A suite of mobile solar-powered lamps have completely changed the lives of hundreds of villagers in Mali. Approximately 90 per cent of the desert country’s residents lack access to an electrical grid, such that many children are unable to learn after dark and mothers stay up late using the light of paraffin lamps to complete their daily chores. So Italian architect Matteo Ferroni devised a solution that could be easily replicated by locals.
Ferroni spent two years studying Mali’s villages and came up with a plan to help illuminate them in a way that would be sustainable.
With year-round sunshine scorching the desert sands, solar energy seemed like a good fit, but importing panels from China definitely wasn’t.
Ferroni observed welders who make donkey carts the way they’ve been made for hundreds of years in a village called Cinzana, which lies roughly 300km north of the capital Bamako.
Applying the same tricks and tools used to construct the carts, the villagers crafted these wonderful solar-powered lamps out of bicycle parts and plumbing pipes that can be sourced from just about any Mali village.
Completely mobile, the solar lamps are easily transported as needed.
“Wherever we need the lamp to be, we just move it,” says Assitan Coulibaly, who is the wife of nearby Sanogolo’s chief told The Guardian.
“When other villages need light for any occasion they borrow it and go for the ceremony and bring it back,” says the chief. “They have to pay to know the value of the lights.”
To date, 62 lamps have been built in this way, essentially extending the day without significant outlays or undue environmental harm. Albeit “primitive,” even one lamp has extraordinary ripple benefits as it enables women to continue work necessary to generate additional funds for their families long after the sun has set.
And because the design fits the bill of the City to City Barcelona FAD (El Foment de les Arts i el Disseny/Support for Art and Design) award as an initiative that literally transforms communities, the University of Barcelona contributed funds to the project.
Called Foroba Yelen or Collective Light by local women, these patchwork lamps demonstrates the transformative quality of thoughtful design geared towards improving the quality of life of people living in otherwise hostile climes.
:: The Guardian