Less than 20 percent of the Solomon Islands population has access to an electrical power supply, and when electricity is available, it is costly. In areas where the supply is limited or unavailable, communities often use expensive and polluting diesel generators, or firewood to create heat. Sourcing firewood encourages the felling of natural vegetation and releases smoke into the environment.
Funded by the Australian Government, the Strongim Bisnis program ($14 million, 2017-2020) supports growth, innovation and resilience in the cocoa, coconut and tourism sectors with a strong focus on women’s economic empowerment.
In 2018, the program connected a women’s savings club, WARA, with a solar panel supplier, SunPower. SunPower supplies WARA with solar panels that members can sell to others, providing income for female rural entrepreneurs and a renewable and accessible source of electricity for communities across Solomon Islands. The initiative is still in its testing phase, but it has the potential to increase overall access to electric power in rural areas while replacing polluting diesel generators.
Additionally, in 2018 Strongim Bisnis supported the importation and distribution of solar cocoa bean dryers called ‘bubble dryers’. The cocoa industry involves approximately 26 percent of the population, and cocoa is usually dried using firewood ‘Kukum dryers’. By using ‘bubble dryers’, trees are less likely to be cut down, less smoke is produced, and the quality of the beans and users’ health is less likely to be negatively affected.
Solar power technology has the potential to revolutionise how Solomon Islanders live and work and help communities pursue sustainable development pathways that are more disaster and climate resilient.
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