Solar Lighting Project

Our aim:  In January 2015, two Trustees of Uganda Concern UK and four members of staff from UWCM had the opportunity to visit two communities in the Iganga area of Uganda who have had solar lighting installed since 2012.  As a result of that visit, and in consultation with Solar-Links, we are hoping to raise funds to install purpose made, plug-and-play solar lighting equipment in 200 households in the Manafwa and Bulambuli Districts, Mbale using the Solar Links’ model which is a self-sustaining, community strengthening model which has been successfully pioneered in 15 villages in the North , East and Central regions of Uganda. 


Background:  Problems of kerosene

Energy poverty is a major obstacle to development and accelerates marginalization – those with reliable lighting are increasingly separated from those who lack it.

In Uganda, 96% of rural households lack access to electricity.  Without electricity, families have no clean source of light, forcing them to rely on expensive and dangerous alternatives.  Many use homemade kerosene lamps which are a poor source of light and emit toxic black carbon. Emerging evidence has linked kerosene use with a number of respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis.  Children are unable to study at night without increasing household costs and damaging their health, the working day ends prematurely and indoor air pollution presents a serious health hazard. Kerosene lamps are also a serious fire hazard, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people each year.   Research taken from Solar-Links and Good Energy.

Overview of the Solar-Links Model: 

Projects are undertaken on a community-wide basis in remote villages which cannot access on-grid electricity. Implementation is always led by an existing Community Based Organisation (CBO)  - in our case this would be UWCM -  with a track record in community development. Community mapping is undertaken at the outset and impact measured on conclusion, after several months’ use of the equipment. A Solar Lighting Village Savings Scheme is established, or expanded, by the CBO, into which households save affordable amounts, which would otherwise be used for the purchase of kerosene for lighting.

lady technician

Depending on these amounts, a home solar lighting system (usually for two or for four lights) is chosen by households, according to their capacity to save, and purchased from Barefoot Power , a social impact business based in Kampala, with funds raised by Uganda Concern UK.

Two selected representatives, usually women, per hundred and fifty households, receive training in the systems as Lighting Champions – to oversee proper care and effective use and they themselves carry out, or otherwise organise with the local distributor of Barefoot Power products, the maintenance and replacement of parts as they wear out (lights and batteries after about three years and panels after about twenty years).  Replacement is paid for through the Solar Lighting Village Savings Scheme, which also allows for remuneration of the representatives for their roles.

battery and charger

A home solar lighting system also includes a mobile phone charger. This makes possible regular phone use and access to information and to banking services and increases economic opportunities, as well as cutting out the time and costs currently expended on travel to the nearest towns and phone charging there.


Wall mounted battery showing cable for charging phones.

Solar Links is different from other solar programmes both in its model of sustainability, at the heart of which are local, affordable savings schemes, and in the way that it involves and empowers the community.  Most other programmes, using the latest beneficiary-targeted technology, simply distribute lights, deal only with portable lamps, are loan finance schemes, or target individuals rather than communities. Few are operating in Uganda.

inside first house


We were taken to see homes with a 2 light and 4 light system installed

exterior light


Those with 4 lights often chose to have one mounted on the outside wall which gave the added benefit of lighting the outside latrine!

outside poor house

"Life has changed – smoke from candles and kerosene caused me and my children to cough – we are now healthy.  My children are doing well at school as they can revise at night.  The money I have saved from no longer buying kerosene I have used to buy books for my children."

lady standing


"I am no longer frightened to leave the children in the house – now nothing can catch fire." 

man standing


"It has taken away the shame from my family – we used to be called poor but this has raised our status.  There is no longer any shame because we now have light and other people ask us how they can get solar installed."

man - taxi


"Now that I have solar I can charge my phone and the battery is stable so that people can contact me 24 hours a day to book a ‘boda’ taxi.  Business is good."

Tunyi Women's Group

Between May and August 2016, as a result of specific fundraising projects, we were able to fund the installation of 30 solar lighting units into homes in the Bulambuli District of Uganda.  This project was co-ordinated by the Bulambuli Initiative for Rural Development (BIRD) in conjunction with UWCM and 10 panels were given to members of Tunyi Women’s Group.

old lady

Each system consists of a 6 watt photovoltaic solar panel which is roof-mounted, two LED lights, which can each light a room sufficiently to read, giving power for 6 hours a night, one 12V, 5 amp battery and 2 x USB outputs with the capability of charging mobile phones together with wiring and wall mounted switches.

family 1

This woman reveals that she has been beaten several times by her husband for asking for money to by paraffin. She said, “Sometimes my husband stays at the social centre till late in the night only to dodge buying paraffin.  He comes home late while we have gone to sleep with children but now, because of solar lighting, he finds it easy to interact with us as we will not ask him for money.  Thanks to Uganda Concern UK for the solar lighting.”

family 2

Solar lighting helps reduce the chances of young girls getting attacked at night while going to buy paraffin. This girl reveals that on several occasions in their home, it was only until it was dark that they realised they had no paraffin. She has to walk quite a distance to the shops and often men try to take advantage of such girls.  She recalls that she has survived being raped three times. Now that they have solar, she believes the problem is partly solved.

family 4

Sadly, the mother of these children died two years ago whilst giving birth and her husband now cares for them all on his own. 

If you would like to have any further information, or would like to support this project, please contact one of the Trustees of Uganda Concern UK

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