Deforestation is rampant in northern Uganda. The timber is used for house construction and for fuel. The quest for wood is putting locals of the region against the more than 1 million refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in competition for this limited and precious resource.
Against this backdrop, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has long worked with residents to reduce demand for wood fuel and advance people’s energy security. The project’s efforts to improve bioenergy management and increase the use of energy efficient cooking technologies have the most direct impact on forest resources. But LWF also saw a need to promote solar lighting systems.
LWF knew that solar lamps would eliminate the black carbon emissions emitted by the kerosene lanterns they would replace as well as the household fires that they cause. Solar systems also would allow people to reduce their expenditures on lighting and phone charging, making them more financially secure. And the lights could be a high-tech drawing card for an otherwise low-tech intervention.
To fit all of the pieces together, LWF decided to offer a subsidy to purchase a solar lighting system to beneficiaries who planted trees. A true win-win.
Enter BrightLife, FINCA’s social enterprise in Uganda. Seeking an experienced solar distributor for the project, LWF teamed up with BrightLife. LWF provided the subsidy (up to 100,000 Ugandan shillings, or about $30, per household) and helped make introductions. BrightLife provided high-quality solar lighting technology, marketing acumen and after-sales support services.
In the first phase of the project, BrightLife disseminated several hundred lighting systems. LWF and BrightLife are now talking about a second round. There are few easy wins in the fight against deforestation, but BrightLife and LWF are only just getting started.