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Friday, 26th January 2024

The unexpected benefits of solar... going beyond simply providing light

By Nicole Littlejohn

Today we celebrate International Day of Clean Energy, reflecting on Project Masoandro (sun in Malagasy). Through this project, SEED is working to support isolated communities in accessing clean energy, electrifying the country’s Anosy region. 

In addition to ranking among the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar also grapples with some of the lowest rates in electricity access with a mere 10.9% of the population in rural communities having an electrical light source1. In partnership with Jiro-Ve, a Madagascar-based social enterprise specialising in solar installation and service provision, Project Masoandro is striving to alleviate energy poverty in the rural southeast Anosy region. In response to the critical need for electricity, the Solar Schools Pilot was launched in May 2023, targeting two SEED-built primary schools: Emagnevy and Esohihy. At each site a solar system was installed to the ’light libraries’ with rentable solar power banks and LED lights aimed at lengthening teaching time during the winter months and the students’ ability to complete homework. 

Man standing next to a bike in front of a light library
Project Masoandro franchisee for Emagnevy Delson, in front of the light library. 

In the early stages of the pilot, a community meeting was hosted at each solar site introducing the solar system that had been installed at the local primary school. These events not only promoted the use of the new solar power banks and LED lights, but also marked the official opening of the light libraries where they could be rented. Mural paintings on the school walls further enhanced community understanding of solar energy, emphasising its positive impact on education. Alongside the delivery of solar energy, a green energy syllabus was introduced and delivered to students on key topics including the environment, climate change, solar energy and its benefits. 

Solar School in Esohihy mural
“It’s good to have light in the house; it is easier to educate students” read the murals at Emagnevy and Esohihy EPP (Primary Schools).

To assess project impact, the SEED team conducted surveys at the two active solar sites in October. Over the span of two days a series of interviews were carried out involving a total of 32 students, two head teachers, and six teachers as well as four focus group sessions with 16 light library users. The beneficiaries were asked about their experiences and opinions regarding the solar service, as well as general feelings towards the project in the community. The outcomes of the interviews highlighted the project’s tangible benefits. Students noted extended study hours, teachers observed improved homework quality, and the community at large reported increased opportunity to carry out income-generating activities in the evenings. Particularly women cooking food and mahampy weaving highlighted the advantages of Project Masoandro, expressing that “the (LED) light enables [us] to spend more time weaving at night and it is much easier than with the kerosene lamp”. In addition, several teachers expressed increased confidence in assigning homework to their students, acknowledging that the presence of LED lights would make completing these tasks significantly easier. More than 384 households, previously dependent on kerosene—a gas lamp associated with potential health risks—are now utilising solar energy, a more cost effective and green alternative.  

As we move into Phase Two, SEED has held community meetings to introduce the project to the next community who will be supported with the move to solar power: Vatambe EPP (Primary School). The next phase will also see the expansion of solar systems at the existing two sites, aiming to reach deeper into the communities and expanding access to affordable and clean energy to as many households as possible. SEED has also created a solar movie, which will be shown to the communities to bolster demand and encourage product ‘care and maintenance’. On its current timeline, an estimated 2,000 households will have an LED light at home and have experienced the positive impact of solar energy during the first two years. 

Project Masoandro stands as a testament to the transformative power of clean energy. Illuminating lives in Madagascar's rural communities, the project goes beyond providing light, making strides in education and livelihoods. As we celebrate this International Day of Clean Energy, initiatives like Project Masoandro serve as an example of how solar energy can bring about holistic and sustainable change in the quest for a brighter future. 



1. World Bank, (2020). Access to Electricity - Madagascar. Available at: