a ceremony involving boiling water and ground nuts to convert my stolen laptop into $240 dollars for his own benefit.

The politics of development in Senegal turned out to be not about ecovillages but about competing visions of past, present, and future. In one community, I found myself in the midst of a political fight: between an idealistic mayor wishing to “return” to the ecovillage past (his slogan was: ” ici, on vit ecovillage“) and a new mayor more resigned to the pragmatic present of the development status quo. Both were in desperate need of solutions for the country’s youth (in a country where the average age is 21), but they were looking for it in terms of different technical models and development projects. Senegal is a country from which many young people are taking off to Europe, and many are dying in trying to escape. On this score, I found only one village-Ndem-that perhaps, could be said to be approaching that sought-after “solution.” Oddly, unlike any other Senegalese community I encountered, it was not working from established models. It resisted scalability. Its marabout had come back not to “develop” but to “reincarnate” the village’s founder, and to return the village to its past through religious teaching and practice. Its members were looking to build things as a community ” petit-a-petit“, not with sudden leaps and jumps of technology. These Baye Fall (an Islamic sect seen as a nuisance in Dakar) were more concerned with the rhythm of religious devotion than with standard uses of time and money (like getting a job and an apartment in Dakar). All the same, despite its decidedly anti-modern stance, Ndem is considered by many to be one of the most successful rural development examples in the country.


Ultimately, my exploration of ecovillages and resulting examinations of temporality in Senegal delved into the politics of progress, the efficacy of established models, and conflicting interests wrapped in a seeming lack of sincere direction. If there was a “model” that worked best, it was a project more considerate of local conceptions of past and future than about the clichéd standardizations of modernity. On the side of value, ecovillages offered an unforgiving look at both activists who were resisting the importation of Western money as a solution and development agencies opportunistically taking up well-funded projects doomed to fail in Senegal.

I began my search in Senegal to see how ecovillages, a posited solution to hyper-development in the North, had come to be seen as a development solution in the South. Through this exploration, I came to question conventional notions of modernity, a goal the very term “development” assumes many countries are striving to obtain. I did not find a unified vision for the future, but a multiplicity of attempts to dream a better life-often ones starkly different from the narratives of the high-level organizations working in the country, or even of “ecovillages”. There was not, I learned, a solution (singular) to the problems of modernity in Senegal or elsewhere. There were solutions (plural): operating at different levels and all at once, bringing out the multiplicity of meanings that make up our modern world. In my subsequent explorations with Aesir Lab, I hope to open up investigations that move past conventional social science framings, resisting realist framings that presuppose both the “problem” and the “solution”. Instead, I will use methods that the Senegalese context called for: pushing against realist thinking that imposes “ecovillage”, “environmental crisis”, or “development” as totalizing frames; using “both-and” instead of “either-or” logics; and looking at “actors” as theorists of their own situated contexts. In the end, what was born out of my study was a dazzling, kaleidoscopic world challenging Anglo-American framings of development as a goal to be “accomplished.” I concluded by asking whether there are not more open, discursive forms of cross-cultural engagement that bring in, rather than overwrite, the voices that are today excluded from expert discourses on development.



To learn more about Ecological Villages around the world, visit The Global Ecovillage Network Global Ecovillage Network


Photographs by Hilton Simmet (unless otherwise stated).

Featured Image by b. hessmann


Bang, Jan Martin. (2005). Ecovillages: a practical guide to sustainable communities. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society.

Benjamin, Walter. (1969). Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. (H. Zohn, Trans., H. Arendt, Ed.) (English Language edition). New York: Schocken.

Ferguson, James. (1990). The anti-politics machine: “development,” depoliticization, and bureaucratic power in Lesotho. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jasanoff, Sheila. (2002). New modernities: Reimagining science, technology and development. Environmental Values, 11(3), 253-276.

Scott, James C. (1976). The moral economy of the peasant : rebellion and subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Weber, Max. (1949). Objectivity. “Social Science and Social Policy.” The Methodology of the Social Sciences. New York: Free Press, 1949a, 49-112.

