Peter Mbithi - Acumen

Peter

Mbithi

d.light, East Africa

I am a farmer and usually make no more than 6000 shillings ($58) a month selling my maize and beans. Initially I used paraffin for energy. It was not clean. It would create a lot of soot and also made the glass in our lantern very sensitive. The glass would often break. It can cause fire. It’s not safe.

It’s very stressful to live in darkness. When you are living in darkness, you almost look for anything that can produce light.

Trying to solve a problem through desperation is dangerous. There is hope in light and hope in light that’s continuous.

The paraffin would cost around 20 shillings a day, and that would translate to around 600 shillings ($6) a month. It was a lot of money. When I saw the d.light advertised for 1000 shillings ($10), I knew we could afford it. It was a value.

Once we started to use the d.light, I forgot all about spending money on paraffin. It’s almost like the value of your money has increased. The d.light is very useful. It’s portable and economical. I can carry this one with me outside and, even if it rains and I forget to take it back inside, I have found that it’s very resistant. It’s more reliable than paraffin. The money we save is paying my children’s tuition.

My kids like it too. They think it’s fun and even fight over who can use it. And the way it’s made, it cannot break so the kids can handle it. It’s a big relief. You can leave your children at home, and know they are OK. You feel it’s safe because it feels just like sunlight.

I had heard about the benefits of solar panels, but I haven’t been able to purchase them. They were rare and expensive. My wife saw the d.light S2 panel advertised. Now I’m thinking about getting a solar panel, which can supply my entire family. It can even power a TV.

The solar panel can cost around 50,000 shillings ($485), but that is cheap compared to the cost of electricity. For electricity to be installed in your home, it costs around 30,000 ($292). That’s just installation, then you have to pay the bills and generally those cost around 1000 ($10) a month. That’s a lot each month and the service isn’t reliable. Plus you have to deal with the psychological frustration of making sure you can pay your bills. Once you buy the d.light panel and it is installed, you forget everything. They even offer a guarantee so, if there’s a problem, the company will take care of it.

I think solar is very positive because light is continuous, day after day. It’s like you are extending the day into night. It is very exciting.

We appreciate these new innovations. When we install these panels next to our plots, they help us maximize our land for farming.

I would love one day if we could afford the bigger system, bigger than this, so we can get a TV. Even if we eventually got electricity, the solar energy would help us cover the bills. We could use the energy from the panels to keep the electricity bill down. We can manage it ourselves, and that’s a nice feeling and psychologically satisfying.

Peter, 44, is a father of four and a customer of Acumen investee, d.light, living in Kenya.

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