Unite to Light commits to sending 10,000 solar products to Nicaragua. Nicaragua, a country in Central America, spends a large portion of its GDP on fossil fuel and has an ambitious energy policy goal. By 2028, the country states that 97% of its energy will come from renewable energy sources. Solar lights and solar cell phone chargers distributed in rural areas that are off the grid supports this renewable energy goal.
Unite to Light currently manufactures its products in China. The first product, UTL-1 (a small solar light suitable for reading and other task lighting), and the second product, UTL-C (a larger solar light that is three times brighter and contains a USB port and charging cable for recharging small electronics such as cell phones), have been distributed all over the world. With the assistance of Unite to Light's logistics partner, Trade Without Borders (TWB), products will be moved from the factories in mainland China to Hong Kong with all documentation prepared for shipment by ocean freight to partners in country. TWB will help identify a shipping company that can successfully move these pieces to the port in Nicaragua.
Unite to Light is seeking one or two partners in Nicaragua that will have an established system in place for rural distribution of these products. Ultimately, the solar lights and chargers will go to approximately 200 women who are set up to sell products and will generate income for these women. In the first distribution phase, each saleswoman will receive 25 UTL-1 solar lights and 2 UTL-C solar chargers. The selected partners will assist with importation of products from port, distribution to women in rural Nicaragua, and providing product education in the local language.
Each woman will be able to sell the small lights to generate ongoing income that in turn can be used to purchase more products. The designated partners will determine the most effective micro-enterprise model that supports the women selling the products and generates the appropriate revenue to purchase more products. The partners will work with the sales force to set the selling price for the small lights and to determine the price point for charging cell phones. Partners will conduct follow-up visits after one month to assess how many lights have been sold and the number of phone charges. Unite to Light staff will then meet with the partners, report on progress, and determine readiness to ship additional 5,000 pieces.
Unite to Light has identified three preferred partners that have expressed an interest in this project. It is likely that at least one of them will confirm its participation.
March 2015: Identify and secure a partner willing to take on this distribution for women
April 2015: Ship first 5,000 pieces to Nicaragua port
May 2015: Move products to women in country and begin education
June 2015: Begin sale of products by women in country
July 2015: Partner visits women sales force to determine how many lights sold, phones charged
Oct. 2015: Unite to Light staff to visit to monitor and report progress
Nov. 2015 Ship next 5,000 pieces to Nicaragua port
Jan. 2016: Move additional products to women in same locations and continue sales
May 2016: Conduct final assessment to determine how many lights sold, phones charged, price points successful; potential repeat if income generates profit to purchase more product.
Families that live off of the electric grid in rural Nicaragua currently use candles, kerosene lamps, wood, battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, and gas or diesel generators to see at night. All of these options are harmful to the environment and require ongoing financial inputs (fuel, batteries, and candles). With LED lights and photovoltaic cells, solar lights are both less costly and better for the environment than the other locally available alternatives. In addition to the lower cost and pollution levels associated with solar lighting, access to this resource allows all members of the family, especially girls and women, more flexibility with their time. Since women are traditionally tasked with collecting fuel, using solar lamps relieves them of this (sometimes) dangerous duty and avoids the injuries that accompany kerosene use.