Fishermen find solace in solar light, a boost for a mega catch

Janet Siguda, solar technician and Sori solart Hub manager holds an O- box Solar battery to be recharged. [Picture: Fred Deya]
Janet Siguda, solar technician and Sori solart Hub manager holds an O- box Solar battery to be recharged. [Picture: Fred Deya]

Before rowing vessels into the lake, fishermen are always keen to consider a reliable source of light, a factor for a mega catch.

This is a work principle that is well adopted by Alfred Makari, one of the fishermen at Sori Beach which lies in the southern part of fresh water Lake Victoria on Kenya’s side.

Makari who has been a fisherman for many years says that the use of pressure-lantern, the common mode of lighting among fishermen, has been a challenge and non-reliable as he executes his work in the roaring lake at night.

“I have for many years used the kerosene powered pressure lamp but it is not reliable and precise because it is expensive and easily blown off by heavy wind in the lake,” says Makari.

Speaking to Reject Newspaper as he points out the 17 years old solar plant near the lake, Makari says this has been his substantial alternative, thanks to ‘Light for Life Solar Company’ and their innovative move.

The solar project that was installed near the lake shows has seen a good number of fishermen and Sori inhabitants live a clean energy revolution, a dream that has taken decades to comprehend.

The fisherman could not hold back his pride but applauded the clean energy, lucrative enterprise.

“The solar project has helped me save KS200 daily in terms of lighting expenses,” explains Makari. “I nearly lost hope on my work because I used to spend over KSh600 daily to purchase paraffin for my lamps with little or sometimes no catch.”

He explains: “Things have changed since I started using solar powered lamps to execute my night task.”

Makari notes the difference in his expenses since he started using the solar energy.

“I use only KSh100 to charge each of my four O-Box solar batteries daily which is cheap and more reliable because the water-resistant solar lamps are not easily blown off by heavy tides in the lake,” Makari expounds.

The fish vendor observes that the solar project has made him to extend his business up to his homestead.

At home he has got a 100W solar panel, lighting his house and charging his mobile phone and for his clients. He pockets about KSh00 daily from phone charging.

This is lucrative because he uses the amount of money to charge his O-Box solar battery used in the lake.

Apart from lighting the environs on fishing, the beam of light entices fish, therefore they come closer to the light source, hence the catch.

The 72 solar panels-plant (240W each panel) is depended on by many residents in terms of homesteads lighting, charging their mobile phones and operating their small businesses.

The Sori Hub Solar Project was one of the projects initiated in the country that majorly targeted lake regions.

According to Janet Siguda, the Hub’s manager and solar technician, the project has been helpful to the Sori community and fishermen.

“There are a number of positive reports registered from fishermen who are using our solar equipment in terms of fish catch returns as compared to when they were using pressure lamps,” notes Siguda.

According to Siguda, the company leases Solar O-Box batteries and lamps to fishermen at an affordable price of KSh3000 which is refundable upon returning without damage.

She says that the O-boxes are freely maintained for the clients (fishermen), a move that is also advantageous for poor fish venders.

“I can site improvements in terms of power access among Sori residents since the installation of the project,” observes Siguda.

Further saying that the company has been keen to consider the income of each and every household, therefore, we sell to them the solar panels at an affordable price.

“For example 25W solar panel goes for only KSh3100 which is a fair price for low income earners,” explains Siguda.

Up to now, about 20 fishermen have adapted the use of O-box Solar battery that powers solar lamps that are used in the lake at night during fishing.

Amid the rapid population growth in the country, access to energy is still a pipe dream as only 20 percent of Kenya’s population have access to clean energy with the remaining relying on either kerosene or wood fuel for lighting and cooking.

“Kenya has great potential for the access and use of solar energy throughout the year due to its location near the equator, however, the potential to trap the natural energy should be a concern from both the government and solar experts,” says Lamarck Oyath, Managing Director and energy expert at Lartech Africa Limited, a technology and consultancy firm.

Oyath says access to solar energy in the country is still wanting as only one percent of its energy comes from solar.

“The adaptability of the use of solar energy in the country depends on individual understanding and knowledge about the natural energy,” says Oyath. He adds: “There is solar regulatory program which aims at rolling out solar technology in the country.”

According to Oyath, the initiative will see all households using 100 litres of water a day have a solar.

For fishermen and community at Sori, solar energy is a turning point to a big benefit, not just because of energy it provides but a one-time investment with little cost of maintenance.

A solar plant can run for 20 years in operation under minimum maintenance.

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