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close this bookGATE - 2/87 - IYSH International Year of Shelter for the Homeless - 1987 (GTZ GATE, 1987, 44 p.)
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View the documentElectric light for Peruvian Farmers
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Electric light for Peruvian Farmers

by Eberhard Biermann

For the foreseeable future, the mountain farms in the Altiplano region of Peru have no chance of being connected to energy supply networks. And if only for topographical reasons, the provision of hydroelectric or diesel generated power in this mountainous region of Latin America is out of the question for the next few decades. Moreover, in view of the low energy requirements in this rural region, the construction of power supply networks is only justified in exceptional cases.

Although the majority of the small scale farmers living in mountain regions are poor, their expenditure on energy is comparatively high. Yet their level of energy consumption is low; apart from cooking, it is restricted to lighting, with candles and kerosene, and the use of radio sets, which are powered by dry batteries.

Small solar units already viable

As a result of the continuing development of solar technology it is now possible to produce relatively cheap systems suitable for applications of this kind; they can be collectively termed "micro-scale solar units". These micro-scale generators have an output of some 40 watts; the power they generate charges a battery, and they are thus capable of meeting a whole family's energy needs for lighting while at the same time replacing the dry batteries.

GATE is currently conducting a programme in the Puno region of the Peruvian Altiplano to test 50 small German-made units of this type. Most of the testers are smallscale farmers and health centres, though there are also a number of test units in village community halls and - for the first time ever - in public telephone boxes. GATE is expecting the programme to furnish information as to

· whether the systems are being used by the target groups;

· whether they work properly under local environmental conditions; and

· whether these models are suitable for providing light for thousands of people.

Successful test - lively demand

The very positive results obtained so far are indicative of three important developments, which were also emphasized by the families interviewed.

· The change from an unpleasant, unsatisfactory, dangerous and unreliable source of light (because candles and kerosene lamps are sooty, only provide spot lighting. involve a risk of fire and explosions, and kerosene is not always available) to the solar lamps is considered a fundamental improvement by the rural population. They describe it as "restoration of their dignity'.

· Even a short time after the systems were installed, numerous directly and indirectly positive results were noted. The children do their school homework by the light of the lamps, while their parents exploit it for making decorative fabrics, carrying out repairs, processing agricultural products etc. None of these things can be done until evening, as the families work in the fields during the day.

· The greater availability of public services obviously improves the social position of the rural population, and makes it easier to set up state welfare facilities in regions which were hitherto neglected.

The micro-scale solar units are in great demand. The willingness of the farmers to pay for them straight away and to make major financial sacrifices is unusual. If financing with guaranteed loans can be arranged -this is currently being prepared by the agricultural development bank- demand is likely to increase to several thousand systems within a short period of time..

First Prize

In November 1986 the RIIC Small Scale Sorghum Dehulling Machine won first prize in a "Development Technology "competition".

The competition was organized by the International Centre of Culture for the Development of Peoples, in Genoa, Italy. It attracted entries from twenty national and international institutions in developed and developing countries.

First Prize was the equivalent of P25,000 and an medaillon. More than fifty dehullers are currently in operation in Botswana, creating over 200 jobs. Dehullers have aIso been exported to Tanzania, Mali, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

The RIIC (Rural Industries Innovation Centre) in Kanye, Botswana, has been a cooperation partner of GATE since 1984.

Drawing: Hannah Schreckenbach

"Small Engines and Their Fuels in Developing Countries"

The theme of this conference will be the contribution of small engines and their fuels to the energy supply of rural communities in developing countries.

It is the second international conference on this topic and is being held at the University of Reading, UK,on23and24September1987.