My name is Caroline Mwebaza. I live in the Wakiso District of Uganda where I work as an energy poverty consultant with Solar Health Uganda, an NGO supported by LTBLI. Solar Health Uganda is an innovative organization that partners with many organization including Let There Be Light International, Rotary Clubs (both in Uganda and in the US), Sunny Money, CESA Uganda, Kisoro Elders Project, Defeating Darkness Community Initiative and others.
In Uganda, approximately 15% of the country’s population is connected to the national grid with electric distribution lines mainly centered in the urban areas. In the rural areas, where 84% of the population lives, only 7% of the population currently has access to electricity, which is intermittent and expensive.
The 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) Statistical Report found that 70.5 per 100,000 people die in Uganda annually due to illness caused by household and ambient air pollution.85% of these deaths are women and children.
Through partnerships, Solar Health Uganda is raising awareness about energy poverty and its health and safety impacts and advocating for universal access to clean, safe and renewable energy.
Why partnerships? Why networks? There is a proverb that says that two heads are better than one meaning we cannot achieve our very best without the help of others. Together we can achieve more and accomplish more. Furthermore, there are many organizations and individuals working on health and safety especially among women and girls in developing countries. However, if these individuals and groups are not considering the impact of energy poverty on the populations they serve, then they are missing out on an important opportunity for program development and modification.
I have travelled to many extremely poor districts in the rural areas of Uganda where Solar Health Uganda and Let There Be Light International have distributed safe solar lights and solar- electrified health centers. We have seen lives impacted and changed with a small pico solar light in places like Gomba, Bukomansimbi, Kiboga, and Kyankwanzi. When given a safe solar light, children are able to do their school work without relying on dangerous, dirty and polluting open-flamed kerosene lights (or “tadooba” in our local language). Mothers feel safer at home and report that the solar lights are improving their health and the health of their families. Women with small home business are able to extend their working day and therefore earn more. In some cases, the family is able to save money that they previously spent on kerosene and candles. However, this change and impact would not be possible without partnerships, especially of Solar Health Uganda, KACCAD and Let There Be Light International.
Partnerships are vital because they helps us to pull resources together, generate great ideas, and extend our reach. Partnerships and networks are the way to go in order to achieve Agenda 2030 and ‘’leave no one behind’’
In April 2018, with funding and program support from Let There Be Light International, my colleague and I successfully organized a renewable energy training for local women. Called Women Solar Empowerment Training (or Women SET), this 14-hour training through Solar Health Uganda equipped them with knowledge about Renewable Energy and solar lights so that they could enter the growing renewables marketplace. With their newly attained knowledge, they were able to seek employment opportunities and improve their communities. All ten women now are solar entrepreneurs in their communities.
Other Solar Health Uganda partnerships have included energy poverty trainings, data collection trainings, and solar light distributions with CESA Uganda (Combined Effort to Save Uganda) , (DDCI)Defeating Darkness Community Initiative, Salalira Sisters in Mbale, and the Kisoro Elders Project in western Uganda.