Solar lanterns provide economical, high-quality lighting in developing countries. Solar lanterns are made available to rural homes by a variety of organizations, including social entrepreneurs, as an alternative to candles or kerosene lamps. is Hope For A Better Future (H4BF) is one of the most successful of these organizations.

H4BF, a social enterprise operating in the North West region of Cameroon, is dedicated to eradicating energy poverty through the economic empowerment of women. In addition to economically empowering its women entrepreneurs, the business model of H4BF also cultivates sales networks built on trust in last-mile distribution methods.

While H4BF has undertaken research on its numerous entrepreneurs in the past, it has lacked data on its end clients. In 2020, a research team from Hope For A Better Future Vocational Training Institute (HOBEFI) undertook survey research with H4BF to examine the effects of solar lantern use on users’ health, education, time allocation, household savings, income generation, and increased agency. The research team conducted a 53-question survey in more than 15 villages with Ako and Misaje in the North West region of Cameroon, with research assistants providing English- Ncane, Nsari, Kemezung, Bebe Mungong translation in Misaje and Mbembe in Ako translation.

The results of the survey show that the effects of solar lanterns on end users are significantly more extensive and far-reaching than simply providing light. Students have a reliable, bright light to utilize for their studies, and their grades have improved significantly as a result of using solar lanterns. Families are relieved of the damaging health effects from kerosene and no longer risk burns and home fires from kerosene lamps. Households experience financial benefits by ceasing the use of costly kerosene, growing existing businesses, and starting new businesses. Furthermore, because of the improved lighting hours and the elimination of travel time to buy kerosene, people have more time in their day. Some solar lanterns can charge cell phones in addition to providing light. All of these advantages add up to fundamental changes in people’s feeling of agency and power.

The information and anecdotes offered here are meant to shed light on the potential for solar lanterns to enhance livelihoods in rural Cameroon and elsewhere.


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