Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton students bring solar lights to Madagascar

Image caption The Right Light scheme has been introduced in rural areas of Madagascar

Families in Madagascar are benefiting from solar-powered lighting through a project set up by Southampton students.

The University of Southampton's SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) group set up a finance scheme to reduce the cost of the lights for rural families.

The Right Light scheme has meant 98 families have reduced their use of kerosene lighting.

Student Michael Austin said the scheme showed how students were "creating positive change in the world".

'Microcredit' scheme

Mr Austin came up with the idea after hearing about other "microcredit" schemes which provided funding for small-scale businesses.

The project aimed to make the solar lights, which cost £12 each, more affordable to families who may only earn £8 a month.

The team of 15 students raised the initial investment for the project by carrying out business consultancy work for the university.

The scheme provides loans to families, allowing them to pay 10% of the cost of the light in the first month followed by weekly repayments of 20p over the remaining 12 months.

Mr Austin said the solar lights allowed children to study in better light at night and without suffering health problems from fumes from kerosene lights.

Kerosene-powered lights are also a source of carbon dioxide emissions around the world.

The group also claims that among the 93 families taking part in the trial, household expenditure was reduced by 10%.

Mr Austin, a second-year Geography student said: "Right Light is innovative as it brings together micro finance and a product that is already capable of changing lives."

The students are planning to extend the scheme to allow entrepreneurs in Madagascar to start their own businesses by renting out the lamps.

The students worked with Feedback Madagascar, a UK-based charity and solar lamps manufacturer Tough Stuff.

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