June 2011: National Geographic helps power Kalalé

Thanks to the support of donors like you, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) has positively impacted the health and well-being of the villagers in the Kalalé district of Benin through our Solar Market Gardens (SMGs) and Solar Water Wells (SWWs). Now, we are excited to announce that National Geographic has awarded a grant to SELF through its “Great Energy Challenge” progam which will enable us to move forward with our plans for whole village electrification in the villages of Bessassi and Dunkassa.

The Great Energy Challenge, a 3-year partnership between National Geographic and Shell, is designed to explore the issue of energy from all perspectives, from reducing carbon footprints to supporting innovative energy solutions such as SELF’s Whole Village model.

From the Garden to the Village: The next phase of the project is to solar-electrify SELF’s two pilot villages, Bessassi and Dunkassa.  With support from National Geographic, SELF will begin installing systems to provide essential power for each of the village’s water supply, school, health center, community and Internet centers, street and market lighting, and household solar LED lighting systems.

Speaking of National Geographic, I am thrilled to announce that Jennifer Burney, an environmental scientist working alongside SELF in Benin since 2007, was selected as a 2011 Emerging Explorer, a National Geographic program. This program recognizes only 14 scientists and storytellers from around the globe making a significant contribution to global problem solving.

Burney, currently a Scripps postdoctoral researcher and affiliate of Stanford University’s Program on Food Security and the Environment (FSE), monitored and assessed SELF’s SMG project, along with a Stanford team, while with the FSE program. The research was later published in the highly esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal.

SELF is delighted for Jennifer Burney, and honored to receive this grant from National Geographic under the auspices of its “Great Energy Challenge” program. Energy access is not only a fundamental right, it also provides the key to empowering people to realize their own full potential. Change a village…Change the world.

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