Let there be light
“When you go to Makoko, you will fall in love,” Victor Udeozor tells us. Victor is a PhD student and coordinator of the Liter of Light Nigeria project. Their aim is to give sustainable light to communities like Makoko that rely on kerosene lamps or are living in darkness.
Makoko is an impoverished neighbourhood, sitting above the polluted waters around the Nigerian city of Lagos. The people of Makoko are happy and high-spirited. But their sunny exterior hides a reality of poverty and a distant threat of their homes being demolished by Nigerian authorities.
According to UNESCO figures, over 1.5 billion people across the world have no access to electric light. The Liter of Light project aims to provide a local solution to this global problem. The team of nine students and volunteers have developed solar powered ‘light bottles’. Fitted with a solar panel and an LED bulb, the bottles can charge during the day and provide light in the hours of darkness.
Last year, they installed around 100 light bottles in Makoko and trained young residents to build the units. Within a month of their departure, those trained on the visit had already trained 20 more residents to assemble the lights.
Thanks to your donations to Cascade – our student project fund – Liter of Light Nigeria is one of 39 projects in the UK and around the world that have been supported in the last year.
Victor’s light bulb moment
“I came across the solar light bottle idea at the UN Youth Assembly. My dream is to work with a large international organisation so the UN Youth Assembly was a great opportunity. Illac Diaz, founder of the MyShelter Foundation, gave a talk on how they were pioneering the Liter of Light project in the Philippines. I knew straight away how powerful it was and as soon as I returned I wanted to pursue it in Nigeria.”
The light bottle itself is an ingenious use of readily available materials. The original designs use water inside the plastic bottles to refract light and are fixed to the ceiling. The Nottingham team redesigned the light bottle for portability. Every part of the light bottle has a unique purpose, from the pipe housing the electronic components, to the bottle protecting the LED bulb.
“We want to create a social enterprise around this idea, so we’re not just helping communities but also upskilling the people within it.”
“Making the light portable means that fishermen in Makoko can take it out fishing at night. They loved it – charging it in the day with the solar panel and then using the stored power for light at night. It made a big difference to them.
“Children were also using it to read at night and once they were done, parents would borrow it from them. Because it’s lightweight and portable, like a torch – it’s very useful.”
Time in the spotlight
This may not be the first time you’ve heard about this project. Victor’s drive and ambition to make a difference has gained publicity with appearances on BBC news, Wake Up Nigeria and Nigerian evening news.
“I turned into a popular person overnight! The team too, everybody got media attention. It gave us a lot of credibility.”
The media attention hasn’t diverted their focus. Victor is as passionate about the future as he is about the project’s recent success.
“The whole community came together when we left – playing music for us, singing and dancing. All we did was provide light for them – that’s how something small can make a difference.
“We were delighted to receive a letter from the son of the community leader on behalf of the Makoko community expressing their gratitude and thanking us for our efforts. It meant a lot to us.
“I would love for this to go from small lights to street lights, and maybe to mini-grids. We want to create a social enterprise around this idea, so we’re not just helping communities but also upskilling the people within it.
“The people of Makoko tell you, ‘we don’t need pity, we just need love’. Our project is all about empowering the people and sharing the love.”
Thank you to everyone who supports our Cascade student project fund. Your generosity is the catalyst that helps forward-thinking projects like Liter of Light Nigeria to become a reality. Keep sharing the love - find out more about Cascade
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