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Case Study: Abdu-Mutwalibi Kigongo

Abdul and his mother Tahia outside their home

Abdu –Mutwalibi Kigongo is 13 years old and lives with his mother Tahia Nalubega and two sisters in Gogonya, a village in the Wakiso District of Uganda. He is an engaging and cheerful young man who lives with a severe disability that impairs mobility and speech. His father abandoned the family 13 years ago upon discovering his disability. His mother Tahia Nalubega sells herbal remedies.

In 2017, Abdu-Mutwalibi was identified as a child in need of safe lighting at home by KACCAD, a local community development organization working with an international NGO, Let There Be Light International (LTBLI). LTBLI alleviates extreme energy poverty among vulnerable, off-grid communities through a solar light distribution project in low-resource communities. Prior to participating in the solar light project, Abdu-Mutwalibi’s family relied on dangerous open-flamed kerosene candles, commonly known as “tadooba.” Despite his mother’s efforts to provide for the family, Tahia did not have the financial resources to purchase a solar light outright or through other market-based distribution schemes.

Prior to receipt of the solar light, the children in the home used a kerosene and wick candle for homework in the evening. 18% of the family income was dedicated to purchasing kerosene for lighting, a significant drain on the family’s limited income. (The family’s pre-distribution expenditure on kerosene was 3,600 UGX/week from their total income of approximately 20,000 UGX/week). Time spent on homework and household chores was limited by the expense of kerosene which also impacted Tahia’s ability to purchase food and other necessities. Tahia reported that the light produced by their “tadooba” was dim and produced a noxious, sooty smoke, which affected the family’s health and safety. She also noted that the family also was at a high risk of burns and fire from the open-flamed kerosene light.

As part of the solar light distribution project, Abdu-Mutwalibi’s mother was taught how to charge and use the solar light and was educated about the relative benefits of renewable lighting. Abdu-Mutwalibi’s mother no longer buys kerosene and the family relies on the solar light exclusively. She reports that she is able to attend to Abdu-Mutwalibi’s needs at all hours and that her children now have safe, clean light for as long as needed for homework in the evenings. She is grateful for the safe light and no longer worries about fire safety. She also notes that the family no longer experiences respiratory problems and chronic eye itching.

Lessons Learned

The provision of a safe solar light can immediately impact the health, safety, well being, educational and economic outcomes of children living with disabilities and their families.

  • The solar light improves the ability of a parent to care for a child living with disabilities.

  • Families save money on fuel and then are able to use the savings for other basic needs.

  • Parents easily grasp and communicate health and safety benefits of solar lighting.

  • The provision of a solar light extends the hours of household and student productivity.

Tahia preparing food for her children inside their house

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