Expansion of solar home systems
Many rural areas in developing countries require their inhabitants to become entrepreneurs in order to afford basic items for survival such as food, water and clothes. This in turn promotes the need for families to become more entrepreneurially minded just to survive. See figure 1 for an image of a man in Madagascar selling bundles of sticks that can be used for house repairs at a local market, courtesy of our partner in the IMPHORAA project, Nanoè.
Figure 1: Local Madagascan man selling bundles of sticks at a local market
One major factor that holds back these small businesses from growing is the lack of or inconsistent access to electricity. The fact that in their own homes artificial light isn’t readily available in rural areas means that, once the sun sets, there is no reliable way to continue work due to the darkness. Another consequence from the lack of electricity is a difficulty in preserving produce without refrigeration or at least some sort of cooling system. A study by R.K Moussa  indicates that access to lighting and electricity can boost the likelihood of families starting their own businesses by 6.5%. This is thought to be a result of these rural communities having access to longer working days thanks to the lights, which allows home stalls to be viable and even gives more time to produce other products that can be manufactured. Moussa et al  also states that if the infrastructure of roads is available then access to lighting gives way to roadside stalls which can be very lucrative for rural communities. These income streams can provide valuable alternatives to jobs that offer salaries (which can be limited and rare in developing countries) and can therefore offer a large degree of freedom and independence for these families.
The IMPHORAA project aims to support these activities through a lateral electrification model that allows the implementation of photovoltaic panels at homes and at points of interest for rural communities like near a school or at a road where the stalls are kept. These panels are maintained by the community itself and offer ample off-grid electricity. Another benefit from the IMPHORAA project is the inclusion of water pumps, which could allow for further entrepreneurship and opportunities. This can also ease the burden of household chores which also frees up more time for business and work opportunities for these families, not to mention the task of fetching water, which many families still have to journey for every day.
This project is supported by Innovate UKs Energy Catalyst Programme (funding by the Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office through their Transforming Energy Access Programme) and UK aid and was awarded as a “subsidy” under the UK International Obligations for Subsidy Control and delivered under Grant 90935 from Innovate UK