While Burundi is a beautiful and verdant country that is full of resources, it is also one of the most energy poor countries in the world – drastically limiting the resources communities can both access and generate. Only 3% of the population has access to the electrical grid (which is largely concentrated within a handful of urban areas), and the majority of people rely on the often dangerous and expensive options of wood or kerosene as primary energy sources.
Project Lumiere, the first of the Lab’s pilot energy projects, has been designed with community volunteer groups and caregivers to help identify a scalable model for delivering household energy supply in isolated areas, improving the quality of the air children breathe in their homes and allowing them additional time to study and play. Fourteen community groups from three provinces are already actively testing this model. Based on the project’s early successes, scale up to an additional 40 communities is planned for Fall 2014, with rigorous project monitoring to take place through an accompanying randomized control trial. Under this rural energy scheme, groups purchase a pedal-powered generator and robust, fast-charging LED lights to sell within their communities – introducing a safe, affordable lighting source and creating a constant revenue stream from the ongoing recharging of the lamps. In parallel, UNICEF is working closely with a local NGO/micro-finance partner to support the development of a national social enterprise to oversee management, procurement and distribution of additional rechargeable lights and, in future, the introduction of other affordable, open micro-energy technologies.