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Helping Rural Population in Afghanistan overcome darkness and dangers of fuel based lighting

In Afghanistan only 6% of the population has a chance to get connected to the grid. ‎A centralized supply can’t be realized in a quick time due to the geographical ‎situation and the high costs. Only Kabul and a few big cities have a centralized supply ‎with an electric grid dependent on the flow in Kabul River, but this supply too lasts only for a few months post monsoon. 
 

Typically, settlements in Afghanistan with less than 100 houses number over ‎‎10,000 and those with 100 to 250 houses number about 1000. There are 53 urban ‎centers that range in size from 2500 to 25,000 people.‎ 
 
Afghan families that don’t live in the city but in the wide apart villages or even in the ‎mountains will stay without a connection to the electric grid. Therefore they have to ‎make use of other sources of light, like candles, or dangerous oil lamps and gas based lighting systems. 
 
Considering the above scenario, THRIVE with the help of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) proposed to provide LED based home lighting in ‎the rural villages to improve the living conditions of the ‎community as well provide employment to the youth in the maintenance of the ‎lighting system.
 
At the time THRIVE began its operations in 2006 there, ‎each home used 2 to 3 kerosene lights each of which consumed around 3 liters of kerosene a month. At the ‎market rate of 70 cents for a litre of kerosene each family spent around 6 $ a month for ‎simple kerosene lighting which is of low quality, polluting and not reliable and at ‎times dangerous. 
 
THRIVE began a survey of the villages and spoke to people from the community to take their feedback and understand the depth of their lighting problems. What they found was alarming.
 
There were many instances of burn accidents caused due to exploding lanterns where Aviation Fuel adulterated with Diesel (passed off as Kerosene) was unknowingly used as fuel. Unfortunately most victims were women and children as they were the most frequent users within homes, where they used them while cooking, and for studying at night.
 
Based on this THRIVE understood that a more holistic approach than just distributing LED Lights and an intense campaign to “Banish Kerosene from Homes” was conducted. THRIVE requested the prospective beneficiaries to make a promise to never use Kerosene lanterns again, and especially not to expose women and children to these hazards. To ensure this, THRIVE requested the program beneficiaries to voluntarily hand over their used Kerosene lanterns in exchange for the LED Lighting systems.
 

The programme covered 4000 households in Afghanistan scattered over systematically selected villages in severely affected off-grid areas of Kabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, and Laghman provinces. Nearly 20 rural entrepreneurs were specially trained and got livelihood opportunity and 20% growth in their income by providing services such as charging and maintenance of the LED Lights. Children’s study time increased by an hour and women were able to extend their household activity late into the night including taking up livelihood generation avocations such as stitching, embroidery, and carpet making adding to overall increase in family income. The lights being robust and reliable were used as much outdoors as indoors, and men used the lights confidently in the fields for farming activity at night and while traveling after dark. 
 
 A direct impact of the project was cost savings on fuel for lighting purpose and overall 30-100% reduction in usage of kerosene in a household depending on amount of total fuel usage for various purposes including lighting.
 
Roughly, 3000 gallons of kerosene is saved from burning per month.
 
At the end of the second phase of the project, we were left with around 1500 Hurricane lanterns and about 30 gallons of dirty fuel which were carefully disposed off as per required environmental standards. 

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