Basic International Law Can Make You A Better Activist

Samit is an attorney in the United States holding Juris Doctorate and Master of Arts degrees. We have followed his work on several different humanitarian projects, including a mission in Israel and Palestine for developing a legal digest on War Crimes to present to the Constitutional Court in Sarajevo, Bosnia; and being part of a Guantanamo detainee’s legal …

Read more

Senegal Turning 14,000 Villages Into Ecovillages!

“You think there is just a desert and a tyrannical regime, with nothing happening on the ground. And then you go in, and find all these people doing fantastic work in their communities, like peace projects, environmental justice projects and community building. Suddenly, you have a totally different image and landscape emerging from a country.” (Source) These …

Read more

Solar Lights Replacing Kerosene Lamps in Africa

As technology and resources start to reach more remote parts of the globe, we face a stark reality. Will the remote folks of Africa, Latin America and Asia follow in the same unsustainable footsteps as the West? Or will they be insightful enough to realize there must be a different way, one that preserves all life on this planet.


May 1st, 2015 by Aisha Abdelhamid

Using a unique business model to sell solar lights in rural African off-grid communities, SolarAid aims to eradicate the dangerous and toxic kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020. Working in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda, the lives of over 10 million people in Africa are being improved through solar technology.

Announcing another record-breaking year, SolarAid recently reported that its social enterprise, SunnyMoney, sold 624,468 solar lights last year, bringing its total distribution close to 1.7 million solar lights.

“The light has changed our life. My kids eat well, study well and we are a happy family now,” said Dickson Murumbi, a teacher in Kenya.

“The First and Most Crucial Step on the Energy Ladder”

“A clean, affordable and better source of light,” said SolarAid CEO Andrew Webb, “is the first and most crucial step on the energy ladder.” Webb continued, “The benefits to families, schools and communities is truly staggering and the fact that 10 million people in rural Africa, as we speak, are using these lights is testament to the hard work and dedication of our SunnyMoney teams.”

The total number of people across Africa now benefiting from solar light is estimated at around 50 million. As the largest seller and distributor on the continent, SunnyMoney solar lights account for one fifth of all sales. Webb pointed out, “The off-grid sector reaching 50 million people is fantastic, but there are over half a billion people in Africa still reliant on dangerous and very poor light sources like kerosene. In 2015, this is simply not acceptable. We need more support so that we can continue to give people across the continent the chance of a brighter future.”

The Dangers of Kerosene Lamps

Releasing black carbon into the environment, kerosene lamps pollute the air inside homes, resulting in health problems such as lung and eye diseases. Not only producing dim light which is inadequate for work or study, wounds and fatalities often result from the open flames of kerosene lamps.

In Uganda alone, the International Energy Agency estimates that 30 million people, or 80% of the population, live off the electrical grid. “Electricity is only available in the cities and main towns,” explained Alison Gallagher, SunnyMoney Uganda Operations Director. Gallagher added, “This forces families living off-grid to spend an average of USH 15,000 per month on kerosene for lighting.” Kerosene costs account for up to 25% of a family’s monthly income, and Gallagher pointed out that this money could be better used “to improve household nutrition, pay school fees or put towards new business opportunities.”

Across the African continent, it is further estimated that over 600 million people do not have access to electricity. With a total population of nearly one billion, it is reported that there are likely 100-200 million kerosene lamps damaging the health, polluting the air, and wasting the precious money of families in rural African off-grid communities. From my own personal experience as a resident of a rural community in Egypt, that number is vastly underestimated, as kerosene lamps represent the standard light source during the frequent power outages that we experience here.

SolarAid and SunnyMoney Shines in Africa

Based in London, SolarAid is an international charity that believes in business-based solutions to poverty and global warming. Creating a social enterprise called SunnyMoney in 2008, SolarAid relies on SunnyMoney to run its on-the-ground operations in African nations.

Testing and selecting the best solar lights and products from quality manufacturers, SunnyMoney began selling the solar lights in 2009. At that time the number of solar lights in use around Africa was estimated at fewer than 40,000. But by creating demand, solidifying markets, and bringing a commercially viable and scalable solution to this market, sales have begun growing all across the continent.

