This project involves a simple solar photovoltaic (PV) assembling project in Kibera Slum, one of the largest slums in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is an initiative of Kibera Community Youth Programme (KCYP), which provides young people from the informal settlement with employment opportunities. Youth assemble small and affordable solar panels, which are then used by the inhabitants of the slum as tools for tapping clean energy to power radios and to charge mobile phones.This project enables consumers to utilize renewable energy instead of batteries that are harmful to the environment once they are disposed of. It offers great potential for enabling communities to maintain a sustainable environment through clean energy.The affordability of the solar PV panels, which are assembled locally, makes them accessible to low-income earners who most access news through radios in the rural areas of the country. So, even though the project has been undertaken in the Kibera Slum, use of the solar panels made there has spread to all parts of Kenya, and even to neighbouring countries where groups have requested trainings to undertake similar projects in their own localities.The project was initiated through the help of Fredrick Ouko, who facilitated the beginning of a technological transfer training through a linkage to a volunteer from the United Kingdom.
This project is innovative in respect to its approach to solving energy problems facing poor communities in Kenya. Traditionally, many communities from low income areas have had to contend with the high cost of using batteries to power their radios while in the end, polluting the environment when they dispose of the used batteries. The small, simple solar PV panels are affordable for low-income earners. They can save their resources by purchasing solar panels that last for years and that use direct sun with no harm to the environment. This in turn promotes environmental sustainability while creating youth employment in the informal settlement.
The project enables those involved to meet their daily basic needs, while the organization under which it is implemented gets resources to run community projects that benefit many young people within the slum, improving the economic status of young people while preventing environmental pollution through the use of renewable energy.
The project has attracted interest of a local university, that would like to continue to research ways of improving the technology and possibilities for scaling up the project. Given the low cost of the panels made, this has drawn a lot of interest to the use of clean energy.This project demonstrates the need for governments and companies to switch to renewable sources of energy, given their reliability and affordability, and the fact that they contribute to a healthier environment. Making solar panels affordable for communities is already promoting greater usage of cleaner energy, promoted at the grassroots level.
By assembling small, affordable solar PV panels, the project makes it possible for low-income groups (including the majority of prospective users) to use renewable energy, thus conserving the environment and avoiding health problems associated with the use of conventional energy and batteries. The solar panels can be used in place of batteries altogether, or to charge rechargeable batteries that are available for longer usage. They have the capacity to run radios of up to 12 voltage and to charge mobile phone batteries. The program provides employment and training experience to several youth who might not otherwise have such opportunities, and provides energy services to people in the local community, improving their quality of life.
By using a renewable source of energy and spreading it further to the communities, the project contributes to efforts that promote environmental sustainability, as the sun cannot be depleted. Due to the durability of the solar panels, people using them do not have to continually purchase batteries or fuels, enabling them to reduce expenditures on energy services (or to afford them at all).
To date, about 20 youth in the Kibera Slum, and numerous people around Kenya and surrounding countries, have benefited directly from this program for manufacturing small-scale solar PV panels. The youth have gained employment and experiences that will enrich their lives, while others in the urban slum and beyond have gained access to clean energy that has improved their quality of life (and perhaps provided employment opportunities as well). The small solar panels that the Kibera youth produce are affordable for many people who cannot otherwise afford energy services, and they provide clean energy in place of disposable batteries (that have damaging environmental impacts when disposed of) or batteries charged with grid power - thereby displacing some fossil fuel use. Groups in neighboring countries have already requested training programs so that they can undertake similar projects. This model of economic opportunity (employment and training of youth) and access to clean energy can be replicated elsewhere in Africa and in other countries that have access to good solar resources.