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Thread: CoffeeSnobs FairCrack - Solar for Tanzania

  1. #1
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    CoffeeSnobs FairCrack - Solar for Tanzania

    Stand proud CoffeeSnobs, our biggest and longest project to date has finally touched down.

    About 9 months ago I started working with a factory in China to produce small solar units for the villagers on Kilimanjaro and around Machare Estate in Tanzania.

    In the coffee growing areas, the villagers use kerosene for light. One week of kero lamp fumes is equal to every member of the household smoking a carton of cigarettes and it doesn't really throw enough light to read/study/do stuff. It's also expensive to run with most households spending between US$8.00 and US$10.00 a month in kero. You can quickly see that solar will be a real plus to their health, comfort and back pocket.

    The factory put together some likely kits and I purchased some demo units to see how they performed in cloudy days. With a pile of testing we settled on some 7.4v lithium battery units, 4 x 2watt LED globes each with an inline switch and an 8watt solar panel. These are amazing little units and on a full charge will run the 4 lights for 6 hours (2 lights for 12 hours etc).

    Considering they don't have a "Bunnings" near by, we also got the factory to put together a little kit of cable clips, screws and ties etc so people could wire these in themselves. To my surprise, the factory even offered to put our name on the units and cartons (no extra charge) and tossed in a multi-adaptor to charge mobile phones (remember the old Nokia chargers? Still needed in Africa!)

    FairCrack purchased 1200 units in total. Some will be kept as "warranty spares" in case something happens but in all my testing so far these are pretty bullet proof with simple connections and very well made.

    Freight was pretty easy, then there were plenty of government hurdles to jump though. SGS independently certified the quality of the kits, and we needed some special importation permits including a PVoC to prove we were not dumping rubbish in Africa. The container arrived in Dar Es Salam and the freight forwarder disappeared. URRGGHH. Took a few months (yeah months!) to find the container, prove it was ours and then get all the government inspections done. At one point it looked like we were going to be charged 40% duty but with the huge amount of help on the ground from Bente and Ralph the Gov settled on the standard 18% VAT (paid on the invoice price of the product, the freight and the container), a handful of other fees and then we got charged storage for the months the container was missing. Ahhh, that's the fun part of these projects, frustrations and tears are all forgotten once the product hits the ground.

    FairCrack also purchased the shipping container, it's old and crusty and end-of-life but it made it across the ocean and then the journey to Machare Estate on a flatbed truck. This gave them somewhere weather secure to keep them while distribution happened.

    So finally they are on Kilimanjaro! Bente's farm manager Thadeus has been opening every carton and plugging them in to show the new owners how they work. Even after the months of sitting, only a little light is needed on the panel to get the lamps shining brightly.

    The first in the distribution were the small holders around Machare and since then the circle is widening to the villagers. They were all excited to get clean light and I have just received a pile of pictures via Thadeus.

    I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story...

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  7. #7
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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  8. #8
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    A huge shout-out to Bente and Ralph who copped a ton of work in helping land these through the red-tape and are still working hard to get these to those that will get the biggest benefit. Also thanks to Julie in the factory in China, she worked hard getting all the paperwork in order and never complained when we had to keep going back for more. Our freight guys in Australia were also dragged into this to get it over the line and of course well done CoffeeSnobs everywhere!

    Your FairCrack donations are again making a real, tangible, long-term positive difference to peoples lives.
    ...and we should all feel really good about that!

  9. #9
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    Hi Andy

    you and everyone should be extremely proud of the work you do with faircrack. The smiles on those people’s faces is amazing to think it’s because they can clean light when dark.
    a massive job well done!
    cheers
    martin
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  10. #10
    Super Moderator Javaphile's Avatar
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    A long and sometimes bumpy road but it's great to see all the work has paid off and the sets are finally making their way into the peoples hands. WooHoo! Way to go Andy and everyone else involved!


    Java "Great job Snobs!!" phile
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    Toys! I must have new toys!!!

  11. #11
    Senior Member greenman's Avatar
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    Seeing the joy of people receiving a basic necessity of life is heartwarming, a huge congratulations to Andy for running this amazing humanitarian initiative!!
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  12. #12
    338
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    Truly amazing Andy. Love the huge smiles on everyone, your team should be very proud.
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  13. #13
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    A lot of work but a wonderful result...
    Loads of kudos to Andy, Family and all the others who made this happen.