“We are product neutral which means we only sell lights that meet customer’s needs,” states the SunnyMoney website. “All of our lights exceed the Lighting Africa World Bank standards and come with a warranty. You can count on our SunnyMoney service guarantee of high-quality products with the best possible prices.”

The Benefits of Replacing Kerosene Lamps with Solar Lights

Replacing kerosene lamps with solar lights not only mitigates global warming – it also offers comfort to anxious mothers. “I don’t have any worries with the risk of the kerosene to spill and burn the house, because solar is easy to use and the children can put it on without me around,” reported Victoria Materu, a mother in Tanzania.

The benefits of one solar light include:

Through numbers and research offered by SolarAid, combined with research from the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), the following figures highlight the benefits of replacing kerosene lamps with solar lights:

● Improving the lives of around 6 people
● Saving a family £130 (~$200)
● Enabling an extra 1200 hours of study
● Averting half a tonne of CO2

Furthermore, this research concludes the following, based on the lifetime of a solar light:

● 10 million people currently have access to a solar light
● 9 million of whom live below the World Bank $1.25 p/d poverty line
● Families will save £200 million (~$309.19M)
● 2 billion extra study hours will be created
● 900,000 tonnes of CO2 averted
● 6 million people experiencing better health from reduced indoor air pollution
● 1 million kerosene lamps packed away

“Using SunnyMoney solar lights,” reported Stanley Ruget, a Head Teacher in Kenya, “the school has improved from a mean score of 227 to 247. Most students use their solar light to study til midnight.”

Eradicating the Kerosene Lamp through Off-Grid Lighting

Placing a greater emphasis on knowledge sharing, SolarAid recently made a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to “build the alliance to eradicate the kerosene lamp.”

According to SolarAid, off-grid lighting is the most cost-effective way of contributing to the United Nation’s Sustainable Energy 4 All goal of universal energy access by 2030. The charity is currently advising a number of organizations on entering and supporting the off-grid lighting market, and is a leading member of the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association(GOGLA).

As of December, 2014, GOGLA estimates that around 7.52 million lights have been sold throughout Africa. Additionally, with the inclusion of home solar power systems and accessories, GOGLA estimates the off-grid solar market sector to be worth around $50 billion.

Improving Lives While Reducing Impact on the Planet

Following up with buyers of SunnyMoney solar lights, 90% of buyers interviewed had “immediately changed their main lighting method to solar soon after buying a solar light.” This same 90% were previously using kerosene lamps or candles. The 10% who did not change their main lighting method were purchasers who are connected to their national grid, and bought solar lights for a back-up source. 100% of the solar light users indicated that “having a solar light has generated income-earning opportunities.”

As SolarAid CEO Andrew Webb noted, “The growing off-grid solar market is a beautiful example of how we can reduce our impact on the planet and improve the lives of those living on it at the same time”.

Solar Plane Can Fly Forever! China to Hawaii – No Stop No Fuel

The Solar Plane has been criticized by many sceptics as an option far from reality. It doesn’t have enough power – we get it! However, the concept of the Solar Plane being able to fly indefinitely is something that raised our eyebrows here at Valhalla. Imagine the opportunities this can provide. McClatchyDC provided the story…   …

Read more

Apple Purchases Land The Size Of San Francisco For Conservation And Is Building 2 New Solar Farms In China

We can’t help but be sceptical when we hear a mega-company like Apple announce it will do something in the greater interest of mankind. We know and have heard -as we’re sure you have too- that Apple is moving copious amounts of cash to parts of the world where they are exempt from tax. Could this be how they reconcile their ability to share and be human? (*note: Apple is not a human)

I (Lawrence) certainly won’t disagree, that the government who claims right to this taxable profit may be the worst people to give the money to in any case (it will be more money to mismanage). However, I would like to point out that Apple executives are, also, in no way qualified to claim the right to stewart the whole planet on our behalf, on the behalf of those living, dying and thriving in a given community. So here is an article written by True Activist, consider it.

