There’s an interesting project going on in Mali and I think the concept could be of great interest to a lot of AE- DIYer types in our community.
Mali has plenty of Mud Huts, but many people there have cell phones and they make good use of them. The Millennium Village Project will study the idea of using the cell phone network to build a method to produce metered billing reports for power usage and collecting payment for individual residentual power usage.
Currently people there use Kerosene, dry cells and car batteries all of which are expensive means of lighting homes and recharging cell phones and small appliances. The plan is to set these systems up where individual stake holders can make payments based on usage. As I understand it, the service is designed as a prepaid service, when your account gets low, you are sent a text message warning you that your power will be turned off unless you transfer more funds to your power account. with no need for Kerosene, dry cell batteries, car batteries and more, there may be money to spare.
What I hear from Matt and Seb, is there are plans to augment the solar power, and other sources of power generation could plug into the village power plant. Biofuels, biomass powered generators are possibilities. At present CFCs offer a lot lighting for the watts without the health hazards of burning kerosene in close quarters. I doubt the Kerosene they have access to burns like the crystal clear stuff our Grand Parents and Great Grand Parents had access to here, nor can they likely afford the expensive lamps that burned it best and cleanest. The cost of Kerosene is so high, that stake holders might actually save money using the new shared power services.
Matt says there will be an official website up soon, I’ll link to it here when I hear of it. For now, here’s a few pictures of the village and near about. Again, what I like about these trials is the fact that they measure the success of the project by the ability of the stakeholders to actually pay for the equipment deployed through a benefit. Some of us abhor subsidies and credits because we believe it distorts reality and subsidizes unrealistic endeavors that benefit no one in the long term. If we find mention of carbon credits or similar, we might still be able to back those credits out in order to make our own assessment of the project and how it might work in other (real world) environments.
OK… I was thinking… if this project goes well, think what it might be like to start a franchise business in Mali! Some thing on the order of a 20 foot long 4W drive diesel bread truck with every kind of small electric appliance. Makita electric drills, saws, kitchen appliances… like bean grinders, other small food prep appliances. As you make your way through the villages you might deliver packages and other freight. Of course you could also be the rep for cellphones, deliver new batteries, new phones, who knows..you might be the first to sell an itunes gift card!
All that is required to make it all work is real money in the pockets of real people, if a food prep allows you time to spend more time in the field a day caring for crops, it may in deed all work out, growing food creates >real< wealth.