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Guest blog: solar as a symbol of peace

You may remember Joseph from a previous blog on solar lights and reconciliation. He is using the solar light as a symbol of hope. In his country Kenya, where 70% of its population rely on wood, kerosene or home made charcoal for light, a solar lamp can be the catalyst for a peaceful, brighter and more prosperous future.

People like Joseph have played a huge part in helping us sell over 1.5 million lights. From our supporters in Europe and the US telling friends about our work, to our customers in Africa telling their neighbours about solar lights; everyone has a part to play in the solar revolution. Joseph, thank you for playing yours.

 


 

Hello again. I’m Joseph Karanja and I have some news from Baringo, a semi-arid and somewhat mountainous county in Kenya. Baringo is synonymous with cattle rustling. Over the years thousands of people have been killed through raids and thousands of animals have been stolen too. Suspicion and hatred runs deep and the social fabric has been destroyed. The economy is in dire straits and many children past the normal school-going age have yet to attend school. Those who are registered at school hardly ever do their homework due to the lack of light. Wanton destruction of trees for lighting purposes is rampant. Kerosene is a luxury in Baringo.

Uasin Gishu County is close to Baringo. Their relative proximity enabled the two counties to make peace after the infamous post-election violence of 2008. I was brought up in Eldoret (Uasin Gishu County Headquarters) and have been bringing other well-wishers to Baringo in a bid to popularise solar lights from SunnyMoney/SolarAid. The response has been overwhelming. The idea is to introduce the solar light peace-building model that has been successful in Eldoret and was talked about in my previous blog. A Committee has been set up and numerous bonding sessions have taken place.

In January 2015 I accompanied ten people from three warring communities in Baringo to a neutral venue in Makueni County for 5 days. Africa Sand Dam Foundation and the UK based Excellent Development made it financially possible. Both organisations are helping to construct sand dams in Baringo to bring water closer to the communities. The discussions gave an opportunity for these former protagonists to experience the joy of working together.

Joseph Kwopin from Nginyan, Baringo County, is a respected Pokot Elder. Together with other community leaders from Tugen and Njemps, he is now building bridges between their communities. Encouraged by reconciliation that was experienced in Eldoret, the Baringo Committee has adopted the solar lantern as the symbol of peace and development. During a three day visit in the last week of March, I demonstrated how a SunKing Mobile solar lantern operates. Mr Kwopin is now the proud owner of one. Now there is no need for him to walk 6 km each way to charge his mobile phone and his children are now able to do their homework in the evenings.

Community leaders from Pokot, Tugen and Njemps involved in peace talks

The Njemps community is now encouraging their members to start saving in a bid to buy the lanterns, specifically those from SunnyMoney/SolarAid as they are good quality products and Lighting Africa approved. The community, the majority of whom were displaced by other communities, currently depend mainly on kerosene and firewood for lighting.

It is my hope that just like in Eldoret, the communities of Baringo will chart their own path, lit by unity of purpose for the sake of future generations. I have no doubt that the solar light will remind them of this promise. Let us all support these communities that have been marginalised for so many years.

The future is bright for Baringo.There is growing political will from the county Government. The Committee has given itself till the end of April 2015 to come up with ways of ensuring that communities are able to get portable solar lights at affordable prices. What a joy it is to see the excitement among the children who are joining school and doing their homework at night using solar lights from SunnyMoney/SolarAid.

Please do all you can to help these communities access solar lights.

Joseph Karanja.