    Wonderful stuff,
    Mal.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    Wow, that is just fantastic, awesome work!

    Looks like a great little kit for camping etc, will they be available in bean bay?

    Cheers
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    What a great story!
    The pictures fail to tell the future health benefits, plus the social benefits of electrification - like it will be easier for those kids that do get to go to school to do homework.
    They also fail to tell the immense frustration and headaches, of getting this on the ground, let alone the hours Andy and others would have spent making this come to fruition.
    I also know that there are a bunch of small scale microfinanced solar systems available off the shelf, but even they are too expensive. Huge kudo's to Andy and all involved for coming up with something that is feasible for this situation.
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  16. #16
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oliverm View Post
    What a great story!
    The pictures fail to tell the future health benefits, plus the social benefits of electrification - like it will be easier for those kids that do get to go to school to do homework.
    They also fail to tell the immense frustration and headaches, of getting this on the ground, let alone the hours Andy and others would have spent making this come to fruition.
    I also know that there are a bunch of small scale microfinanced solar systems available off the shelf, but even they are too expensive. Huge kudo's to Andy and all involved for coming up with something that is feasible for this situation.
    Agreed, there are a lot of long-term benefits with very few downsides. It's a simple device that will do so much.

    "microfinanced" solar in Tanzania, Kenya and lots of Africa is typically a NGO or non-profits installing "Pay as you go" solar. While it's a nice way to get solar into places it has some big pitfalls. The first is that to "pay as you go" you need a mobile phone, while some villagers do have a phone most don't (and might never have one) so the NGO solar projects are mostly done in towns. This stops those that are in the poorest group from ever having solar and widens the health and education gap. The other problem is that the "pay as you go" typically ends up costing the end user many times the value of the solar kit, it makes it affordable but it's also a forever bill as they never own the equipment.

    FairCrack is putting the solar into homes of those that might never see it otherwise without the burden of how to keep it working.

    Looks like a great little kit for camping etc, will they be available in bean bay?
    So, when Zed and I went land speed racing a couple of weeks ago we took the prototype solar sets with us. They were awesome! Panel pointing vaguely north with a stick in the ground to hold it up, lights hung in trees around us and even one inside each of the camper stretchers we used were total luxury compared to holding a torch in your teeth! We also used it overnight to charge our phones which didn't have reception but were used as cameras during the day and a 5:30am alarm for the morning. The battery power did that for a week and the lights were still working every morning before the sun came up.

    We have no plans to sell them in BeanBay as the 1200 all went to Tanzania but may divert some here if we do another build for TZ in the future.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post

    FairCrack is putting the solar into homes of those that might never see it otherwise without the burden of how to keep it working.
    Although a relative newcomer to FairCrack, I love the way FairCrack is making life a little better for those who need it the most...Double thumbs up from over here...

    We don't have any appreciation of how good we have it here in Australia (none the least of which, myself included)...No...Seriously we don't ...Here we are on the snobs forum bantering, talking about and coverting the latest and greatest coffee making machine yet over there and other places they have a hose to shower with outside their front door, if they have water and are so, so, so happy to have 1 decent light in or on their house to do stuff with...

    A bit of a reality check I reckon...Just sayin....

    Thanks Andy and co...

    Keep up the good work FairCrack...

    Cheers.
    Last edited by bigdaddy; 27th March 2018 at 01:08 PM. Reason: Spelling, grammar.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post
    We have no plans to sell them in BeanBay as the 1200 all went to Tanzania but may divert some here if we do another build for TZ in the future.
    Not sure of the cost the produce, import cost, Australia duties, you making profit and a good donation for faircrack but if all this still had the price at a moderate cost it could be a good product for later in the year for Christmas presents ect
    And buy a few bags of greens while I’m at it
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post

    "microfinanced" solar in Tanzania, Kenya and lots of Africa is typically a NGO or non-profits installing "Pay as you go" solar. While it's a nice way to get solar into places it has some big pitfalls. The first is that to "pay as you go" you need a mobile phone, while some villagers do have a phone most don't (and might never have one) so the NGO solar projects are mostly done in towns. This stops those that are in the poorest group from ever having solar and widens the health and education gap. The other problem is that the "pay as you go" typically ends up costing the end user many times the value of the solar kit, it makes it affordable but it's also a forever bill as they never own the equipment.
    What a great project! I’ve been involved in some of the for-profit PAYG solar. The best ones do transfer ownership of the unit to the householder after a certain amount is paid, but I agree this model also has some downsides. A “giving back” project like FairCrack can reach a community that a for-profit or NGO can’t. Kudos to you!
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  20. #20
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    Well done Andy. The world needs a lot more of the same.

