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Published: October 24th 2006
Kori puts up one of the groups provocative posters in Foundiougne's market before the traders arrive
Sunshine At Night
“Soleil Pendant La Nuit?” (Sunshine At Night?) was just one of the posters we put up around Foundiougne's market place early on Tuesday morning before the traders arrived. Tuesday is the town’s weekly market and the road outside WAAME’s Centre De Resources is always packed with people, overloaded buses and carts, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs and hungry looking horses - skin hanging off their hips like a heavy jumper off a wire coat hanger.
With only a handful of actual “products” to show people (materials have been and continue to be stuck at Dakar Airport since the 29th September), I set the group a mini-project of planning, organising and holding a public education day to raise awareness of the group itself (who have now called themselves “FES” - “Foundiougnoise de l’Energie Solaire”), of different uses of solar energy and of the products that the group are thinking about launching into the market. The strange messages on the posters were designed to turn heads and we managed to stimulate a real sense of incredulity in some people. “I don’t believe you can cook using the sun - prove it to me!”
The people came - about
Market day sees the arrival of heavily loaded buses, horses, goats, sheep . . . .
250 in total during the day - to see with their own eyes that you really can “cook without fire” (OK - cook with a fire that’s several million miles away!). We let them do most of the talking. They told us how much time, money and effort they spend looking for and collecting firewood, how the price of gas has soared and availability plummeted and how much they are spending on batteries and kerosene for lighting every month. A great piece of market research by the group and they also managed to get through the whole day without revealing their prices - other than of course - “it will save you money”.
Some other head turning posters included:
“Cuisine sans feu?” (cooking without fire?)
“Radio sans piles?” (radio with no batteries?)
“Energie gratuite?” (free energy? - we attached that one to one of Senelec’s electricity pylons!)
“Economiser plus!” (save money)
The “product launch” was supposed to be one of the final stages of the training that I’m providing here in Sénégal but, with no sign of the solar glass being released from Dakar (2 of the 3 boxes got left behind in Europe and customs refused
Sunshine In A Cupboard
Kori tests out the newly-converted solar hurricane lamp. No more kerosene, just clean solar energy, rechargeable batteries and a couple of LEDs make this idea SO attractive.
to release only part of the equipment detailed in the paperwork - still trying to get the other 2 boxes forwarded from Frankfurt Airport), the group have had to improvise.
My God, have they improvised! They’ve taken the “DIY” in “DIY Solar” to a new level and have managed to build a solar powered charger for mobile phones and convert a kerosene hurricane lamp to run on rechargeable batteries and LEDs using materials they have managed to scavenge - the socket for the phone charger is made from an old broom handle, the reflector for the lamp from an old crisp packet and some cardboard and the battery holder is built from a length of water pipe.
The group I’m training has been fantastic (if a little sleepy in the afternoons during Ramadan). They’ve been really supportive at times when I’ve felt like banging my head against a wall after frustrating conversations with some of WAAME staff. I have great confidence that these 10 enthusiastic people (Demba, Oumy, Mbene, Omar, Yakhya, Moussa, Kori, Pap, Edouard and Dou Dou) can, given the right kind of support, build a successful business in the region.
Solar can do great things
Jonas provides the music to draw in the crowds - a mix of Senegal classics and the more obscure stuff he found on my iPod ! Never thought I'd here Nelly "Hot in herre" used to promote solar cookers !
when used in the right way and when knowledge and skills are truly shared. I’ve already seen too many examples in Senegal of how NOT to do solar: Small home systems with panels installed directly under trees, systems with no instructions whatsoever and people wondering why their 220V TV isn’t working when they connect it to the 12V battery, a large school system providing backup power at 220V which was supplied with a 24V freezer with a mains plug attached and no instructions. . .
Makes me wonder how some of the organisations implementing these schemes get away with it and how much damage such systems could potentially do to the image and credibility of solar in developing countries.
I still dream of a time where enough people in developing countries have been exposed to decent solar training that, when the day comes that energy companies finally turn to the world’s sunniest and poorest areas to produce an increasing amount of the worlds energy using solar power, they will find an army of local people who can explain to them how a PV module works.
The formal training here finishes on Friday and I then have to
Hot In Therre
Some of the sceptical visitors take a peek at the solar box cooker and get to feel just how hot the inside temperate gets.
write a detailed report for WAAME - I have plenty of feedback to give. The visit to Mali to follow up the training I gave to two trainers from an NGO there (AMCFE) has been cancelled because of the lack of materials.
So I should now have time to organise a party and practice my drumming for a “grand spectacle” in town - Ousmane, my teacher, has it in his head to get me playing in public before I leave. Not sure I share his enthusiasm for that idea - if you ever hear a skilled Senegalese TamTam group you’ll understand why - amazingly complex rhythms which seem to wander off to distant corners of the country and then suddenly come back together in perfect time.
I’ve thrown together some images from the past four week’s training - enjoy.
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