“Light in rural areas is a luxury”

By 2012, 100 percent of all Health Centres, 100 percent administrative offices and 50 percent of all schools in Rwanda will be electrified through solar energy. The Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) is among many partners working hard to electrify all the 400 Health Centers in Rwanda by this time.  

By 2012, 100 percent of all Health Centres, 100 percent administrative offices and 50 percent of all schools in Rwanda will be electrified through solar energy.

The Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) is among many partners working hard to electrify all the 400 Health Centers in Rwanda by this time.

Erik Van Malderen, the Co Manager of Rural Energy says that lighting is an important part of integrated development but it is not the first energy need in rural Rwanda.

“I think that light is important, but it’s not a priority. In Rwanda the first thing that is important is clean water,” Malderen said.

After several studies were conducted that focused on the five most important demands of districts, clean water was the most urgent need and not lighting. Instead lighting was in third position among the energy needs in rural Rwanda.
“If schools, health centers and administrative offices have lights, a service is already being done.

These are places that need light, but in rural homes, the first need is clean water,” Malderen said.

He said people always consider the affordability, and willingness to pay for other services. Preferably to charge their phones, and maybe not light.

Charles Pepinster another energy expert at BTC said that, “light in rural areas is a luxury.”

“At first we thought that the first energy use in rural areas was lighting but our experience shows that people care first about charging their phones and listening to the radio before they think of light,” Pepinster said.

According to Pepinster, in first place is charging phones. “People walk for long distances and pay high prices to charge their phones.

The second energy need is listening to radios; they use many low quality batteries that are changed regularly and have become an environmental problem.”

“The service you propose has to always be cheaper than the existing solution. Even if you are providing cheap, quality products, it takes time to convince people, and until you do, they will stay with the former solution and this is expensive,” Charles said.

Speaking about Nuru Lights Malderen highlighted the need to have lighting projects but he argues that in rural areas people cannot afford it.

“There must be some kind of substitute,” Malderen said.
On the other hand, Malderen acknowledged that lighting is important in households if people want to remain healthy.

This is through avoiding fumes from kerosene, for students to read their books, for security when it’s dark and to avoid accidents that come with using kerosene and firewood.

According to Nuru Lights, more than nine out of ten Rwandans use kerosene and nearly two out of three buy a new lighting system every year, replacing the older ones. 
Also, 73 percent of light use in rural Rwanda is task related and used for cooking, studying, walking in the dark among others.

Research finding show the effects of night-light on healthy reproduction in women. John Rock (the Ob/Gyn whose experiments with giving infertile women synthesized progesterone led to the creation of the Pill) and physicist E.M. Dewan found that women’s fertility depended on the on whether they were sleeping in complete darkness or under light.

According to research findings by Weston A. Price Foundation, in 1971 some women were thrilled by the possibility of returning to healthy cycles and tried variations on the above experiment.

The technique was called Lunaception, and they found that it could be used to direct fertility in women; hence, the more the light, the less the reproductive rates.

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