Letting in the light

Tanzania

If you ever journey to the remote Tanzanian district of Manyoni you will see hundreds of Fireflies.

Families use Fireflies to read by, to work with and to light their way home after dark. Who knew?

Firefly is a solar-powered kit. It contains a small solar panel, five lamps, and a rechargeable battery pack.

Households are saving together to buy the Firefly packs. It is made possible by small community self-help groups, promoted by Tearfund.

The packs may not generate enough electricity to power a family home in cloudy Preston. However, for the hundreds of families in Manyoni, the Firefly is a life-saver – sometimes literally.

Mama Sam – watch your step.
Mama Sam was stepping out of the house on a dark night. On her path was a venomous snake. 

It’s a growing problem in the region. Thanks to climate change, animals’ natural habitats are shrinking. People and snakes are more and more likely to encounter one another these days. Stories of fatal snake bites are quite common in this area. 

‘Now, I can start as early as 4am so that by 6am, breakfast is ready for all my customers.’

Paulina, villager

‘I was going to step on it and it would probably have bitten me,’ remembers Mama Sam. ‘Thankfully I now have a solar light outside our door. I screamed and my husband came and killed it.’

It’s not just snakes either: Amos Ebuz, the village chairman, says that solar lamps outside have reduced attacks from other wild animals. People would be attacked at night when they stepped out to use the latrines.

Maria – solar powered dynamo
Maria sits under the tree next to her kiosk on a hot Saturday afternoon. Her shop is now truly open all hours (almost). 

Night draws in relatively early in Makutopora and when it’s dark, it’s really dark. In the past, Maria had no alternative but to close her shop. 

Laurent, her husband, explains how their shop now opens before dawn and closes after 10 pm – all thanks to their solar light. ‘This has doubled our income from the shop,’ he boasts excitedly.

Laurent operates a motorbike taxi for a living. Now though, he takes care of business at the shop first, from 5.30am until his wife sees the kids off to school – then his taxiing begins.

Janet, no longer behind on her orders

Meanwhile their daughter Janet can finally keep all her customers happy. She’s the only tailor in the village with a sewing machine, and at certain times of the year, demand for new clothes outstripped her ability to meet client deadlines. Customers got angry as special occasions loomed closer and their clothes were not ready.

Now she’s got a solar-powered light and can make five sets of clothing every day. You need good light to sew and now she has it whenever she needs it.

Paulina – non-stop chapati people
They say the early bird catches the worm. And if you want to offer the people of Makutopora their breakfast, you need to be up bright and early. 

Paulina missed most of the business from early risers, hungry for their chapatis and mandazis (a kind of African doughnut) due to the lack of light. 
‘Now, I can start as early as 4am so that by 6am, breakfast is ready for all my clients,’ she says. 

Her productivity has shot up too. ‘I now make 150 chapatis per day and over 65 mandazis, up from 60 and 25 before I got solar,’ she excitedly explains. 

Her eldest daughter, meanwhile, has just completed her exams. She performed much better because she had access to reading light. 

Now she’s making more money than ever and she’s got her eyes on some larger solar panels. Her wish list is long: she wants to power a TV and a fridge (ice cold Cokes would do a roaring trade in sweltering Makutopora). Finally, she says she wants to generate enough power to light up the whole street. With a little extra solar power, the sky’s the limit.


PLEASE PRAY

Take a moment to thank God for the small, simple things that can make a big difference in people's lives. For the simple pieces of technology like the Firefly. And for the simple savings scheme that lifts men and women out of poverty in the poorest communities. Pray that many more will be lifted out of poverty and debt with the simplest of things.

Ben Cohen
Ben is Web Editor for Tearfund. This can sometimes feel a bit like being ‘senior hairstylist for…