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Benefits of clean energy radiate through villages

Timor-Leste, September 18, 2013

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Through the Energy For All program, Mercy Corps works with existing businesses like Kadeli Diak, providing solar energy and business management training to owners and employees who live and work in the remote regions where access to alternative energy is needed most. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    When participating business owners like Suyanto, pictured with his family, add solar energy products to their inventory they gain an additional revenue stream – and they help their communities by making high-quality solar products more accessible. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The solar products offered by participating businesses are all market tested as part of the Energy for All program, and selected for their high quality and durability. Upon selection, we connect the international companies producing the solar products with businesses in Dili, the country’s capital. These businesses import the products and make them available to shop owners in rural areas. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Store owners like Francisco Soares (left) act as educators about clean energy. We focus on training them to understand how the products work so they can promote their benefits and fix any problems. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Solar lanterns are small and portable, allowing families to use the lights in different rooms or while walking outdoors at night. For households already spending $7-12 per month on candles and kerosene, purchasing a solar lantern for $8-14 is a quality alternative – and an investment that quickly pays for itself. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Monthly income for most families in the Energy for All program area is less than $100 per month, making a $30-40 solar panel less attainable. We have engaged microfinance institutions to make solar energy affordable to communities by developing loan products specifically for alternative energy purchases. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Solar panels are a long-term solution that can be used to charge lanterns, mobile phones and radios – and the money families save in energy costs helps them pay off their loans quickly and direct financial resources toward other needs. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps also works with communities to establish Energy Management Groups that bring residents together to propose community energy projects. Upon approval, we provide the solar panel system and it is installed by members of the community recently trained as solar technicians, as was done for this school. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Members of the Energy Management Group in the village of Dare developed a plan to install a solar lighting system at an adult education center that holds classes in the evenings. Now the classes – reading, writing and math – can be held for three hours instead of just one. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    By engaging the community and installing solar energy in communal areas, like this community center in Dare, the projects show potential consumers the benefits of alternative energy. This creates more demand for the solar products local businesses are selling through the Energy for All program. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Luis Sarmentu is the chief of his village in Dare, and one of 50 members of his village Energy Management Group. He says interest in solar energy is continually growing and residents are excited about microcredit opportunities. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The Energy for All program also includes a clean cookstove initiative. Most households cook in cooking huts that are separate from their homes, using open fires fueled by firewood that is often unsustainably harvested. Clean cookstove technology is an efficient alternative that reduces health risks from smoke and the time women and children must spend on labor. It is also better for the environment. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    In this photo, Acacio Barreto of Mercy Corps describes the benefits of a clean cookstove – they reduce smoke and dangerous particulates, and improve the efficiency of the cooking process. One of our key goals with this initiative is to create consumer awareness – and demand – for clean cookstoves that can improve the lives of families and the environment they live in. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps  </span>
    And to meet the developing demand for clean cookstoves, we provide clean cookstove production training in which community members, like Fernanda da Costa and her husband, learn to manufacture and sell clean cookstoves. By building domestic production and community engagement, the Energy for All program is creating a sustainable solution to poverty in Timor-Leste. Photo: Nick Brubaker/Mercy Corps

In the small country of Timor-Leste, the majority of families do not have access to electricity. Women lack an efficient way to cook, children do not have a reliable light source to study with, and families struggle with health problems from exposure to dirty kerosene smoke. As many as 65 percent of the people there live off the grid.

For families in rural areas, simply supplying themselves with energy to light their homes and carry out daily tasks is a financial burden – one that also often carries significant health and environmental risks. Kerosene, wood, candles and batteries are unsustainable energy sources that drain families’ financial resources, yet release hazardous emissions and provide low-quality light.

Mercy Corps’ Energy for All program is helping communities in Timor-Leste create clean energy markets from the ground up by building consumer awareness and distribution of affordable solar energy and clean cooking products.

In these photos, see how the program works and meet some of the people helping their communities achieve better health, stronger economies and sustainable solutions to the poverty cycle in Timor-Leste.