Submitted by: Nature Tropicale ONG, Member of IUCN
Implemented country: Benin
Title: Solar Home Kit Instead of Disposable Batteries
Benin is 80 per cent dependent on electricity imports– mainly from Ghana. Only 2 per cent of Benin’s rural areas have access to electricity. Disposable batteries are the only energy source for such areas and are quickly becoming a ticking time-bomb. Tons of toxic waste, especially mercury, are dumped into rivers or end up in the soil. This presents a serious threat to the livelihood of the local population that lives off agricultural products and fishing the rivers. Josea Sagbo Dossou-Bodjrenou, who has been the director of Nature Tropical, an NGO, since 1996, has been trying to put an end to this. A graduate of the University of Benin and expert for the protection of species, environmental education and resource management, knew what needed to be done. His vision is the country of Benin with safe and clean solar power, which would save many of his country’s problems with one fell swoop. The target area is the south Benin city of Dangbo located at the Queme river delta with a population of 70,000. The tropical humid region is part of the RAMSAR protectorates.
Dossou-Bodjrenou’s most important objective is bringing solar home-kits to the population and creating a collection system for batteries. His biggest hurdles are prejudices against solar energy because it is claimed to be too expensive, and exaggerated expectations concerning the solar home kits. The local population bereft by hardships thinks such kits should have to cover their entire energy needs for lighting, charging cell phones, cooling ice-water, powering PCs, copy machines and the Internet. Dossou-Bodjrenou was familiar with these problems from similar projects in Costa Rica and Bhutan and simply refused to give up. With the help of posters, quizzes, information flyers, wall calendars and workshops he was able to help people change their attitudes towards renewable energies. Especially the youth plays an important role.
Today, a great many solar kits (12-200 volts) in Dangbo light the homes of the people, power televisions and ventilation fans, and charge mobile phones. Oil lamps are being replaced one by one. Families receive initial support through micro loans and are less dependent on energy. They repay their loans in small payments. Batteries are properly collected and disposed of. The entire project costs amounted to less than 650,000 US$ funded through the South-South Cooperation and partners such as IUCN. Dossou-Bodjrenou is convinced that the solariziation of Africa is a huge challenge but a financially, economically and affordable alternative that helps Africa avoid having to import billions of tons of oil, creating even more CO2 emissions and avoiding toxic disposable batteries.
“We need rational management of nature for a better life on earth.”
Josea Sagbo Dossou-Bodjrenou