Dissin, Burkina Faso: Solar/Lighting

Background

Burkina Faso, located in West Africa formerly known as Upper Volta, is on of the poorest countries in the world, with severe challenges to its development. At present, more than 80% of its population is engaged in substance agriculture, and with a literacy rate among men of 30% and 9% among women, prospects for development are dim in the absence of sustained assistance to build its basic infrastructure and its education system.

The Need

Tangsabla has a population of about 800 people, and is one of thirteen village sin the Dissin region, located in the south-west of Burkina Faso. This region has little access to electricity. This impacts life in many ways, including education and agriculture.

Because of the low literacy rate among adult Burkinabe, the government has financed Alphabetization Centers, or literacy centers, for adults in each village. Adults stay in the evenings, after their agriculture and other responsibilities for the day are completed. They currently struggle with smoky lanterns to study reading and writing at night. This minor, yet basic problem is considered to be an important obstacle to learning to read.

The EWB Response

Three EWB students and two engineering faculty members from the University of Maryland, College Park chapter, traveled to the village of Tangsabla in January 2007. Their purpose was three fold: to learn about the village needs, its culture, and its organization; to install a trial solar-powered lighting system for their Alphabetization Center; and to visit Centers in nearby villages to assess viability of more system installations.

Accomplishments: January 2007

With the help of many enthusiastic villagers of Tangsabla, the trial lighting system for the first school was installed in one day. The team also installed data loggers to monitor lighting use. A planned secondary use of the system will be to charge cell phones, and the fees levied for this service will be set aside for system maintenance costs. Several local contacts were established on the trip, including ones with local town leaders, with local solar technology businesses, and with the nearby university. Schools and Alphabetization Centers in 12 nearby villages were visited for planning purposes.

Moving Forward

The solar lighting team returned January 2008 and sucessfully completed the project.
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