“It was like magic”

Kennedy switches on a solar light in his home

“We won’t be using straw fire anymore. Now that we have light in our home, and even a bulb outside, we won’t need to use dangerous sources of light like straw fire. It’s also better for the environment to use solar power instead of burning things like straw, we used to do that because we did not have a choice”

When day breaks in Tambalasajiwa Village in rural Malawi, 35-year old Kenedy Buleya’s children start sweeping and cleaning the house while Kenedy and his wife Hilida go to the fields to farm their maize and peanuts.

Taking advantage of the daybreak has always been important in Kenedy’s village. Due to the lack of electricity, the nights were long and dark. But recently, this has all changed. As part of SolarAid’s programme Light a Village, Solar Home Systems (SHS) have been installed in all the houses in the area creating a tapestry of light across the previously dark village.

Kenedy recalls the first night he flicked the switch and filled his home with light, “It was like magic. We were all so happy and excited to finally have light in our home. It was a beautiful moment for all of us. I felt so happy and proud to have this opportunity at last.”

Previously, the Buleya household used lighting sources such as straw fire or paraffin, but paraffin became scarce and straw fire was impossible to use during the rainy season. When he could afford it, he would drop off his mobile phone at the charging station, but it was expensive and his phone battery only lasted so long with the torch on. 

Kennedy starting some fire to light up and illuminate in his house using thatch from his house. Chris Gagnon/SolarAid.

From safety to education and the wellbeing of his family, there were many struggles in the Buleya household in the past such as having to borrow a kerosene lamp for his wife just to give birth with more light than just straw fire. Kenedy told us, “When it is dark here, I am in big danger because at night there are a lot of things moving around. We fear because it is dark. Maybe we may meet fierce animals such as snakes and hyenas too. We feel terrified.”  

Alongside the safety of his family, Kenedy also worried about his children’s education. When he was a child he had to drop out of school, and seeing his children facing the same destiny pained him, “Inside my heart I feel so disappointed, because a child needs to study. However, because of poverty, that is why the children struggle in their heart, even myself I struggle inside, to say that how can I find light so that the children can perform well in school?” he asked us.

Kenedy’s daughter doing chores by the light of grass fire. Chris Gagnon/SolarAid.

Today, he worries less, “I think it will still be a worry, but not as much as before. With light in our home, we will be able to see what’s going on outside and around us. This will help us be more aware of any potential dangers, like wild cats or hyenas.”

Kenedy also found himself immediately getting to work the first night with light, something that was impossible before, “I’ll be able to work on my farming projects even after the sun goes down. This is really going to make a big difference in our lives. I have to shell groundnuts and soya grading now. I can do that at night after being in the field all day.” 

Kenedy with his newly installed solar light. Kondwani Jere/SolarAid.

Being able to work longer hours helps, but his own harvests are not as good as they used to be. “The climate is changing because of environmental degradation such as forests, because trees breathe, they also bring rainfall. Therefore, the scarcity of trees is causing climate change.” It’s a vicious circle as the people in the villages cut down trees for cooking and lighting when there is a lack of electricity – something that will hopefully happen less now that the village is powered by solar. “When you cut trees, the population of trees declines. So for those trees to regenerate and bring good rains it is difficult. That is why climate is changing.”

“I think solar power is really good for the environment. It doesn’t produce any harmful emissions, and it doesn’t contribute to climate change like other sources of energy do. I think if more people start using solar power, it could really help to reduce our impact on the environment (…) I think it’s a really great technology, and I’m happy that it’s being brought to our village.”

My hope is that this will help to bring more development to our village. With light in our homes, we will be able to do more things at night and be more productive. This will help us to improve our lives and our community as a whole.”


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Light a Village was funded by a combination of donations from ten generous donors matched by the Turner Kirk Trust.


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