In poverty-stricken Burkina Faso, an African country with about 70% rural population, bearing the costs of electricity is still unthinkable for many. It is ironic that a tropical country, receiving ample sunlight for a major part of the day, remains in darkness for upto 12 hours every night.
In these trying circumstances, French-African company — Lagazel — dealing in affordable and sustainable solar lamps provides a glimmer of hope to the people in the interiors of Burkina Faso. Lagazel provides solar lanterns that enable families to get access to cheap, clean energy. Their solar energy goes where the grid does not reach. Two French brothers — Arnaud and Maxence Chabanne — founded the company in 2016 and since have provided 1-1.5 lakh solar lamps to the needy annually while simultaneously creating job opportunities for the locals and helping them save money.
The brothers believe that ‘good light means good living’ and the motivation of ‘having light even in the darkest night’ gets them going. Excerpts of an interview with Claire, the in charge of communications at Lagazel:
Improving people’s lives through clean and affordable energy
Burkina Faso is one of the least electrified countries in the world. Only 3% of the total rural population has electricity. It gets dark after 6:00 pm. Thereafter, the children find it difficult to study and the parents cannot work either. This in turn massively affects their education and working opportunities. Lagazel helps the people living in such off-grid areas by providing them with solar lamps to help alleviate their misery.
Lagazel realised that it was important to provide a sustainable and affordable device so that the families can cut down their expenses on petroleum products and batteries. Hence, Lagazel became the first-ever manufacturer to produce solar lamps locally in Burkina Faso. Lagazel works with local NGOs and distributors to reach their target group, especially the children and old members in the family “so that they can benefit from affordable lighting and energy at home”. Their aim is to provide a lamp in every household. They manufacture 10,000 lamps annually and have so far distributed 60,000 lamps in total.
Sustainability all the way
Their products use metal which ha several advantages over otherwise commonly-used plastic — it can easily be molded using lesser energy, it is much better for the environment, is easily recyclable, and is robust so it lasts longer. It is a simple innovative design that meets the immediate needs of the locals. Their products— the KALO lanterns — are high-quality affordable solar lamps which can last upto more than 20-hours autonomy. They come with a 2-year warranty,
Lagazel also provides after-sale services using which the users can return the products at the end of their life cycle so that they can be repaired or recycled and hence create a circular product economy.
All the parts of the products are locally assembled and distributed to markets close by. Hence there is minimal to no transportation cost involved. Even their packaging is super eco-friendly. They use reusable cardboard boxes for their solar lamps. There is absolutely no plastic involved in packaging, thus the products can be ‘disassembled easily and be quickly sent for recycling’ later.
Easy access solar stations
Lagazel has created unique ‘solar stations’ that can charge 40 solar at once at carefully-identified hotspots. Also, by creating these solar stations Lagazel audits the usage of the lamps. For example, if there is a solar station installed in a school, the school will have complete ownership of the station and the lamps. This way, they can keep a check on whether the lamps distributed are being charged and maintained properly. The stations can be installed in a number of sessions, depending upon the total number of beneficiaries the school has. The concept is simple.
These stations are also installed in health centres or co-operatives run by women for which the women get paid. The women can rent out their land to set-up a solar station and earn a decent amount thereof.
The Lagazel boxes or L-boxes
“Our mission is to develop local industry. We do not want to add a big facility that will manufacture a large scale and export the product across Africa; We want to add medium-scale facilities very close to the market for the customers”— says Claire. And that is what they did!
They came up with a turnkey — a compact system for producing and packaging products —facility in a mobile box!
Lagazel first trained the locals with all the technical knowledge and standards of manufacturing. Then they equipped them with the components and the tools needed to produce the lamps from scratch. Lastly, the locals are also trained in researching and after-sale services so that they can replicate the production at different off-grid places. By doing this, they have created a sustainable business model that benefits the environment and the people.
So that is how two French brothers are making electricity accessible and affordable in the power-deprived Burkina Faso. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel, after all…
Eco-Spotlight is a digital publication that focuses on different aspects of climate change solutions: projects and ideas focused on sustainable development, social entrepreneurship, environmental businesses, eco-friendly practices, and similar green initiatives. Through our solution-focused interviews and articles, we want to bring good news to the forefront and remind the world – without hope, there is no future. We also syndicate our content with White Print, India’s first English lifestyle magazine in Braille.