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Published on January 13th, 2014 | by Derek Markham

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An Affordable Solar Lantern, Made in Africa

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Solar lanterns are an excellent small-scale use of renewable energy, whether for camping, for an emergency preparedness kit, or just as a low-carbon source of light at home. But for most of us, with easy access to the grid and cheap batteries in every store, they’re just a neat accessory.

However, in many parts of the world, such as rural eastern Africa, they can be a life-changing item, because only a small percentage of the population has access to electricity, and are therefore dependent on kerosene lanterns for light, which are not only inefficient, but are also unhealthy and polluting to use (and require the purchase of fuel, which can be expensive). Having an affordable solar lantern can make a big difference in the quality of life there, by providing a clean light source for working or studying after dark.

Solar lanterns aren’t new, but this version, from Masa Energy, a start up from Uganda, East Africa, is entirely different in one regard, as it’s the first solar lantern to be made in Africa, not built elsewhere and shipped there.

Masa Energy’s portable solar lantern is designed to be affordable for the people that would most benefit from it, and at the cost of $12, will pay for itself after just 60 days (when compared to using a kerosene lantern at the price of about $.20 per day).

“We have created a solar lantern that is much, much brighter than a kerosene lamp.

It charges under sunlight, stores the energy in its rechargeable batteries and uses an energy efficient LED bulb. The batteries can last over 2 years.

Battery life is 12 hours when fully charged; this ensures that even if the user misses a day of charging, a rainy day for example, there will still be enough energy for them to use (the average user needs light for 4 hours).”

The first models of the Masa Energy solar lantern are being built by hand, using homemade tools, but that method isn’t feasible for building enough of the lanterns to make a big difference, so the company has turned to crowdfunding to help them raise the money to buy plastic molding machinery and to rent space to use as a factory.

If you can get behind this African-made solar lantern initiative from Simon Lule and Masa Energy, please consider backing their Indiegogo project so they can scale up the production of a device that can literally change lives.



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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!



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