Apple is contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment in quite a few ways.

Recently the maker of the iPhone and Mac computers announced that it has just purchased 36,000 acres of forest land for the express purpose of protecting it from future development, as well is already constructing two new solar farm projects in China. Their aim is to duplicate clean energy efforts abroad which have already been started in the United States.

The joint venture undertaken with SunPower will produce two new 20 megawatt solar farms. As stated above, construction in China has already begun, and 2 MW of solar capacity are already sending power to the grid. “The technology combines single-axis tracking technology with rows of parabolic mirrors, reflecting light onto high efficiency SunPower Maxeon cells, which are the world’s most efficient commercially available mass-produced solar cells. Completion of the projects is expected in the fourth quarter of 2015. […] The projects are expected to provide up to 80 million kilowatt-hours per year while also protecting the ecosystem.”

The super-technology company is contributing to a greener planet in more ways than one. To ensure that the packaging for its products comes from sustainable managed forests, it has partnered with The Conservation Fund to manage 36,000 acres of forest that have been purchased in Maine and North Carolina. As shared by Inhabitant, ‘The forests will be protected from development, staying forests forever, though some wood will be sustainable harvested from them.’

Said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, “Apple is clearly leading by example – one that we hope others will follow.”


“By all accounts, the loss of America’s working forests is one of our nation’s greatest environmental challenges. The initiative announced today is precedent-setting,” said Selzer.

Apple’s efforts to preserve the environment have begun to change the tune of some of its critics, including Greenpeace. Said the non-profit’s USA Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook, “Apple’s announcement today is a significant first step toward addressing its energy footprint in China, and sets an important precedent for other companies that have operations in China: they can take action to power their operations with renewable energy.”

In addition to their conservation plans in the States and abroad, Apple intends for its new headquarters in California to be 100 percent solar-powered by the time of its completion.

This is just one example of how successful businesses can reduce their environmental impact and help shape a greener, cleaner world.


Rural Illiterate Grandmothers To Solar Electrify The Rural World

In a quiet classroom forty empty chairs await their students. A blackboard, dusty with chalk, takes up one wall; directly opposite a world map flutters in the dry desert breeze from an open window. Sunlight streams in from the doorframe, as the students begin to take their places around a long trestle table. This is not your …

Read more

7 Reasons Why Solar Roadways Are F!#%ING Awesome

It would be common to think that a road which aids in more than 1 task, like generate power to all the surrounding community is beyond our time. But No! – The Solar Roadways Team has proven that this is a reality for today! A ready and immediate solution to provide a drastic reversal of our environmental impact beyond measure, here is why

1) Solar Freakin’ Panels!

There is currently an estimated 31,000 square miles of asphalt spread across America, and it grows by millions of acres every year. If the asphalt roads & parking lots are turned into Solar Roadways using the Sunpower Labs E18 series panels it would produce a little over 21,000 billion Kilowatts per year (assuming 4 hours of sun per day).

Scott and his team of engineers atop the Solar Roadways 1st Prototype
Scott and his team of engineers atop the Solar Roadway – Prototype 1

After building the 1st prototype of the Solar Roadways another calculation was done using the actual data accumulated during the months of January and February -the two harshest winter months- in Northern Idaho. Even though these conditions were less ideal (less sun in a day) the results showed that using Prototype1 as a sample; would still produce over 13,000 Billion Kilowatts per year – that’s over 3x More than the United States consumes.

for all the numbers & references click –> here 

2) Durability

When people hear and see Solar Roadways they think that perhaps those delicate looking glass hexagonal disks will break when driven over by massive construction and transportation vehicles… wrong! When constructing  the Solar Roadways, the same concern came to the minds of Scott and Julie, their solution
“why not make it out of the same thing that Black Boxes on airplanes are made of… [they’re virtually indestructible]”


Scott testing Solar Roadways agains accelerating tractor - Prototype 2
Scott testing Solar Roadways agains accelerating tractor – Prototype 2

3) Made From Recycled Material

When Scott & Julie began consulting a materials’ expert on the idea of making the Solar Roadways out of the same stuff Black Boxes are made of, they asked the next obvious question “Can it be made out of recyclable material?” to all of our delight he said “of course” :)

Scott and Julie stand in front of their pile of plastic & glass shreds used to construct Prototype2
Scott and Julie stand in front of their pile of plastic & glass shreds used to construct Prototype2

Trash bags, water bottles, rubber tires and other plastics can be mixed with organic materials to create the Solar Road Panels!


