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Myanmar: Solar lanterns to light up the villages!

2014.11.28

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has received from Panasonic Corporation a donation of 90 units of solar lanterns manufactured by the Japanese electronics company.  These LED lanterns will be used in PWJ’s social marketing project targeting remote villages without electricity in Kayin State of Myanmar, with the aim of enhancing the villagers’ socio-economic life in multiple ways.

オリジナルDSC07443  DSC07433オリジナル

Electricity: a rare commodity in remote villages

In Myanmar, no more than 30 % of the households are electrified.  While this rate comes up to 70% in the commercial capital of Yangon, the percentage goes significantly down in the rural area, and hardly any remote village enjoys electrification.

In the village without electricity, some better-off households may have their own generators, but the rest of the majority use candles or kerosene lamps for lighting after dark.  Some use car batteries, to be recharged with a fee at a nearest location with electricity.  While electrification is always high in their wish-list and included in their petitions submitted to the authorities, their wish will rarely come true, with the electricity shortage being one of the major challenges the country faces.

Solar lanterns, a possible solution

Electricity for lighting at night is considered one of the very basic conditions for leading a civilized life with convenience.  With the emergence of LED lamps, highly-proficient, relatively-reasonable solar lanterns suitable for use in the village life have been developed, but they are not yet affordable enough for those living in impoverished rural communities.

panasonic ランタン   ソーラーランタン写真(PWJ)

“Social marketing”

In order to maximize the number of those who benefit from solar lanterns, PWJ is embarking on a project of marking of these “social products,” an endeavor referred to as “social marketing,” which aims to diffuse products and services that help address and solve social problems.

By way of social marketing, solar lanterns will be provided to the village’s development committee, and those villagers who wish to rent solar lanterns from the committee will pay a small rental fee.  Renting the solar lantern instead of giving it away prevents the creation of dependency on the part of the villagers.  The rental fee of around 3,000 kyats (approx.US$ 3) per month will be close to the amount that the villagers would normally pay for candles or kerosene and will not therefore be their extra financial burden.

After a certain period of renting, the solar lantern may be considered “depreciated” and given to the villager.  This system of renting, which is virtually an installment sale, will make it easier for the villagers to acquire the useful gadget, as they do not have to pay a larger amount of money at a time, thereby promoting the spread of this social product.

“Benefits beyond lighting”

By introducing solar lanterns to the village without electricity, some benefits anticipated will be:

●Extra productive hours after dark will be secured for working, reading, studying, etc.;

●Solar lanterns can be useful items for disaster preparedness;

●Mobile phones can be recharged from the batteries of solar lanterns and used in the village, thereby mitigating information gaps, promoting economic activities (obtaining market information, using mobile banking, etc.), providing communication means in case of emergencies (such as disasters);

●The village community will be empowered through the above, their standard of life uplifted and socio-economic level enhanced; and

●The effect of the social marketing may extend beyond the target villages and affect the surrounding communities, who may become aware of the usefulness and advantage of the solar lantern and acquire the gadget themselves, receiving all the benefits that the solar lantern has to offer immediately and in a longer term.

Funds revolved and used for disaster risk reduction

The rental fees collected will fund activities to reduce risks of future disasters in the villages.  Being a flood-prone region, many villages in Kayin State suffer from flooding in the annual rainy season.  Plans are being made to construct roads and bridges that can be still used during the flooding season, to build store houses to stockpile relief items, to strengthen dikes, and to take other measures to mitigate the disaster risks.

 

This project is being implemented in co-operation with Community Development Association, a Yangon-based NGO, with financial support from the JTI Foundation.