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Before we flip the switch: Mandevu prepares to receive access to solar lights


Project Switch was born out of frustration. While our successful social enterprise, SunnyMoney, makes solar lights accessible to disadvantaged communities across Africa, this alone is not enough to ensure the poorest communities are not left behind.

You helped us meet our target last year to raise £50,000 to bring Project Switch to one such community in Malawi called Mandevu. Located in Malawi’s Kasungu District, Mandevu has a population of 3,000 people living across 16 small villages. Because candles are dangerous, many families save up to occasionally buy batteries for homemade torches. Others simply burn clumps of grass to light their homes briefly as they prepare to sleep.

Safe, affordable light is vital here. Mandevu’s Senior Group Village Headman stressed this saying,

“This is a problem for my community. There are dangerous snakes people cannot see without lights. There is less security for people and candles brings accidents.”

Homemade torch. These are expensive, provide dim light, only last a few days and harm the environment because batteries cannot be properly disposed.

Since then, we have been speaking with households in Mandevu to collect feedback about the original proposal and searching for a partner to develop an effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework.

Brave, SunnyMoney Malawi Country Director, speaking with the Senior Group Village Headman and members of Mandevu’s Project Switch Committee

After many discussions with people living in Mandevu, we realised in order to make Project Switch sustainable we needed to include an option to rent a smaller, less expensive solar light for the most disadvantaged households in the community. Not all income levels were the same. If we only offered one product to everyone some would not be able to commit to fixed payments for long and fall back off the energy ladder. Also, some of the more rudimentary households were not well suited to have wires installed.

We chose Imani Development as our M&E partner. They began their baseline survey with the 200 households selected for the first phase of the pilot this month.  These households were selected by the Headman and will have two options to choose from- both of which can be paid for in daily or monthly payments:

  1. Install a lightbulb connected to a rechargeable battery operated LED light in their house.
  2. Use a rechargeable 100 lumen solar light that can be hung in households to light up a small room, or used in torch mode.

We are excited to announce Project Switch will launch the first phase this year on 01 April. In September, we will follow up with another M&E study to measure impact. We will then adjust our strategy, based on these results and our learning, to scale up the project to the rest of Mandevu.