LIGHTING UP FARMERS’ HOUSES WITH SOLAR ENERGY

Profile:
Tambuzi Ltd.
Location: Nanyuki, Kenya
Product focus: Roses
Type: Hired Labour – 250 workers, over 50% women
Fairtrade certificate since: 2010
Contact: Maggie Hobbs – jointbody@tambuzi.co.ke

Challenge:

To light up their houses after dark, workers at the Tambuzi flower farm relied on paraffin (or kerosene) as the main energy source. Unfortunately, paraffin has many disadvantages: it is not very effective, can cause health issues and is difficult to transport. But the biggest issue was the rising cost of the energy source. Over the past five years, the price has increased by 9% annually. Tambuzi workers, who earn a monthly salary of 6,350 Kenyan Shilling (KS) (or 75 USD), were spending 600 KS (or 7 USD) a month just on the purchase of paraffin. To put it differently: 10% of their budget was spent on an inefficient, expensive and harmful energy source.

Solution:

The Joint Body decided to send out a questionnaire to ask the workers if they would be interested in switching energy sources. A majority agreed to invest time and money in the search for a cleaner and cheaper solution. The World Bank’s project ‘Lighting Africa’, which supports development of commercial off-grid lighting markets in Sub-Saharan Africa (www.lightingafrica.org/), helped the organisation in the right direction. Finance Director Maggie Hobbs attended a conference in Nairobi on behalf of the Tambuzi Joint Body where she learned more about the concept of solar lighting, its benefits and the products on the market.

The Tambuzi Joint Body then invited five suppliers to the farm, all recommended by Lighting Africa, to demonstrate their systems to the workers. After extensive testing at home and a democratic selection, an Australian company was appointed as the obvious winner. The micro solar lighting system which was chosen by the workers can power 1 to 4 lights, a radio and charge a mobile phone simultaneously. The kit also includes high quality cables which make it possible to light four different rooms at the same time. The battery is uploaded during the day: 8 hours of charging in the sun provides 6 hours of electricity and light during the evening and night.

Cost:

The retail price of a micro solar lighting kit is 7.800 KS (or 92 USD), but the Tambuzi Joint Body managed to lower the purchase price considerably. Because solar power is relatively new in Kenya, the supplier was willing to offer the kits at a special price. Also, the Joint Body decided to buy 225 kits at one time and was able to negotiate an extra group reduction. Lastly, a premium of 2,000 KS (or 23 USD) was given by the Waitrose Foundation. Tambuzi sold the kits to its workers for 3,000 KS (35 USD) using favourable loan terms: workers had to pay 250 KS (or 3 USD) per month per kit.

Result:

The energy switch has had a phenomenal result:

  • Workers can now spend 350 KS (or 4 USD) extra per month until their loan is paid off, then they have 600 KS (or 7 USD) extra to spend.
  • While in the past families had to share their lamp, making it difficult to use it simultaneously, children can now be doing their homework while mothers are cooking in the kitchen.
  • Extra daylight hours can be spent working as the family does not need to begin preparing for night prior to night fall.
  • The kits have become so successful that workers are buying extra kits and sending them to their family.