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SolarAid: The Charity Combatting Climate Change and Poverty with Solar Power

SolarAid is an international development charity that works in sub-Saharan Africa to deliver solar energy to rural, hard-to-reach places where people are living without access to electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 600 million people currently live without energy access.

We spoke with Sofia Ollvid, Communications Director at SolarAid, to learn more about the impact of energy poverty on communities and how solar lights can be a game-changer for people and the planet.

Q: Can you tell us about SolarAid and what your charity does?

Sofia: "SolarAid is a charity that works in sub-Saharan Africa to deliver solar energy to rural hard-to-reach places where people are living without access to electricity. We work mainly with smaller handheld solar lights that families can keep in their homes. This means that people can still work after the sun sets, children can study, and in general, people feel safe at night-time."

Q: How does SolarAid help to combat energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa?

Sofia: "Access to solar lights also means that people do not have to burn toxic fuels in their homes. We are seeing that a lot of people use kerosene lamps or paraffin candles that are both hazardous to the environment and create indoor air pollution, and can be very toxic to people's health. By giving access to solar lights, families have a clean and safe alternative for lighting at night-time."

Q: What is your role at SolarAid, and how do you spread awareness about energy poverty?

Sofia: "As the Communications Director, my job is to create greater awareness around the massive issue of energy poverty but also to create awareness around the amazingly simple solution that is a solar light. We need more people to know about the big issue, that is energy poverty but also that there is an incredible invention that could be a real game-changer both for people and the planet. We do this by creating awareness campaigns, working on our digital channels and the website, gathering case studies and visual content from all the work on the ground so that we can show the impact that solar lighting is having on rural communities."

Image Credit: SolarAid

Q: Can you tell us about the urgent need to address energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa?

Sofia: "The lack of energy access is urgent. People living without access to energy become very vulnerable because, without energy access or light in their home, economic activity, as well as education, gets limited. Because we’re focusing on people in the hardest-to-reach places, they are some of the most vulnerable populations, so these are communities that have contributed least to climate change but keep facing the effects that we are now seeing. The clock is ticking. There are only seven years left to go for the world to deliver on the sustainable development goals. What we are seeing and as it currently stands, the world will not achieve this."

Q: How does climate change impact SolarAid's work, and what is your response to extreme weather events?

Sofia: "We are seeing extreme weather events increase. For example, both in Malawi and Zambia, there has been flooding and drought, and these events also affect energy distribution and decrease energy access. When an extreme weather event occurs, the first thing that we do is ensure that the staff and agents that we work with are safe. Secondly, we look at if we can add value and if there are any organisations that we can partner with so that we can bring lighting to the affected communities. SolarAid believes in partnership, so we believe that we need to come together, and this is a very clear instance where partnerships are vital. In the mid-long term, we always need to analyse roots because roads can be blocked, and this might affect our operations in how we can deliver stock to the communities.”

To find out more about SolarAid, click here.

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