An update on the importance of solar light distribution 

Through the Kuwala ('Shine') programme

In Malawi, less than 2% of rural households have electricity. On tea estates, many tea farmers struggle to do anything after dark, such as cooking and household chores, and children are unable to study and do their homework.

Working with its Member, Tata Consumer Products, the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) wanted to address this, and in 2020, the Kuwala ('Shine') programme began.

“Our evenings were spent without any light source, in the dark, because I couldn’t afford to buy a candle or batteries to light my torch.”

Febby Samuel, 46, Tea Supervisor

The programme will run for three years and focus on improving tea farmers' livelihoods at Eastern Produce Malawi’s tea estates which are situated in two areas: the Thyolo District, approximately 50kms southwest of Blantyre and Mulanje and the Satemwa Tea Estate in the Malawian highlands.

The programme has two focus areas; the first is to help farmers boost and diversify farmer incomes through VSLAs and the second is to improve access to light through a sustainable solar light source called a Pico Solar Lamp.

The Pico Solar Lamp has an integrated solar panel and uses sunshine to charge, and once fully powered, it can give up to 72 hours of light.

A total target for the three-year programme was to distribute 4,500 Pico Solar Lamps, but this target has already been reached, and over 5,410 tea workers and their families now have access to light after dark.

Liberal Seburikoko, ETP's Regional Director Africa comments

“We now have provided lighting in every worker’s home on both tea estates and will go one step further to reach more tea workers outside of the tea estates with an opportunity to own a solar lamp.

“We know how important providing access to light is after dark, not only to improve security and cut down on in-house pollution, but the lamps help to increase productivity and help tea workers save money for other invaluable items like medicine and food.”

Alongside the distribution of the Pico Solar Lamps, training has been provided from the start of the programme throughout the estates by electrical engineers from a sustainable energy consultancy, Wupla Enterprise. The training gave up-to-date knowledge on the science and operation of the lamps and equipped over 40 tea workers to safely fix an array of common faults. 98% of the lights distributed are still in good working order two years into the programme.

“I am very happy to be one of the participants of this training and believe that this will expand my family income source.

My main goal now is to raise money to buy my own tools so that I can repair more solar lamps. I have learnt exactly how to troubleshoot problems instead of using the ‘trial and error’ method.

I know all the components for the solar lamp now, and I can easily dismantle and fix them.”

Daniel Thomas, 24, Tea Spraying Section Capitao

Click here to learn more about the Kuwala ('Shine') programme, and read more about the work we do in Malawi here.