by Daniel Schnitzer
Walk around a Haitian town’s “centre ville” at night, and the scene will not vary widely. You will see dark streets - some paved, many dirt - a few bodegas lit by private generators, and vendor after vendor selling produce, snacks or toiletries by kerosene lamp on the ground or on a table. You will also see students - scores of students of all ages - studying on the church steps, the street corner, or under the overhanging roof of a bar or bodega; anywhere they can find a bright electric light.
It is difficult to fathom the pent-up demand for affordable, reliable electric lighting in Haiti. To see it first hand is shocking - it just doesn’t compute. We can rehash the issue of why so much money is wasted on low-quality fuels when solutions exist so many times, but it doesn’t change the reality.
A few vendors are lucky enough to have received solar electric lamps as gifts from family or friends in America, as it is impossible to buy such a lamp here. I spoke with three women who were selling their wares at night by the illumination of their BoGo lights. These three women have had their lamps for 6, 12 and 24 months, and they are still working in fine condition.
SunNight Solar, the company that makes the BoGo light, has recently entered into a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative called Light Haiti. This program will bring some 500,000 BoGos into the country for dissemination by non-profit organizations. EarthSpark International is in the process of becoming an implementing partner. I brought six BoGo lights with me on this trip to test out, and have so far given one to the night security guard at Jatropha Pepinye - a 20Ha Jatropha plantation and biodiesel demonstration facility.