Our “Barter” Approach

Solar Circle partners with a local women’s organization in Masasi to distribute solar appliances to villagers in the surrounding district. Joyce Liundi is the project’s Masasi-based manager. The Masasi project operates on a barter system: villagers participate in community construction projects to “earn” the solar lamps for their families. Our solar lamp program does not provide any money for the community service projects; instead, lamps are traded for services and labor.

Joyce enlists the cooperation and agreement of village leaders, leaving it to the village to choose whom most needs a home or other assistance. As the community chooses the project and the recipient, the villages are happy to participate. The beneficiaries are generally the most vulnerable families in the villages—orphans, the blind, the mentally infirm, and the elderly. The villages receive the benefit of the community construction projects, and the resident families have access to light during the nighttime.

The volunteer system is working very well. Over the past few years, Solar Circle has distributed more than 4,000 solar ovens and more than 2,500 solar lamps. In return for these lamps (and formerly ovens), people have built more than 400 houses and dug and fenced 300 latrines in rural Masasi District villages.

The houses are built of baked brick and roofed with bamboo and other leaves. Where the soil is adequately clay-like, we build brick houses. Where it is too sandy, we build wood frame houses packed with mud. Digging latrines is also important, as latrines affect the health and cleanliness of rural communities without access to running water. Lamps have become a very popular “currency.”