An Aussie startup company, Village Infrastructure Angels (VIA), has launched a social enterprise project which leases solar set-ups to villagers in developing countries.
By providing rural communities with access to solar-powered lighting and phone charging capabilities, as well as shared agro-processing facilities, company founder and solar entrepreneur Stewart Craine hopes to cut dependence on fossil fuels, improve agricultural productivity and empower communities.
So far the project has proven to alleviate the time burden involved with food production, particularly for women, and open up possibilities for other paid employment. This has been achieved by leasing solar powered mills to communities to help them grind and de-hull grains. A mill shared between a group of families can turn what used to be a highly labour-intensive task into a five-minute doddle, improving agricultural productivity and freeing up time for other activities.
Introducing solar technology in these rural communities also decreases their reliance on fossil fuels as it provides an alternative to kerosene lamps and diesel-powered generators.
Craine, who also helped found the solar lighting group Barefoot Power, has already attracted interest from investors for this new project.
“…pilot projects have so far proved that local teams could quickly generate sufficient revenue from a modest number of solar power projects in rural villages to cover their daily operating costs, and additional revenue which accumulates in the bank to repay investors.”
The company has achieved its pilot goal of reaching 1000 households and plans to reach 10,000 households by 2018 and a whopping 200,000 by 2020. This is in an effort to help more of the 1 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity.