Pedaling for Light – Nuru’s Sustainable Solutions

How do you bring lighting to the 98.6% of rural Rwandan households that have no access to electricity?  The answer is entrepreneurship, micro finance,  pedal powered generators, portable pod lights, and an innovative company called Nuru (Swahili for light).

With an award from the World Bank’s Lighting Africa competition, Nuru spent the past year working directly with rural Rwandans, co-creating the first commercially viable pedal generator to bring renewable lighting to areas currently dependent on kerosene lamps.  The concept is an innovative, efficient, healthy, and environmentally friendly way to bring market based solutions to the one third of the global population living in poverty – a staggering 2 billion people.

Nuru power cycle charges 4 lights after 20 minutes of peddling.

Nuru power cycle charges 4 lights after 20 minutes of pedaling.

Kerosene lamps are the primary source of light when night falls in the underdeveloped regions of the world.  Light generated from kerosene is expensive, unhealthy, environmentally unfriendly, and dangerous.  The World Bank estimates that “women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent smoke from two packs of cigarettes per day.”  Scared hands and faces from burn accidents are testament to the dangers.  With Nuru’s pedal power lighting system, the dangers of kerosene are eliminated and the cost per unit of light is 20 time less.

Wanting to get it right, Nuru worked directly with the experts on poverty, the poor themselves. Over the last year they gave their pedal powered technology to the people who will be using it, solicited feedback, made design changes, and did over again for four rounds of testing and improvement. The finished units are now being brought to market.

A control panel on the front of the Nuru power cycle indicates when charging is complete.

A control panel on the front of the Nuru power cycle indicates when charging is complete.

The business model is multifaceted.  With help from microfinance, an economically disenfranchised villager is given a loan to buy 200 light pods (Portable On Demand light) and one power cycle (pedal generator).  He or she is now an entrepreneur.  The pods are sold individually to people of their village and nearby areas. Cost benefit savings over kerosene make for easy customers. Each sale creates a satisfied consumer and a new client for the entrepreneur. One charge from 20 minutes of pedaling last 30-40 hours depending on whether the light is used on the low or high setting (one or two led’s).  When the power is depleted, owners pay a small fee for recharging.

Formerly unemployed, Innocent is now an entrepreneur bringing sustainable light to his fellow villagers in Rwanda.

Formerly unemployed, Innocent is now an entrepreneur bringing sustainable light to his fellow villagers in Rwanda.

Copyright 2009 Adam Bacher.  Absolutely no usage without prior authorization.

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Adam Bacher
Adam Bacher
When your vision becomes a reality, how will you tell your story? I’m a commercial photographer and photojournalist based in Portland, Oregon, since 1991. I specialize in commercial location photography for businesses. The majority of this work is for architectural, corporate, editorial, and public relations clients, and appears in a variety of print and electronic media. You can view samples online at: www.adambacher.com. Since 2007 I’ve been taking a month each year to devote my time towards humanitarian missions. Three trips have taken me to Rwanda, for a project documenting the countries recovery from the genocide in 1994, which claimed the lives of one-million people in the course of 100 days. Images and stories from the places I visited are featured on my blog site at: www.bachersblog.com. This November, I’m going to Haiti for 4 weeks, to help two non-profits working tirelessly to save and rebuild lives following the earthquake in 2010. As well as donating my still and video images, I plan to create a traveling print exhibit, and a multi-media educational presentation to build awareness and remind us of Haiti's needs. If you’re interested in project please see this link: http://igg.me/p/44329?a=249927&i=shlk My commercial work makes this humanitarian effort possible. I exhibit and speak nationally, offering a provocative visual and journalistic insight into contemporary Rwanda and the recovery, reconciliation, and reconstruction of the of the country. This message of hope, peace, and diversity, has been enthusiastically received at peace conferences, corporate gatherings, and in public schools. Specialties All aspects of location photography including: Architectural, Corporate, Editorial, People, Public Relations, Travel and Photojournalism. .
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  • tejas joseph

    i work with a non profit whose core activity is developing rural lighting solutions..we whet and scan numerous products to recommend to NGOs who are in the field working with many marginalized groups that have no electricity in their homes…charging is an issue we grapple with! unlike in africa – where nuru has made some remarkable headway – where pedal devices are socially accepted and successful,we,here in india, are looking more to solar as chief power source.. maybe we should also turn our attention to developing more home grown captive mechanical energy devices .??..after all the bicycle and its variants are ubiquitous to both africa and india..
    i was also impressed with the rural enterprise dynamics made possible by the Nuru lights and their satellite systems. we hope to refer your success stories to one of our NGO partners to seed inspiration..good job Nuru..thanks for lighting the way..!!

  • Bekri M. Nuru

    My name is Bekri M. Nuru.

    I reside in Washington DC the United States of America. When I saw what Mr. Adam Bacher did with padiling to genarate Elecricity I was impressed.

    Please tell me more I may be of a great help to you.

    Best Regards,
    Bekri M Nuru

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