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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 09:43 GMT
Kenya slum turns sun into energy
By Celeste Hicks
BBC News

One thing Kenya is certainly not short of is good weather.

In one of Nairobi's poorest neighbourhoods, people have started working to make the best of the free energy potential of the sun.

An example of the panels produced by KCYP
The panels can power radios
Orders are already beginning to flood into the Kibera Community Youth Project (KCYP) for solar panels built in a small workshop in the heart of one of Africa's biggest slums.

Using skills and equipment passed on to them by a British volunteer, the young people are engaged in the entire line of production, from slicing the silicon sheets, to wiring the connectors, to calculating the correct voltages.

"We've been making solar panels of different sizes - 12, nine and six volts," says Mills Shamoli, a regular attendee at the solar energy group.

"We've learnt that they can power different sizes of radio, as well as charging mobiles and rechargeable batteries."

No batteries

British volunteer John Keane had a hunch the solar panels could be a popular product, after an earlier experience of living in a Tanzanian village with no electricity.

Fred Ouko, co-ordinator of KCYP
What I want to see... real benefit trickling down to individual persons
KCYP's Fred Ouko
"Everyone here seems to have a radio, but many of them don't have the funds to continually buy batteries, as they often don't have a reliable source of income," he says.

Many of the young people working on the solar project have never had a job, or seen anyone in their families have a job.

The average wage in Kibera is $1 a day but a small solar panel which takes just a matter of minutes to put together can sell for around $5.

Investment needed

Just a few months after the group completed their first prototype radio solar panel, they are already drawing up a business plan to turn the project into a self-sustaining enterprise.

Kibera Community Youth Project attendees
The young are also gaining confidence
If they are successful in attracting investment, they would like to expand their sales to rural parts of western Kenya, where the electricity supply is often sporadic.

Fred Ouko is the co-ordinator of KCYP and he says the young people are really starting to gain in confidence.

"What I want to see is real empowerment, real benefit trickling down to individual persons," he says.

"They're actually making something up to a full product and then selling it, and they know now they can do this for themselves."

Nairobi slum life: Into Kibera
04 Oct 02 |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles


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