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    Entries in solar lighting (5)

    Wednesday
    Jun182014

    A Village of Solar Lighting Entrepreneurs

     Proximity's d.lights, left outside to charge 

    It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about challenges facing low-income farmers in Myanmar, but the migration of landless laborers is one of the biggest problems they encounter. Landless rural inhabitants are leaving their homes at accelerating rates in search of better futures in the cities and abroad, while farmers who count on their help to harvest crops are left short-handed. Migration is also hollowing out rural communities, with the elderly and the young becoming an ever larger portion of village populations.

    Despite this migration pattern, only 5 out of 100 families have left Set Thwar village in recent years. Surrounded by the sandy expanses characteristic of the Magway Region, it’s not initially obvious why Set Thwar’s inhabitants have stayed. However, all it takes is one conversation inside a bamboo-thatched home with a group of 20 or so women, to realize that small household businesses are the reason this community has remained united. 

    Daw Than Sein, for instance, deftly spins a stone wheel while molding a delicate clay vase. Pottery and incense are the village specialties, and she churns out a variety of vases and even an owl-shaped piggy bank in a matter of minutes. It’s no wonder she’s so skilled - she’s been working with clay since she was 15. What is surprising though, is the energy she brings to her craft; at 62, she doesn’t even stop to look up while recounting her family’s history. Almost mechanically, the row of pots next to her steadily expands while one of her six granddaughters sits down next to her, inspired to coat thin wooden sticks with incense to keep her grandmother company.

    Daw Thein Sein spins her magic

    Daw Than Sein’s family first purchased one of Proximity’s solar lights to save money during the monthly religious festivals, which would otherwise cost them 1,500 kyats in candles a night to attend. Before long, another, more significant benefit from the light became apparent: Daw Than Sein’s productivity doubled once she could work into the night. She went from making 50 vases a day, to easily finishing 100.

    “We can get 8 hours of light at night from the light. Now I keep making pots till 9:30pm. I didn’t want my daughters to take the light away to the festivals when they went, so before long, we had two solar lights in the family.”

    While Daw Than Sein’s pottery income is only one part of a larger equation, she’s able to contribute an estimated $360 more a year to her family’s income thanks to the solar light. Collectively, with her two sons working as drivers, her husband tending two acres of land, and her daughter and granddaughter helping transport Daw Than Sein crafts, the family’s able to earn enough to make an uncertain future in a distant city unappealing.

    Stories like Daw Than Sein’s abound in Set Thwar, where 100 families own nearly 150 solar lights. Thanks to the increased productivity of household businesses, few in Set Thwar see a reason to leave their homes. Their stories are a remarkable testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of Myanmar’s rural population, where a simple, well-designed product purchased on credit has the capacity to double revenues from businesses that have been passed down for generations. Daw Than Sain is optimistic about the future, and we thank her for showing us just how much difference a couple extra hours of light can make.

     

     

     

     

    Friday
    Jan112013

    By the light of my solar powered lantern

    Last night we visited some of our solar lantern customers in the Delta village of Maw Aing, near Pyaypon. We found them using their lights for a number of activities:

    U Ohn Shwe uses his S250 to check on his incubated duck eggs in the evening.

    12 year old, Lei Yi, studies with her S1 light everyday before dinner. She wants to be a teacher.

    This family light their dinner table with an S250 lantern.

    Daw Yi Yi Win prepares dinner for her family by the light of her S1.

    At around 8.30pm, Daw Thet Swe finally has some time to herself to finish her sewing project.

    Thursday
    Jul122012

    Three reasons we love solar lighting

    Our d.light solar lights have been in villages in the Ayeyarwady Delta for nearly two months now and we've been been getting some really interesting feedback from users. Here are three of of our favourite stories:

    The mid-wife

    Imagine giving birth to your first child in pitch darkness, or just by the light of a candle flickering in and out in the breeze. Thankfully, for expectant mothers in Shwebo Su village this will no longer be their reality because there's a new light in town. Midwife and nurse, Daw Tin Tin Mya, purchased an S250 in early June, and has since successfully delivered three babies by the light of it. She has also been able to visit sick patients at night much easier recently and they are comforted by the strong light she brings with her.

    The future doctor

    Lei Lei Su is a 12 year old student with big dreams. This little girl from Mi Chaung Aing village wants to be a doctor, but before getting her S10 solar light this was just a pipe dream. Coming home from school she would help her mother with chores and farm work and come nightfall she would try to study by candle light, only to be aggravated by mosquito bites and strong winds that would blow out the light. Now, with the S10 she can work inside the mosquito net without risk of fire, and no matter what the weather is doing, the light won't go out.

    The survivor

    Daw Aye Aye Myint's 12-year-old son is one lucky boy. Every night he works until dark fall in his family’s betel fields. Before, he used to walk back in the darkness, blind to the dangers that surround his feet. Since purchasing the S1 solar lantern he has been using that to light his way home and it's helped him out in more ways than expected. One time, when walking home from the fields, the lantern's beam illuminated the body of a very rare, very poisonous snake on the path in front of the boy. Just in time, he leapt back out of the way before the snake could lunge at him. Terrified he ran home the other way, sure to hold the lantern out at full power ahead of him.

    Thursday
    May102012

    PYAPON: Ind.structable d.light

    We took some of our new solar lights down to Pyapon in the Ayerwaddy Delta to throw out of coconut trees, submerge in water buckets and run over with a motorbike. We did this to prove how tough they are. And because it was fun.

    Here's the video of our little experiment, complete with genuine reactions of villagers seeing these lights for the first time.

    Friday
    May042012

    PYAPON: Let There Be d.light

     

    Look at an aerial photo of Southeast Asia at night and you won’t see much of Myanmar. Lights are centered in only the major cities and it is estimated that 95% of the rural population live completely off the grid. This means that when the sun sets, sometimes as early as 5.30pm, roughly 29 million people, mostly in rural areas, are plummeted in to darkness, forced to rely on candlelight for activities like schoolwork, sewing, cooking, and sorting produce for sale at the market.

    Candles cost money. And money is something rural families don’t have a lot of. Fortunately though, Myanmar has sunshine in spades. And sunshine is free.

    A few weeks ago Proximity received our first shipment of solar lighting from Hong Kong based company d.light.  Affordable, durable, and practically indestructible*, they will provide a brighter, safer alternative to candlelight for a one-time investment and within just 6 months they could pay for themselves with the savings made on candlewax. But they aren’t just money saving; bright solar lighting extends the workday, creating more time for money making. d.light customers worldwide have reported monthly income increases of up to 50%. Sales started in 82 villages and the response so far has been super positive.

    The images above show our first sales demonstration, and the first two customers proudly showing off their new lights.

    *Next week we'll share our video that shows just how indestructable they are!