Afghanistan positionpaper
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Afghanistan positionpaper Afghanistan positionpaper Document Transcript

  • POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANThe United States and its NATO allies have joined together to bring peace, stability andeconomic development to Afghanistan. At the heart of the US/NATO strategy is theidea that, together with the Afghan government, the allies would put the needs of thepopulation first, thereby winning their hearts and minds and effecting real, positive,change in the country.We believe that lighting can be directly connected to achieving our strategic andoperational goals in Afghanistan – and do so with immediate results. More thanninety percent of Afghanistan is off of the power grid, with the unfortunate reality thatmost of the population lies waiting in darkness each night until the sun rises, because: • They have only the expensive options of kerosene or natural gas, candles and old fashioned flashlights, or wood or dung fires for illumination when the sun sets; • Generators can be used to create electricity; however, the high reoccurring fuel cost, risk of theft or IED attacks on the refueling convoys and negative environmental impact make widespread use impractical; • Crank or shake lights have poor performance, reliability issues and are not consumer friendly with physical action frequently required; • Fixed, home-scale solar installations are expensive, technically challenging to operate and have reliability and solar panel theft issues. Also, a fixed system does not allow for individual movement outside the home to socialize, use the latrine or take care of livestock, for example; • Large scale projects such as power stations and building of dams, transmission and distribution lines, and related infrastructure, take years to complete, and, during a war, are difficult to protect.This lack of light is neither inevitable nor necessary. If the US/NATO allies, togetherwith the Afghan government, could bring light quickly to the people of Afghanistan, theresult would be a profound, lasting and positive improvement in the lives of the Afghanpeople. Because of the availability of high performance, portable, solar powered lights,the US/NATO allies and the Afghan government have an extraordinary opportunity tomake such an impact on a speedy and economical basis.Affordable, reliable, high performance portable solar powered lights have only recentlybecome available due to scientific advances in three technologies – photovoltaics, lightemitting diodes (LEDs) and rechargeable batteries. SunNight Solar is the world leaderin this category – our BoGo Lights are simply technically and operationally the best onthe market. There is no better, nor more affordable, nor faster way to providesustainable and environmentally friendly off-grid lighting than the combination of these
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANthree technologies. By incorporating the most recent advances in these technologies inour BoGo Lights, SNS has been able to create something truly new – what Timemagazine called a “portable light bulb.” SNS believes that it has been the rapid rate ofimprovement in these technologies that helps explain why lighting has not been broadlyembraced as a developmental tool: in the past, this new and exciting option was simplynot available. But, it is available today, and should be implemented immediately inAfghanistan. Both President Hamid Karzai and President Barack Obama have made it clear: theobstacles facing Afghanistan demand a new way of thinking about the challenges whichface us, as well as changes in the management, resources and focus of assistance tothe people of Afghanistan. A light bulb in every kitchen, as well as lights in policestations and in medical clinics, will transform the night and change Afghanistan – fromthe bottom up. The SNS BoGo Lights allow people to take greater control of their ownlives – whether it is going to the latrine at night, reading to their children (or having theirchildren read to them!), or doing some extra work to increase their income. For them,as it is for us, lighting is empowerment.A recent U.S. National Defense University paper states: Providing lighting to everyAfghan house, school and business would have an enormous impact. It’s whatpeople say they want most, and one former Afghan cabinet minister described alight in every Afghan kitchen as being the most transformational single thing thatcould be done.We are in a race against time to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan population. Anumber of senior officials, both civilian and military, Afghan and American, have notedthat the next twelve to eighteen months are critical. The following points, taken from USpolicy papers and the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, define thechallenges; and we have commented on the impact lighting can have on thesechallenges. • The Afghan Central Government and the US/NATO allies suffer a lack of trust and credibility among the population and we must begin to win their confidence and persuade them we are there to help them. Afghan Ministries, non-governmental organizations, Provincial Reconstruction Teams and the US military forward operating bases can distribute lights directly to their local communities. Lights can also be provided to the population via village councils – all politics are local and, as General McChrystal has noted, this is a retail war. There is no other item we can provide to people in the developing world with a more immediate, personal and more lasting impact then giving them light. When people say they want electricity, they want light more than anything else a grid brings. The local communities will be appreciative and that appreciation will be long-lived, as the SNS BoGo Lights last for years prior to simple battery replacement, then Page 2
