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Solar-powered street lights boost Lindi women's businesses

Solar-powered street lights boost Lindi women's businesses

IT’s around 8:00pm but Aisha Mohamed is still busy with her business close to Lindi Bus Stand’s exit door. The main customers of her well-roasted maize are passengers coming from Dar es Salaam, Mtwara, Ruvuma as well as passers-by.

The mother of three says she is confident of doing business until late hours, thanks to the solar-powered street lights installed in Lindi town and public areas.

“When there is darkness, women afraid of robbers and harassment from hooligans….in darkness it is easy to be raped,” says Aisha as she hold a maize, ready to sell it to her esteemed customer.

While Aisha, 36, is waiting for another customer, Mariam Malibiche has just handed over customers particulars to Paris Guest House located 400m from the Lindi Bus Stand.

She passes in the street confidently knowing that nothing can harm her simply because there is the light insisting, “evils disappear when there is light.”

Though Mariam do not know if the lights installed in different parts of the Lindi town are powered by solar energy, she says, compared to nearly a year ago, “It was difficult to find women in the streets beyond 18hrs.”

Reasons behind, Mariam narrates, is that before installment of street lights, most of small traders used to close their businesses early because there were no customers after sun down. She says, apart from security reason, the businesses were not visible.

Saphina Ndali is a mother of two. After confrontation with her husband in Dar es Salaam, she decided to return to Lindi Region where she grew. She started her grocery business around Lindi Bus Terminal. “Government has restrictive laws and regulation in alcohol business. We are supposed to open at 16hrs up to 10pm. Before installation of street lights, at 8pm there were no people in town, meaning there were no customers,” says the woman who is in her late 20s.

Lighting businesses

According to Amina Salum, 34, after the 2016/2017 fiscal year, small women traders’ businesses not only started growing steadily but also they gained confidence in trading during later hours. “It is because most of us, women, feel that nothing can harm us in places where there is light,” says the mother of four who vends food in nearly 500 metres away from Lindi Bus Terminal. Counting her fingers, Amina says now she can create a profit of 10,000/- to 15,000/- per day.

She reveals that the key factor for the success is that her business is “visible” by the courtesy of light from solar powered lights in her locality.

Affordability of solar power

In the financial year of 2016/17, the Lindi Municipal Council decided, among other issues, to install solar powered lights in streets.

The reasons is not only to turn the old town look attractive but also to boost security and improve the working environment especially for the people who work or trade in the late hours.

The Municipal’s economist Jeremiah Mbelu reveals that the council agreed to install 155 poles of solar lights. “Each pole cost 4m/-,” says Jeremiah who is working in the Municipal’s planning office.

This means that the first phase of the project cost 620m/-. He adds that the next phase will be accomplished immediately after the ongoing projects construction of the street roads of Lindi town.

Asked why the Municipal decided to spend more than 600m/- per single project, a bit higher than gas and hydro-power, the economist replies, “Yes, it is expensive to install solar powered lights in the streets. The initial cost is too high” but “we don’t have another cost after installation. No electricity bills because we use solar as a source of energy.”

Before this project which covers distance of 6.2km, the Lindi Municipal Director, Jomaary Satura says, there were four street lights powered by electricity around Bus Stand and Sokoine Street. “At the end of the month, the bill was 4m/- entailing that each street light was ‘eating’ an average of 1m/- per month,” he adds.

After the efficiency of the solar powered lights in Lindi town, Regional Commissioner of Lindi, Godfrey Zambi says the programme will be implemented in all towns.

Zambi who doubles as region’s security committee chairman believes that the Lindi town is safe from hooligans’ acts because they can no longer hide in darkness as they used to. The regional government is opting for solar powered light over other sources as Energy Access Situation Report, 2016 Tanzania Mainland report indicates solar is second reliable source of energy for lighting.

While the 2012 Population and Housing Census report indicates that Lindi has a population of 864,652, the Mainland’s energy report reveals that 14.8 percent of residents are relying on solar as a source of energy for lighting.

Apart from solar, the report adds, other sources of energy for lighting used by Lindi residents are Electricity (5.4%), generator (0%), kerosene (12.8%), candle (2.6%), rechargeable (63.6%), firewood (1.5%) and charcoal (0.5%).

Sustainable Development Goals 7, 11

In lighting the town through solar energy, Lindi municipality is implementing two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at ago. These are SDGs 7 and 11 which focus on affordable and clean energy and Sustainable Cities and Communities respectively.

According to SDG 11, half of humanity (3.5 billion people, including Amina and Mariam, lives in cities/town today and 5 billion people are projected to live in cities by 2030. Lindi traders are now thriving, growing and eliminating poverty in the safe environment as Tanzania is eyeing to join the club of the middle income countries.

The world’s cities occupy just 3 per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions, turning them not better place to live and work.

But the Lindi Municipality has opted renewable energy to make the fastest growing town not only a safe place to work but also reducing bills, maintenance cost while conserving environment through usage of renewable energy.

Safer Cities for inclusive development

As SGD 7 predicts that half of population of the world will be in cities and town by 2030, researcher Dr Kalpana Viswanath writes in an article published in UNHabitat website titled ‘Creating Engagement in Public Spaces for Safer Cities for Women’ that “Women face the fear of sexual violence as a constant threat to their ability to move around, to work and their general wellbeing.”

While the researcher is calling for affirmative actions to make cities and towns better place for women to live, Mr Deogratius Temba, who is working with Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) as Programme Officer, Mobilization and Outreach, says lights in town or cities is a solution for minimizing crimes against girls and women. In the darkness, Mr Temba says, women can be harassed, attacked by robbers or raped and suppose they report such issues to police, no clear evidences can be presented because, “they can’t mark them in darkness.”

He adds, when towns, like Lindi, install light infrastructures, act as security guard because there are evidences of low level of attacks to women and girls in places where there is light. Another advantage, according to Temba, is that female students can walk freely in areas with where there is light without be harmed.

He adds some students are being forced to walk long distance to their respective schools. He says due to distance, they are being forced to go to school early and return home. So, if they pass in areas where there is light, he adds, they are safe.

Street lighting

According to study conducted by Teri Allery of North Dakota State University and his fellows titled ‘Solar Street Lighting: Using Renewable Energy for Safety for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa’ in 2018, street lighting has been around “since humans began living together.”

In their study, researchers explain different ways used to light the streets as early as 500 BC saying “the ancient Romans used oil lamps filled with vegetable oil in front of their homes. In 1802, William Murdock used a gas light fuelled with coal gas.”

Although Lindi has various sources of power, including gas, for the case of sustainability, the municipal has changed from traditional way of lighting its streets to embark on renewable energy

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