19 April 2012 – A recent project undertaken by the Washington DC based Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) non profit group in Benin, saw the creation of a solar-powered combination water pump and drip irrigation system to increase food security. Essentially no food grew in the area during the dry season, so a solution had to ensure a steady supply during those months. The solar-powered system has dramatically increased the region’s supply. As a result 20% of food produced is consumed, and 80% is sold to market.
SELF partners with local governments, non-governmental organisations and industries to create solutions tailored to the needs of the local people, with an emphasis on bringing entire village communities out of the cycle of poverty.
Robert Freling, SELF’s executive director, says. “Developing countries have a serious desire to catch up and bring a sense of modernity to their lives. Solar technology offers them the hope of joining the 21st century global community.” He says the solar market garden in Benin has provided income that pays for medical treatment.
SELF was founded in 1990, though its mission has evolved from its initial focus on home lighting solutions to a wider range of projects, including medical clinics, small businesses and wireless communications. Current projects are mostly centred in sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti, working to generate incomes and empower communities.
SELF doesn’t develop technologies. Rather, it implements products that are sold off the shelf with the help of funding from its government and NGO partners.