    In one of my past lives teaching "real world analysis" for UN / Ausaid's "African Virtual University project" plus it's home uni in WA, I was struck then by how minute things can make such a huge difference to the poorer peoples lives over there (Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania). Far too many wonderful "mini good stories" to relate all here.

    My two favourites:

    A run in with the "nameless uni's bureaucrats" when a Tanzanian street kid gatecrashed my classes and then promptly topped all A.V.U. campuses plus ALL the uni's other 32 campuses for my unit running at the same time that semester / trimester / intensive. The bureaucrats wanted to cancel her results and throw her out. I argued (successfully) "If she can do that with no resources, imagine what she could achieve if we gave her a scholarship...

    The other one: two of my "barely above average" Rwandan students were from the same village. On their return they asked the village women: "what would be the best change they could make to their lives". Unanimous answer: make it easier to get water. Currently most of the women were spending 5 hours a day getting water (yeh, I was gobsmacked by that one at the time). The students used a whole pile of "rubbish" (their words) laying around and built a mini aquifer plus transfer piping and actually made a village well for nothing but a bit of labour. They emailed thanks to me. I pointed out that all I had done was to teach him how to think about problems - they had worked the solution out all by themselves. My congratulations and admiration to them for applying what they had learnt in such a practical way...

    First world problems - my micro kitchen is far too small to hold the gear I need to make cooking easy... Kinda makes me realise how lucky we are here.

    TampIt
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Well done Andy. The world needs a lot more of the same.

    In one of my past lives teaching "real world analysis" for UN / Ausaid's "African Virtual University project" plus it's home uni in WA, I was struck then by how minute things can make such a huge difference to the poorer peoples lives over there (Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania). Far too many wonderful "mini good stories" to relate all here.

    My two favourites:

    A run in with the "nameless uni's bureaucrats" when a Tanzanian street kid gatecrashed my classes and then promptly topped all A.V.U. campuses plus ALL the uni's other 32 campuses for my unit running at the same time that semester / trimester / intensive. The bureaucrats wanted to cancel her results and throw her out. I argued (successfully) "If she can do that with no resources, imagine what she could achieve if we gave her a scholarship...

    The other one: two of my "barely above average" Rwandan students were from the same village. On their return they asked the village women: "what would be the best change they could make to their lives". Unanimous answer: make it easier to get water. Currently most of the women were spending 5 hours a day getting water (yeh, I was gobsmacked by that one at the time). The students used a whole pile of "rubbish" (their words) laying around and built a mini aquifer plus transfer piping and actually made a village well for nothing but a bit of labour. They emailed thanks to me. I pointed out that all I had done was to teach him how to think about problems - they had worked the solution out all by themselves. My congratulations and admiration to them for applying what they had learnt in such a practical way...

    First world problems - my micro kitchen is far too small to hold the gear I need to make cooking easy... Kinda makes me realise how lucky we are here.

    TampIt

    Long time reader, first time poster. Have been reading this forum and the move by faircrack inspired me to post. I totally agree with the first line of the above post. Too often when we read of a company doing good things it is because they have spent fifty thousand doing something good then spending one hundred thousand telling the world about it. Here is a company who selflessly does something amazing for a community and then just does a modest post on their website to let their customers know where the money went. You can see this was done on a tight budget so the maximum gets to the people who needed it. It is a pity more people don't find out about this good deed.

    The self congratulatory post by tampit while totally off topic to the subject matter of coffeesnobs donating lighting was of some interest too.

    Max
    (totally in awe of this impressive feat by coffeesnobs)
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  22. #22
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Just in...
    Bente has emailed us a couple of 3 minute videos that Thadeus put together and I've just uploaded them to YouTube.

    It's awesome to see the solar kits making such a big difference.

    Video 1:


    Video 2:


    FairCrack rocks!

  23. #23
    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    That's brilliant (in more ways than one). The before and after shots show what a big difference the panels make to the lives of the villagers.
    As always, thanks to Andy, Bente, Ralph and everyone else who made this possible (including us).
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  24. #24
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    Amazing Congratulations to all who put the hard yards in.
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