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The First Day of Summer & Transforming Communities through Solar Power

By Opportunity International

Today is the first day of summer, the summer solstice, here in the U.S. and our longest day of the year. Hopefully, you’re celebrating tonight with a picnic dinner, a barbeque, maybe an evening run or a walk to take full advantage of the extra minutes of daylight. But today also reminds us of the awesome potential power of the sun that can be harnessed by the people who need it most.

Imagine your day ending when the sun goes down, whether that’s mid-afternoon in winter or late evening in summer. You couldn’t do the things you love to do or need to accomplish because there’s no light to see. For many Ugandan families, that is the daily reality. When the sun goes down, most of their productive activities must come to an end—especially for the families, schools and businesses that don’t have reliable access to electricity. When the day ends, so does the opportunity to study, to read, to sell merchandise in the market, or to see across even a small room. Without light to fight the shadows, crime can run rampant, students must put down their books, families are disconnected, and businesses must close.

When light breaks the darkness, opportunities abound for people to pursue their dreams, make their homes and schools safer, and make their businesses more productive.

Lady Agnes School of Iganga, Uganda.Solar power has the potential to transform the lives of countless people who currently don’t have access to electricity, so Opportunity Uganda is piloting a solar power loan product that will provide access to light that is powered by the sun, an abundant resource in the sub-Saharan country of Uganda. With the successful completion of this pilot project, Opportunity Uganda is positioned to deliver solar power loans to businesses, families and schools, such as the Lady Agnes School in Iganga.

Solar-powered light means…

  • Security. For businesses, light can be a theft deterrent, providing security to both the business owners and their customers. Light outside of homes increases security by deterring burglaries and providing a means to monitor activity around the home’s perimeter, creating a sense of comfort and safety for the family.
  • Family stability. Light brings people together. Often, even for households with electricity, when the power goes out some men will not return home at night. Family members are more likely to come home each day when activities in the home can still be accomplished and family members can interact.
  • Increased income and access. With access to light through the dark hours, businesses can stay open longer, providing more income for the owners and additional work hours for employees, thus adding value to the local economy. Having evening business hours also allows access to families that need to purchase medication or food.
  • Improved care for AIDS orphans and boarding students. Many small private schools in Uganda take on local AIDS orphans, and other students, who must live in dormitories in order to attend school. Light at school means adults can better care for children, and nurture them with activities like evening story time.
  • Economic development. As people take advantage of the increased availability of goods and services provided by businesses that can operate past sundown, it will fuel the local economy. Increased business profits translate to increased income and job creation in that community.

In February 2012, Opportunity Uganda signed an agreement with a supplier of solar energy products called Solar Aid. Retail prices vary from $14 for a single light that is equivalent to several kerosene lanterns, up to $317 for a multiple unit capable of lighting a business. As of February, there were four participants in the pilot including one school.

Today, enjoy the power of sun and the longest day of the year.

Do you have a comment or question about the potential of solar power loans? Share it below.

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