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANmore years with the fresh batteries. (BoGo Lights can last for as long astwenty years.) This is winning hearts and minds on a bottom-up, verypersonal basis. Distribution can be locale specific; direct donation in mostcases, meeting set goals in other areas or working with new or existing NGOor USAID programs related to education, health, or economic development, oras part of a micro-enterprise development effort.• We must increase the effectiveness of the local police and security forces.There are a number of reports which indicate that the enemy has old-fashioned flashlights, but the Afghan police, the Afghan Army and the recentlycommissioned Afghan Public Protection Force do not. Conceding the night tothe enemy, giving the enemy both maneuver and surprise, can be greatlynegated with hand held lighting carried by our allies. SNS proposes to equipthe police, army and local security forces with BoGo Lights – a flashlight thatis superior to that used by the enemy. With most IEDs being placed at night,having patrols with BoGo Lights will limit the enemy’s ability to deploy thesedevices. Equipping the local security forces with the ability to light the nightwill also reduce the incidence of common criminal activity and increase thepopulation’s safety and security.• We must provide assistance to farmers, weaning them away from the opium trade.There is considerable evidence that farmers experience many benefits fromlighting. With lighting, they can, for example, repair tools, prepare seedlings,keep records, move to farm land before daybreak and after the sun sets, andoperate irrigation systems at night. And, they can assist in the birthing oflivestock at night, resulting in more live births. All of this has huge, positiveimpacts on agriculture and on the life of farmers, a critical goal in Afghanistanwhere 70 percent of the population resides in rural areas. A recent newsarticle reported that, in the high summer heat in the southern provinces, manyfarmers worked in the evenings and at night; equipping them with light wouldincrease the productivity of their labor, and their safety.• We must deal with the issue of health – Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for a women to bear a child, among other health issues.In Africa and elsewhere, BoGo Lights are frequently used to assist in birthsand medical emergences at night. They are also used as back up lighting atclinics and hospitals when the grid fails or the generator is inoperative or outof fuel.• We must deal with the issue of corruption and the perception of corruption. Page 3
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANDistributing lights to create a lighting infrastructure, instead of distributingmoney for infrastructure projects, greatly reduces the opportunities for graftand corruption, especially if Americans are passing lights out directly to theirlocal communities. There is also no need for training or outside technicalexperts, further reducing the expense of standard assistance programs.• We must deal with the issue of gender inequality.BoGo Lights replace kerosene and natural gas lighting, eliminating the fumesfrom these sources. Women suffer disproportionately from the inhalation ofkerosene fumes due to in-home labors. According to the WHO, globally, 1.6million people die each year from bio-mass inhalation. Also, BoGo Lightsexpand women’s educational opportunities by facilitating home study.Because many women lose their lives when forced to give birth in darkness,BoGo Lights save lives, both mother and child.• We must deal with the lack of education. With 44 percent of the population under 14 years of age, and half the schools in the county closed, this is a huge challenge.Education is greatly enhanced by lighting; of all the benefits, education ismost commonly cited as the number one benefit of lighting. In many cases,children cannot read during the day due to field or cottage industry labor andnight is the only chance to read. Kerosene or natural gas lighting is tooexpensive and illiteracy is perpetuated. Our lights are perfect study lights,and many students can read with only one light in its room illumination mode,and we have many testimonials from around the world.• We must build up the local village councils. Both the Soviets and the Taliban marginalized these groups and they are the keystone to long term stability.Supplying lights to the local village councils empowers them and allows themto control the night, not giving it by default to the Taliban. Giving the localleadership lights allows them to better take care of their local consistenciesand demonstrates their care and concern, as well as that of the Afghangovernment and the US/NATO allies.• We must provide real economic assistance.With light, cottage industries and small shops can stay open later, allowing forgreater income. In Africa, Coca-Cola experiences, on average, a 30% increasein sales when a kiosk receives lighting. This has a huge impact. With BoGoLights providing additional hours for weaving, the carpet industry inAfghanistan could immediately expand. BoGo Lights also make it possible for Page 4
