Posted by: seedfoundation | August 21, 2010

Solar HOPE and Tanzania

A problem exists in Tanzania, Africa.  Many Tanzanian children, especially those living in rural settings, live in dangerous environments, specifically related to their sources of energy and light.  Rural Tanzanian school children, in regions like Iringa and Tanga, use kerosene lamps and candles for lighting at night.  Typically, there are 5-10 lamps per dormitory.  Each dormitory houses somewhere between 50-100 students.  Since their homes are often many miles away, the children live at the school during the school year.  The daily use of kerosene lamps in tight quarters has been a serious hazard.  Many buildings have burned down and many school children have lost their lives from fires started by kerosene lamps.  Additionally, the lamps cause respiratory illness and health problems including, but not limited to, acute respiratory infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary [8].

Local Students Benefiting from Solar Energy

Kerosene lamps are also becoming more expensive as fossil fuels around the globe become scarcer.  Retail prices of kerosene in Tanzania increased four-fold from 1993-2003 [7]. Electricity in rural areas like Tanga and Iringa is unavailable.  Even if it was, electricity prices in Tanzania have increased 9 fold between 1990 and 2003 [7].

The First Installation in Progress

Substituting LED lamps for kerosene lamps solves these problems.  The lamps coupled with the solar panels offer rural school children cheap, efficient and safe energy for their education.  LED lamps are non-combustible, durable and affordable.

In 1998 alone, “there were 282,000 deaths from fire related burns worldwide and 96% of the fatalities were in developing countries” [6].  Fires in Tanzania caused by kerosene lamps are part of this statistic.   

On August 24, 2009 a rural school near Iringa was burned to the ground, killing 12 school girls [3].  The fire was caused be a candle.  In July of 2008 in Bukoba, Tanzania over 80 school boys narrowly escaped injury and death when a fire burned down one of the dormitories [4].  Mattresses, books and supplies were destroyed.  Again, in 2009, 15 school children were killed when a kerosene lamp caught fire and burned a dormitory to the ground [9].

Another reason for LED lamps is to reduce costs and increase quality of life for rural school children.  Kerosene prices in Tanzania have increased by a factor of four from 1993-2003 [7].

Supplying electricity to these rural schools is prohibitively expensive.  Electricity prices in Tanzania have increased 9 fold between 1990 and 2003 [7].  Solar installations are off-grid.

Oregon Tech Students Sizing a Solar Installation

The kerosene lamps have also caused respiratory problems for many years.  From the Energy and Sustainable Development in Tanzania report, “Indoor air pollution, for example, is the fourth leading cause of premature death in developing countries. Exposure to indoor air pollution i.e. particulate matter, along with carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene and other gases leads to serious illness, including acute respiratory infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary tuberculosis [8].”

The newly founded non-profit organization Solar HOPE, created in collaboration with Oregon Institute of Technology in Portland,  is beginning to solve some of these problems.  Solar HOPE’s primary goal “is to bring renewable energy solutions to the developing world. In order to accomplish this, our focus will be to organize and execute projects in areas of need by partnering with government and educational organizations in a given project area, and utilizing local organizations, institutions, and government agencies here in the United States [1].”

Nine OIT students and two faculty members have landed in Tanzania and are currently installing the first round of solar panels, converters and chargers.  The kerosene lamps and candles are being replaced with 8-12 LED rechargeable lamps depending on the size of the dormitory.   Additionally, 4-12 amp-hour batteries are being installed in each dormitory.  These batteries provide the means to store the solar energy for LED lamp charging.

Unloading at the Installation Site

By September 20th they plan on leaving the country having installed panels on five different schools.  In addition, before they depart, they will travel to Masai country, explore the local national parks and climb Mt. Kilmanjaro.  Solar HOPE will be planning and directing 2-3 more excursions after the initial trip concludes.  Additionally,  year around coordination will ensue with the Tanzanian rural community leaders to achieve the goal of installing 100 panels per year.

Since Solar HOPE is a non-profit volunteer organization, it is still in need of solar panels, batteries and other equipment.  The first project currently under way is fully supplied but subsequent excursions will need more resources and funds.  The ultimate goal is to have another 100 solar panels and 100 12 volt lead-acid batteries before June 2011.  These solar panels will be installed during the post summer excursions planned by Solar HOPE, and by the Tanzanians throughout the year.  In the summer of 2011 another trip is planned for August 15th.

"The Cohn" with a little Solar HOPE pride

For more information on funding or helping with future projects check out

– E.B.










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  1. […] E.B writes about the work of the non-profit organization Solar Hope in Tanzanian schools: “Nine OIT students and two faculty members have landed in Tanzania and are currently installing the first round of solar panels, converters and chargers.” […]

  2. I agree that Substituting LED lamps for kerosene lamps solves all the problems here. I work with Sharp and have been doing research on LEDs. They will be totally cost effective in the long run as they last so much longer. LED lamps

  3. We cook solar gourmet lunches.
    Post the pictures on our website.
    Announce the latest on Twitter.
    Follow us to see what’s next.

    Join our LinkedIn Group

  4. Just think, NEXT YEAR, you will be able to dump all of your kids off at all of their schools and scoot home to snuggle up with your nice, warm laptop.

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