GCU helps Scotland to light up Malawi

29 May 2014

Studying by solar in Malawi, Jerry Barnett

Studying by solar in Malawi, Jerry Barnett

Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Centre for Climate Justice is to play a key role in a campaign encouraging communities in Malawi to replace dangerous and costly kerosene lamps, batteries and candles with environmentally friendly solar lighting that helps families to tackle poverty.

Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group, which includes GCU, Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) and charity SolarAid, which runs a social enterprise in Malawi, has received £200,000 of Scottish Government funding to act as project partners and help deliver the “Scotland Lights up Malawi” awareness and fundraising campaign.

It will last for 20 months and 20 days and will seek to raise a further £2020k, more than £2m, from Scotland’s public sector, private businesses and individuals, as well as increasing awareness of the issue of climate justice.

The announcement comes after International Development experts gathered at GCU for the first in a series of stakeholder events, organised by GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice, to focus on gathering the best evidence to inform work in this area.

Fewer than one in ten of Malawi’s 16 million people have access to the electricity grid and rely on kerosene lamps, torches, candles and light sticks, which burn sea grass for light. Kerosene lamps produce toxic smoke, are costly – consuming a large proportion of family income which locks communities into poverty – and can be dangerous.

Andrew Webb, SolarAid managing director, said: “With a solar light families tell us that their children study for longer, the whole family is healthier and money previously spent on kerosene, batteries and candles is diverted to school costs, food and in support of their livelihoods.”

The project will see SolarAid run a social enterprise in Malawi, SunnyMoney, selling and promoting solar lighting; GCU researchers measuring the project’s impact on communities in Malawi; and KSB working with schools in Scotland to raise awareness of the scheme and the wider challenges posed by climate change.

GCU’s Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice, said:“Climate Justice is key to the research programme because solar light, as a potential source of clean energy, can be used to indicate how the developed nations of the North can contribute to addressing climate challenges of the future by introducing new forms of technology which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help to establish what climate justice looks like, feels like and what this means to people in Malawi.”

The project’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the eradication of kerosene lamps, batteries and candles in Malawi by 2020. 

Ian Marchant, chair of Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group, said: "Scotland has a rich heritage in both energy and technology and it is time we put these advantages to work for those who will be most affected by climate change."