According to the United Nations, over 25 percent of the world's population lives without access to electricity. In Cambodia, that number is estimated to be over 70 percent. Living in a rural area without access to electricity can be dark and dangerous.
While traveling in Cambodia and taking pictures for various nonprofits, I met employees of KamWorks, a Dutch social enterprise which focuses on bringing solar power to rural areas. They have recently completed a design project in collaboration with the rural Cambodians it is meant to serve, and the result is the “Moonlight,” a small solar-powered LED lantern, which they have started manufacturing in a small solar powered facility in a fishing village an hour outside of the capital, Phnom Penh.
I went to visit their facility and the fishing villages around it, which have become the first areas to adopt the Moonlight for everyday use. Traditionally, for tasks like cooking, eating, and reading after dark villagers would rely on kerosene lanterns, but these posed a serious fire risk as most of their houses are built from wood and straw. The Moonlight was designed to be a safe, affordable, sustainable alternative.
The $25 price tag is too expensive for most Cambodians to afford, so KamWorks is working with entrepreneurs in individual villages to set up a rental system. Families can now rent the Moonlight for less than $.08 a day, the same amount traditionally spent on a night's kerosene.
KamWorks believes that solar energy could be a “leap technology,” bringing the benefits of power to the billion people without access to it.