Improving productivity with solar agricultural mills in Vanuatu

This partnership provides access to solar energy solutions for 3,000 poor and remote off-grid households in 60 villages in Vanuatu.

Households in Vanuatu are scattered across various islands and many villages lack access to electricity. They are forced to rely on expensive fossil fuels to support basic household needs. Rural villagers, and women in particular, spend significant time hand-processing staple food crops which is a very labour-intensive and time-consuming activity.

Village Infrastructure Angels (VIA) deliver solar-powered mills and innovative pay-as-you-go home power stations to rural villages across Vanuatu. Solar-powered mills reduce the time needed to process food and eliminate the need to travel long distances to access agro-processing facilities. This saves time that can be used for productive purposes. Domestic solar power products reduce reliance on costly fuels and can be used for lighting, charging phones and other low-power consumer appliances. These assets are leased to villagers for one to five years with ownership transferring at the end of the lease period.

DFAT provide critical co-investment, advocacy support and access to local networks and technical assistance.

Location of partnership

Partnership aims

  • Provide reliable access to electricity for rural and remote households.
  • Shift from uneconomical and unsustainable fuels (kerosene, diesel and wood) to modern, efficient, renewable local energy sources.
  • Contribute to women’s empowerment through reduced work care burden and increased household income.

Key facts




Gender equality

This initiative promotes gender equality by:

  • Promoting women’s economic empowerment through the operation of solar agro-processing facilities.
  • Reducing women’s manual labour and time burden.
  • Enhancing women’s productivity and income.

This initiative contributes to women’s empowerment though educating women in the use and understanding of latest energy technologies, and by increasing the number of women operating mills. Women will operate at least 50 per cent of the solar agro-processing power stations, enhancing their status in the village and gaining improved access to productive infrastructure.

Manual agro-processing is mostly done by women and is a very labour and time-intensive activity. Solar-powered mills relieve women from manual work, saving time that can be used in income-generating activities, family caring, socialising, or other activity of their choice. Expenditure on fossil fuels and transport to and from mills will also be reduced.  Solar-powered mills also reduce some of the physical burden for women, as well as the fire hazards and some pollution inside households.

Shared value

This partnership creates shared value by reconceiving products and markets.

The initiative will provide solar electricity services for 3,000 households in 60 villages in Vanuatu.

The first key benefit is cost savings to electricity consumers through the elimination of kerosene lamps and reduced diesel fuel usage.

The second key benefit is the reduction of labour time, particularly for women. In turn, VIA expands its electricity supply business in Vanuatu, building market share and earning income from electricity user fees.

The initiative also supports the creation of 100 micro-entrepreneurs to operate the solar mills. There will be environmental benefits resulting from the shift from fossil-fuels to renewables.

What is shared value?

Shared value is defined as policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of companies while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate. To qualify as shared value, there must be an identifiable economic benefit to the company as well as measurable impact on a social or environmental issue. The BPP is helping businesses partner with the Australian aid program in achieving shared value – advancing both social and economic objectives. These partnerships are primarily being created in one or more of the following ways:

  • Reconceiving products and markets
  • Redefining productivity in the value chain
  • Enabling local cluster development

Partner information

Village Infrastructure Angels (VIA)

Village Infrastructure Angels (VIA) is a consulting and project management company that primarily works in the renewable energy space with expertise in mapping, rural electrification, engineering, software development and installation of renewable energy equipment, amongst others. VIA is currently managing projects in Vanuatu, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Honduras.

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Last Updated: 23 October 2017