Charlie, a student from Northwestern University, recently concluded his internship with FSD Jinja-Uganda. At the start of his internship, Charlie opted to work with one of our partner organization called Access to Solar Technologies (AST). The reason he chose Access to Solar was that he wanted to experience firsthand how business and sales work in developing countries. Access to Solar is a social business enterprise that has both of these elements: it works to enable communities’ access affordable, reliable, renewable technologies and to conserve their surroundings through environmental awareness and promotions. It mainly focuses on communities that are totally off the hydro-power grid.
During Charlie’s community needs assessment activity, he observed the community’s most pressing challenge regarding solar adoption was the high cost of solar products for low income consumers. Charlie assessed all AST existing client beneficiaries and its potential clients, including local community schools. Most student households that Charlie visited during his assessment demonstrated the desire to have light for their children to study. They mentioned that having solar powered light would work as an advantage of improving their children’s ability to study at home thus improving their academic excellence.
Charlie’s goal for his project was to provide solar lamps to students at an off-grid school to help ensure they have a similar chance of educational attainment as those who have access to power. He also wanted to implement a school-based credit recovery project for the solar lamps to ensure high credit recovery. In order to achieve this, Charlie and AST team worked out a way of reducing the cost of the solar lamps and offering them on credit to the students. This drastically increases the ability of the students to buy the lamps thus enabling them have more study time in the night.
The idea was introduced to one of AST partner schools: St Stephen Secondary School. Charlie and AST team selected a school Project Coordinator whose main responsibility was to help sell the lamps to the students, record sales, follow up on student’s credit recovery payments and to ensure money is properly collected and recycled into another class. Other project activities included implementing a repayment tracking system and educating the students on the benefits of solar.
During the implementation of the project, more than 60 students purchased lamps for themselves. As the project continues to grow, the AST team and Project Coordinator will be evaluating the students’ performances after receiving the lamps to assess the impact at the end of the school term. Additionally, some teachers and parents of the students have purchased these lamps on credit to use them for other personal entrepreneur businesses like poultry keeping.
Access to Solar continues to work in schools selling their solar products. The income generated from the project will be reinvested into another school project. The localized approach of selecting and using local project coordinators and village solar teams (VSTs) to monitor sales and credit repayments for solar products backs up the success of AST initiatives that have been working towards achieving community driven development.