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANsmall shops, restaurants, etc. to stay open longer, increasing income andcommunity.• We must deal with internally displaced communities.Lighting is invaluable in refugee camps. SNS has worked closely with theUNHCR, which purchased 10,000 BoGo Lights last year for Dufar alone.Lighting, particularly, greatly increases the safety and security of women incamps.• We must work better together, military and civilian, Afghan and American, as well as with our international partners.Light is something everyone understands and can support – military andcivilian, American or NATO ally.• We must counter the enemy’s propaganda.Placing the message “Gift from the American People” on a BoGo Light helpscounter the enemy’s propaganda claims of US disregard for the population.Likewise, identifying the Ministry of Health or the Ministry for RuralDevelopment, for example, as the supplier of lights, will create the samefeelings of gratitude. It is hard to not appreciate a light, and the people whoprovided it to you, when it transforms your life in such a positive manner.Other messages or slogans in the local languages can be placed on the BoGoLights, using the lights as portable billboards. Also, small booklets, in thelocal languages, describing American values and our goals in Afghanistan,could be distributed with the lights.• We must put programs in place which have a clear and demonstrable benefit to the Afghan people, showing the media, Congress and the American people we are taking action.Providing BoGo Lights will be popular in the international media and with theAmerican and Afghan population – everyone can understand and supportlighting the night – creating a favorable reflection on the Afghan governmentand the US/NATO allies. One of the reasons SunNight Solar and our BoGoLights have received so much publicity is that the stories of the impact ofthese lights are so personal, accessible, dramatic and positive. Tens ofthousands of BoGo Lights have been purchased by Americans to be given asgifts to people in developing countries who need light. More tens ofthousands of BoGo Lights have been purchased by humanitarianorganizations and NGO’s for people in the developing countries who needlight. The favorable publicity BoGo Lights will generate for Afghanistan willbuild on a well-established foundation of other favorable stories and reports. Page 5
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANAs an example of attention to this area, attached as Appendix A is a recent articlewritten by Congressman Steve Israel and Dr. Isobel Coleman, of the US Council onForeign Relations, on off grid lighting.Perhaps the best summary of what BoGo Lights can do appeared in an editorial in theNew York Times about SunNight Solar: May 25, 2007 Lighting the WaySometimes thinking small can get things done. To bring artificial light to an isolatedvillage or refugee camp could require building an enormous hydroelectric dam, followedby laying hundreds of miles of cable. Or it could take the donation of a $10 solarflashlight.As Will Connors and Ralph Blumenthal reported in The Times recently, theentrepreneur Mark Bent, through his company SunNight Solar, has developed andmanufactured a solar-powered flashlight that gives up to seven hours of light, beforerecharging, and can last close to three years between battery replacements. Theflashlight retails for around $20 in American stores, but corporate donors have gottenthem for aid groups at half the price, a deep discount but still a profit for Mr. Bent.One might be tempted to ask whats the big deal about a flashlight? In America theyoften sit under car seats for years without being used, or are the object of fruitlesssearching when the power goes out.Artificial light is among the easiest things for people in the developed world to take forgranted. But to those living off the grid -- a number approaching 2 billion peopleworldwide -- access to a safe, affordable source of light can be life-changing. Theproductive day stretches past sunset to allow students to do schoolwork or smallvendors to extend their selling hours. Light means added safety, whether at home ortraveling alone, particularly for women. As a replacement for kerosene and wood fires,the flashlights are a boon for the environment.As technologies advance, people in wealthy countries carry ever smaller computers inknapsacks and phones in their pockets. But the same advances bring simple, ruggedtechnologies like the solar torch within reach of the poor. The brightest minds shouldntbe afraid to think incrementally. Often thats where you find the best results. ####What is needed now is for the many parties working for the good of Afghanistan toembrace the role of lighting in making a positive impact on the lives of the Afghan Page 6
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANpeople and to make a commitment to immediate action to realize this vision.Specifically, what is needed is the • engagement of the NGO community in developing these concepts and incorporating BoGo Lights into their existing programs, and into new programs; • incorporation of the distribution of BoGo Lights into the US/NATO military strategy and tactical operations; • incorporation of BoGo Lights into the USAID health, education, economic development, women’s empowerment, housing and other programs; • endorsement and engagement of the Afghan government in developing and defining their needs for BoGo Lights and their distribution plans, and communicating those needs to the US/NATO allies, to the NGO community and to the people of the world, especially the American people; and • greater publicity on the availability of a lighting solution that can have an immediate, positive impact on the Afghan people that will help the US/NATO allies and the Afghan government achieve their common goals for a peaceful, more prosperous, more stable Afghanistan.This position paper has been prepared by SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC, Houston,Texas, as of August 17, 2009. Page 7
