Godjiboué, February, 13, 2018.
Text by Elisabeth Stava
You could assume that a travel you do several times will get easier for every time. Turns out that this was not the case this time around going to Godjiboué. Traveling with the solar kits turned out to bring some challenges along the way, from going through the police checkpoints to finding means of transport with enough space, not to mention that things take time in Ivory Coast. After spending a night in Lakota (a small city halfway to Godjiboué), we finally arrived to the village Monday afternoon after starting our trip Sunday morning from Abidjan.
All the solar kits made it safely and we were met by the chief of the village, happy to see that we finally arrived with what we promised, 75 kits giving light to over 375 people.
Tuesday morning we started installing the kits in the homes of the people signed up for the project. The solar kits themselves are small and simple to install and use. However, it is important to give thorough and correct information to all households to ensure that the solar kits will work properly as long as possible. The solar kits that we distributed include two light bulbs that can be unplugged from the cord and used as torches, they have 3 different light intensities and can be adjusted with a remote control, as well as a small charging system that can charge four phones at a time. The latter is very important as it gives people the chance to charge their phones at their homes and they do not have to rely on a charging service where they are obliged to leave their phone the whole day in order to be fully charged. This will help people to be connected and able to make calls when they need it. Although most people lack basic necessities such as clean water and a refrigerator, they all own one or more cell phones. This connects them when working in the countryside as the majority of people are farmers.
At first, people in the village were quite shocked to see the size of the solar panels. Most of them are already used to using solar panels, however, these are most of the time low quality products with large lead batteries that need to be changed every 3-6 months. Therefore, they were probably expecting a product that did not look so similar and that is much smaller than what they already have. However, as the evening dawned we started demonstrating the light intensity and people could see with their own eyes the quality of the products. This was for many the turning point that convinced them at this is not yet another scheme (as they have experienced many times before), but actually a quality product to a reasonable price. As often said, “when I see it, I will believe it”.
As word spread, many people came to the place where we arranged to hand-out the solar systems. People even travelled from far away villages to see our project and products. During the 5 days in Godjiboué we have realized that the need and demand for light and electricity is vast. There are already people that have signed up for being first in line when we return. We say when not if, because as we now have experienced first-hand, there is an enormous need for supporting villages such as Godjiboué to have access to simple basics such as light and if we can contribute with that, it is well worth the work.