Background: Use of Kerosene for Lighting

Among the poorest of the poor, lighting is one of their largest household expenses, typically accounting for 10-15% of total household income. Kerosene lamps provide low quality and very expensive light. They introduce multiple health and environmental hazards, as well as a significant fire risk.

Because electricity is unavailable and/or unaffordable for most rural households in Tanzania residents of rural regions use kerosene for lighting. Approximately 1,400,000 households, over eight million people, in the Lake District of Tanzania use kerosene or wood for lighting their homes and businesses. Kerosene-based lighting is inefficient, expensive, dangerous and unhealthy.

In addition to health risks, kerosene creates a dangerous fire hazard. Kerosene and candles cause countless fire catastrophes every year. In 1998, there were 282,000 deaths from fire related burns worldwide and 96% of the fatalities were in developing countries. Each year, many homes and even entire communities burn to the ground when a lamp is toppled. The light provided by a kerosene lamp is not very bright. The light is only 2 to 4 lumens compared to a 60 watt bulb with 900 lumens. The amount of light from the lamp is only about 0.2% of what the people in industrialized countries have for the same price. The light is so poor that children can only see their books if they are almost directly over the flame. Parents and children can only practice very basic reading and writing skills after dark when they are dependent the inconsistent and poor light provided by kerosene wick lamps and wood fires. Kerosene lamps and improper lighting create a barrier to education and learning.

Solution: Clean, Efficient Technologies

Recent cost and efficiency improvements in LEDs have made it possible to create affordable, efficient and long-lasting lighting systems powered with small solar panels and maintenance-free, rechargeable batteries.

Solar lights bring the promise of clean, portable, durable, lower cost, and higher quality lighting. The challenge is to make these products accessible to the rural households of Tanzania, thus bolstering local commerce, creating jobs, enhancing incomes, cleaning the air, and improving health, safety, and quality of life. The income generating potential is limited to selling the excess crops they can grow and get to market. While education programs are a government focus, there are still no jobs. Electric light is one of the most important elements for increasing personal productivity, which is the key to economic growth, and reduction in the level of poverty.


Because the low energy requirement of LED lighting has decreased the energy needed for lighting, much of the population in extreme poverty can afford solar lighting, although a payment plan might still be required. The first solar lighting product that TanzSolar is introducing throughout the region has a price of approximately $40. The only maintenance is battery replacement every year or two. The lights offset the need for kerosene lanterns and the money saved on kerosene will be much greater than the cost of maintaining the batteries. The cost of these basic lighting systems is equal to the cost of a few months worth of kerosene.

Benefits - Modern lighting can:

  • Extend the working day for small and medium enterprises thus expanding production, enriching income opportunities, improving working conditions, and increasing customers
  • Enhance safety and security via outdoor lighting for personal, business, and community activities
  • Create conditions to attract teachers, retain students, expand time for student reading and studying, and improve grades and school retention rates
  • Provide opportunities for adult literacy and higher education programs
  • Improve health services delivery and thus reduce productivity loss due to illnesses


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