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTAN Rep. Steve Israel & Dr. Isobel Coleman 13 July 2009Roll Back the Darkness in a Sustainable, Cost Effective WayImagine a U.S. development program that can dramatically improve global health --even saving 4,000 lives a day. It can significantly reduce violence against women. It canhelp combat the effects of climate change. It can enable millions of poor girls to attendschool. It can help the worlds poorest save and earn more money. And these resultscan be achieved with relatively small amounts of money in some of the most unstableplaces like Pakistan and Somalia, where results are most needed.We are talking about deploying small-scale solar devices through microfinance projectsdesigned to empower woman as small business leaders. Funding solar villages canhelp meet the basic energy needs of the more than 3 billion people in the world with noreliable access to electricity and be one of the highest returns on investment for U.S.development assistance.Every day, tens of thousands of people are burned by kerosene lamps. Not only arethese lamps dangerous and dirty, they are expensive and provide poor lighting, whichdestroys eyesight. Solar-powered lanterns can replace the kerosene that billions of poorfamilies rely on to light their homes. Most importantly, solar-powered lanterns and thehours of light they provide bring hours of increased safety and security for communitiesin dangerous areas. LED lanterns can even double as chargers to power up electricaldevices. In terms of cost-effectiveness, an LED lantern pays for itself in less than ayear.Just a few years ago in rural India, a small group of women transformed their lives andtheir village with a small stock of solar lanterns. The housewives-turned-entrepreneurssold solar and other renewable energy products; their main income generator wasportable solar lamp rentals, which provided eight hours of light to families who rentedthe lanterns. The women turned a profit, improved their village, and demonstrated thedemand for these devices in remote areas. Their success was made possible with asmall grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Department of Energylab located in Colorado.This is exactly the type of smart program we need to help recreate around thedeveloping world. Other solar devices, such as solar cookers, can reduce thedevastating environmental impact of chopping down trees to provide fuel for fires. Theresulting deforestation leads to severe flooding and ruined soil quality. Leading climatescientists also contend that black soot from cooking stoves across the developing worldis contributing as much as 18% of the planets warming. The dangerous toxins from thecookers also cause respiratory illnesses which lead to 1.6 million deaths each year --more than the number who die annually from malaria. Solar devices can be a cost- Page 8
  • SunNight Solar Enterprises LLC POSITION PAPER ON PORTABLE SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS FOR AFGHANISTANeffective way to slow global warming and save lives. And were giving peoplesustainable ways to improve their own lives, by owning businesses that create wealth.Humanitarian aid and microfinance organizations have been among the first to embracesmall-scale solar devices. Solar lanterns are providing increased security forcommunities. Solar-powered water-purification systems are providing clean drinkingwater to refugees. Camps in Sudan, Chad, and Nepal have all begun using solardevices and the results so far have been overwhelmingly positive.One of the smartest foreign assistance initiatives the United States could undertake is tojump-start these promising solar-powered efforts around the world. There is currently abill pending in Congress (sponsored by Congressman Israel) to help authorize fiveyears worth of funding starting with an initial $10 million investment in the deploymentof these devices to the developing world, and another $90 million investment over thenext four years to bring commercially viable and affordable renewable energy options tothe worlds poorest through microfinance programs targeted at empowering women.The House of Representatives has committed to the initial $10 million investment. Ifpassed, this bill could create a long-standing program to provide financing for millions ofLED lanterns to be distributed through microfinance organizations, as well as thedevelopment of next-generation solar cookers. It would also be a game-changer forU.S. businesses working to develop solar technology, providing them with new demandand competition to spur research and development.Going green is no longer simply a luxury for wealthy countries. As these simple solartools show us, exactly the opposite is true. People in impoverished, resource-scarce,conflict-ridden areas need renewable energy more than anyone. We now have thetechnology to light up the darkness in cost-effective, sustainable ways. Funding theseinnovations should be a priority for U.S. foreign assistance.Congressman Steve Israel represents New Yorks 2nd Congressional District.Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and directsthe Councils Women and Foreign Policy program. Page 9