According to a World Bank press release
published in 2014, the Solomon Islands has one of the lowest rates of electricity access in the world and some of the highest electricity prices. In rural areas, where most of the population lives, only about 6% of households are connected to the electricity grid (World Bank, 2014).
I just spent the last four weeks of my Kiva Fellowship in the Solomon Islands working with Kiva’s field partner, South Pacific Business Development (SPBD)
, and observed this situation first-hand.
As I accompanied SPBD’s field officers on their borrower visits, it was clear that very few people living in the communities around Honiara are connected to the electricity grid and those that are, often cannot afford to pay for the electricity. This means that when the sun sets around 6pm, everything goes dark. Children are limited to studying and doing their homework during daylight hours, and simple household chores become difficult.
To help address this issue SPBD recently introduced a solar loan product. SPBD will provide loans to purchase solar light products ranging from reading lights and lanterns to household lighting systems and mobile phone charging outlets. This loan product aims to improve living conditions by providing a cost efficient and clean energy alternative to kerosene, battery powered lights, and the expensive and unreliable electricity grid.
A group of borrowers inspecting a d.light lantern.
A borrower with the study lamp model.
I had the opportunity to come along on a number of field visits where SPBD’s distributer presented the d.light
solar light products to groups of borrowers. Everyone listened carefully and thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration of the products’ robustness in which the d.light representative would toss a lantern onto the floor and give it an energetic kick. Gasps of shock were usually followed by peals of laughter and applause! But kicks and tumbles are not the only abuse these high quality products can withstand; they are also completely water-proof and therefore well suited for rural life.
Jerry, the product representative, tells borrowers about the d.light study lamp.
Jerry, the product representative, assembles the household lighting system.
Jerry, the product representative, demonstrates the household lighting system.
There was strong interest and numerous borrowers requested loan application forms, some placed orders, and a couple were so enthusiastic that they would have liked to take the sample products home immediately.
Listening intently to Jerry explain the solar lamp products.
News of the solar loans spread quickly and during the week that the product was announced, the SPBD office was bustling with women coming in to learn more and to have a look at the sample products.
The d.light products displayed at SPBD's office.
If you would like to support a solar loan in the Solomons, keep a lookout for them here
– the first ones should be posted soon.