What better way to “kill two birds with one stone” than to give the garbage that sits in our landfills and oceans a new home inside the very panels that can power our world?

4) Snow & Ice Free

Nations that experience winter know and feel the pain of paying Billions in tax dollars to remove snowy roads every year. Studded tires, snow chains and all the heavy vehicles used for removal of snow wreck havoc on asphalt roads every year, which require repair every spring. The accidents which occur are also a detriment.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 1.49.36 AM

Snow melt

A Solar Roadway (or parking lot or driveway) changes all of that. The roads in northern climates heat themselves with their embedded heating elements (similar to the rear window of a car but more effective), eliminating ice and snow buildup and reducing: shovelling, insurance costs, expensive snow removal and harsh chemicals used to prevent ice.

5) Traction Like No Other Road

Many cringe at the idea of driving fast on wet glass, it would be slippery, right? Nope, they covered that too. Inspired by the textured roads in airport tarmacs; the 2nd phase Solar Roadway has been designed and tested (by a university civil engineering lab) to go beyond the requirements of stopping a car at 80mph on dry and wet surface.

The hexagons designed here are for highway use and can stop a car going 80-mph on a wet surface. This was tested by civil engineers and covers trucks, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
They’re pet friendly too :)
The hexagons designed here are for highway use. This was already tested by civil engineers and covers trucks, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
There is also a semi-smooth walking surface that is capable of stopping a car going 40-mph on a wet surface in the required distance


5) LEDs Are Gonna Look Super Cool

It can be like Tron - but in Real Life :D
It can be like Tron – but in Real Life :D

There is no need to expend energy lighting desolate roads when no cars are traveling, so the intelligent roadway will tell the LEDs to light up only when it senses cars on its surface – say 1/2 mile ahead and 1/4 mile behind the vehicle as it travels. This way, drivers will know an oncoming car is ahead when they see the lights on the other side of the road begin to light up ahead.

An area in England where solar road studs light up the lines on the road at night. Reducing night time accidents by 70%
An area in England where solar road studs light up the lines on the road at night. Reducing night time accidents by 70%
Scott working on the LED - Intelligent Road system for Prototype2
Scott working on the LED – Intelligent Road system for Prototype2

The LEDs will also be used to paint words right into the road, warning drivers of an animal on the road, a detour ahead, an accident, or construction work. Central control stations will be able to instantly customize the lines and words in real time, alleviating traffic congestion and making the roads more efficient as well as safer.

Prototype1 already has the basic programming to detect & send a message when an object is in your path.
Prototype1 already has the basic programming to detect & send a message when an object is in your path.


Basketball, field hockey, whatever you want
Basketball, field hockey, whatever you want


6) No More Wires In The Air

Conduits running along side the Solar Roadways will provide additional revenue for their construction and maintenance by leasing the conduit (a cable corridor) to service providers such as the telephone, cable TV, and high-speed internet industries.


Scott inside the Conduit
Scott inside the Conduit

This can drastically replace the need for telephone poles and hanging wires which can be wrecked by storms falling on homes, streets or cars and causing power outages.

no more of this!
no more of this!

7) Collects – Filters – Delegates Water

Another channel in the conduits will be used to capture rain water and melted snow, filtering it on site or sending it through an on-site treatment facility. Once treated, the clean water is then pumped through a similar system along the Solar Roadway to the desired locations such as agricultural centers and aquifers. This will greatly decrease the amount of pollution in our soil, lakes, rivers and oceans.

"We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one." ~ Jacques Cousteau
“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” ~ Jacques Cousteau

Read more