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LED Lights Reach Tribal Homes in India

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Project Stories

LED Lights Reach Tribal Homes in India

GHUSURAGUDA, India -- Sri Kamulu Kasi, a potter in this Kondh tribal village in Orissa state, often works after the sun sets, while his children study. The use of night hours is a recent luxury for the family -- one they can now afford because of a lamp that last longer, is brighter and more affordable.

Kasi purchased the light emitting diode (LED) lamp from THRIVE, a non-profit organization that won a $177,250 Development Marketplace (DM) grant, funded by the Global Environment Facility, in 2006 for a project producing and bringing LED lights to 10,000 Kondh tribe homes in the hills and forest tracks of southern Orissa.

Some 50 million homes in India are without electric power. Villagers like Kasi typically rely on kerosene lamps, which provide dim light for only two to three hours daily and are hard to maintain, as kerosene is supplied through distantly located government outlets. Kerosene also causes indoor pollution, which causes coughs and lung ailments, especially among children.

THRIVE light are more powerful than kerosene lamps.
"Since I began using [the THRIVE] lamp, I am free of the headache of queuing in shops for long hours to get only a liter of kerosene, said Kasi, adding that he was not satisfied with the quality of light.

But now I am very happy, he said. My children are also using the lantern for study.?

In Kumbhariput, a village some 10 kilometers away, THRIVE lamps were installed at the Seva Ashram Tribal school. Principal Sri Trinath Pairabu says he is pleased with the progress his pupils are making now that they have more time to study.

"This is very useful for our school and we are we are out of darkness now, he said."

Costing about $15 to produce, the lamp is affordable to villagers, who pay an initial deposit fee of about $4 and then a monthly rate of less than $1 per month. Villagers are trained as entrepreneurs to sell, change and repair the lanterns, offering them a way to make extra income. About 100 village entrepreneurs have been trained in selling lamps, earning between $10-30 a month.

So far, some 2,500 lights have been sold.

Maintenance is simple: LED lanterns require a fortnight recharge from a nearby grid or one of THRIVE's three solar-powered charging stations for the cost of 2 cents. And the repairman is often a neighbor, or a resident of a nearby village.

In the village of Utkapadu, a tribal youth from a family of 12, says: "It was very costly for our family [to use wick lamps]. At night, we were not able to do any work. Sometimes we ate our meals in the dark."

"But now this lamp is giving effective light," he added of the THRIVE lantern.

As the project grows in India, development groups in other regions are becoming interested in LED lights. THRIVE is now collaborating with similar initiatives in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Kenya.

The governments and leaders waited this many decades and centuries to give to the poor of Africa and Asia a light that does not pollute, that does not burn out and should costs less, said Ranga Bodavala, THRIVE's project team leader.

Here is the technology available today in the form of a LED home light at low cost and high reliability promising to banish the darkness of centuries and open the world of safety, productivity, knowledge and happiness to the 2 billion deserving women and children across the globe.

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