Sustainable Development For All-Africa was born out of Evans Wadongo’s personal experience growing up in rural Kenya. As a young child, him and his siblings were raised in a mud home with no electricity or running water. His parents were schoolteachers and placed a high value on education. Evans was expected to work hard in school and get good grades, so he depended upon the dim light of the family’s kerosene lantern to study at night.
He shared kerosene lanterns with other family members, but the light emitted from the kerosene lamp was too weak for everyone to use. Evans remembers how they used to fight over who was going to get to use the lamp. Often, Evans had to go to sleep in frustration, unable to complete his homework or study as much as he wished. To this day, many children in rural Kenya who have limited access to lamps drop out of school because they feel incapable of learning new material and keeping up with other children.
There are health consequences too. A child must be directly over the kerosene lantern to use the light to read. For Evans, the fumes from the kerosene caused damage to his eyes, and his vision has been permanently impaired. Blindness, as well as respiratory diseases, and lung and throat cancers are common results of kerosene fume exposure.
Evans saw many kids dropping out of school when they were punished for not having done home work, and yet they didnt have kerosene at home. He saw many kids being burnt in their houses from fires caused by kerosene.
Born out of a strong desire to help his fellow Kenyans, Evans, just 19-years-old, came up with the idea of replacing kerosene lamps with simple solar-powered LED lanterns. He was studying at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and was performing an experiment in his dorm room with LED Christmas lights when he was struck by an idea:
Simple, locally made LED lights powered by solar energy should be used to light up the villages of rural Kenya. After engaging communities, he discovered solar lamps were only solving a small portion of the biggest issue; poverty. He then came up with the ‘Use Solar, Save Lives’ program to enable families have a regular source of income, after getting solar lamps.
Today, solar-powered LED lanterns dubbed Mwangabora, light up several villages in the rural areas of Kenya. Villagers can now use the money they would have spent on kerosene fuel to buy food for the starving or invest in projects that make additional income for their village. In addition, the lanterns help keep children in school by giving off a powerful light that can be shared by many, without threatening their health. Evans has dedicated his life to enabling dreams throughout rural Africa, to give villagers not just light but hope for a better life.