Stela’s family are relying on open flames for light

20-year-old Stela Manuel uses straw fire  as a source of light at night.

“Using straw fire is dangerous and it is something no one should ever get used to. My hands get burnt every single day.”

Stela Manuel lives with her 1-year-old daughter and husband in a rural village in central Malawi. As the sun sets in the village, it gets dark. The lack of electricity forces families like Stela’s to turn to other sources of light, such as candles, kerosene, or muyatso – burning straw. Stela and her husband, who are farmers, rarely find money to buy candles and muyatso is what they commonly use.

On some evenings, the family can use the torch on Stela’s husband’s phone, but it’s not reliable, as he has to walk long distances to charge it every two days.

Using muyatsu is common in the village. The use of open flames for lighting, such as candles, or straw – causes countless accidents across sub-Saharan Africa, and Stela has also heard of people having accidents.

“I was born into it and sadly, I have to continue using it. I have burnt a few things while using it including a beautiful new skirt which I had kept for a special occasion,” says Stela.

The darkness people are trying to escape is trapping families across the country in poverty. Without light, working, socialising, or studying – becomes nearly impossible.

“I do not wish for my daughter to have my experience using straw fire at night. I want my daughter to be able to study at night and do well at school and get us out of this poverty in future. I dropped out of school because I used to fail my exams and this demotivated me. I believe I failed partly because there was no light to enable me study at night. I don’t want the same to happen to my daughter,” explains Stela.

“An affordable source of light will change and save so many lives in this village,” says Stela.

We are currently installing solar in Stela’s village through the Light a Village programme.