I traveled to Kenya to visit one of the solar implementation sites, at Catharina Foundation Namanga. The latest UTD1-solar intern, Sutjianto, had just completed his work, in installing solar in two new schools (Oloolaroi and Karero), monitoring and revising the old installations at 4 other schools and improving the solar installation at the girls dormitory at Enoosampurumpurr school.

We visited Karero, where a ceremony was held to celebrate the new solar for the school, and used the opportunity to introduce small solar lamps to the community, the second product line of S3C. We had taken samples of d.light and the new dutch solar lamp WakaWaka.

The introduction to the head teacher, Peter, and by him to the assembled parents and children, was very enthusiastic. He discussed added value of the solar to them (better lights in the manyatta’s, so children can read) but also to go outside, and – very important for Maasai – you can take the lamp when walking with cattle, even for longer periods.

The affordability was also discussed with them, as it is known that these are poor people. But their poverty is relative; in cash they are poor, but in cattle they are not. So when we presented the price in kenyan Shilling (3500) they were shocked. When we translated this in Maasai currency (that is in cattle numbers) this is about the price of one goat. And that was no problem at all, because they have lots of them.

Finally an assessment was done to get some feeling of demand, and about half of the 40 parents present directly raised their hand to buy one. This really gave us the idea that the market is ready for this. We promised the community to deliver the lamps before Christmas, which we will do; we already started the procurement process.

As next step we discussed local S3C representation. One of the Namanga local electricians has been assisting the UTD interns in 2011 and 2012, by the name of Gilbert Nyoike. He is very enthusiatic and is now developing his business plan to expand his electricity shop to facilitate solar. With our Kenyan technology partner African Solar Design (ASD), who are going to do the first institutional installation assignments for S3C, we discussed the options for advanced training of Gilbert. He can join a training programme in Maasai Mara in November, giving him even more solid solar background.

With local NGO partner Catharina Foundation (CF) we discussed the roles we play from our diverse perspectives. In the Namanga division, we are going to look for additional funds for electrifying the remaining non-grid schools, and we will cooperate the same fashion as we did in Karero in community sensitization of the school communities. To give this a head start, we are going to distribute 100 solar lamps for CF, made possible by a fundraise action of CF Netherlands, giving first sales guarantees in this region (2500 euro turnover, 1250 margin).

Next to that, we are going to discuss options for expansion of our NGO-network through CF NGO partners, like Dupoto-E-Maa/Kajiado, ILIDP/Ilikerin, SEED Samburu/Maralal (and more) and with the national LEC-Kenya staff. With this network we comtemplate to prepare an application at the EU, in the announced call for the Second Energy Facility, due October 2012.

Lastly, we met with two very interesting people, the new Kajiado Central County Commissioner Arthur Osiwa, and with Boldewijn Sloet (and his sales manager Eliza) of Smart Solar.

  • Osiwa is an important contact because local development funds are going to be brought under the (47) newly created counties. The idea behind this is to use S3C generated funds (through the S3C foundation) as leverage funds to release government subsidies for school solar installations, thus expanding this market segment. Previous experiences with such leverage were very positive, as Kenyan officials recognize the cost sharing benefit of it.

  • The meeting with Smart solar was positive from two angles:

    • provision of the successful product line of Barefoot Power, amongst others their price winning Firefly;

    • the options to cooperate in the institution of S3C Kenya Ltd (already registered) as national procurement and coordinating body for all Kenyan local S3C outlets/franchises, such as in Namanga, building on the huge experience of Smart Solar since 2009.

So all in all this was a very fruitful visit, which actually launches us on the Kenyan market.

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1University of Technology Delft, and specifically the department of Photovoltaic Materials and Devices, PMD, prof Miro Zeman.

 

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