UAE-funded project brings solar light to more than 20,000 people in Indonesia

Far-flung communities get access to environmentally-sustainable solutions

Zayed Sustainability Prize distributes 3,600 solar lanterns to families living on an off-grid Indonesian island. Courtesy: Zayed Sustainability Prize
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Tens of thousands of fishermen and their families living in remote areas of Indonesia were given access to solar-powered lights after the UAE funded a sustainable community project there.

Last month, 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile-charging solar lanterns were distributed to families in Pulau Laut Selatan, in the Kotabaru Regency of Indonesia, bringing them a sustainable light source for the first time.

Previously, the 20,000 residents, who had no access to electricity, relied on candles, diesel generators or kerosene lamps at night.

The solar project was among the first group included in the 20by2020 initiative managed by the Zayed Sustainability Prize and that aimed to bring environmentally sustainable solutions to 20 remote communities across the globe by the end of 2020.

Now, our communities can carry out activities at night, especially fishing, to fulfil their family's economical needs

Other projects included the installation of filtered water fountains in Cambodia and Madagascar, bringing solar street lamps to Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, and areas of Amman in Jordan, Asyut in Egypt, Tanzania, Nepal and Uganda.

The solar project in Indonesia will allow fishermen to safely venture out to sea at night, let children study into the evening and make homes safer without the risk of burning kerosene lamps.

“Now, our communities can carry out activities at night, especially fishing, to fulfil their family's economical needs,” said Syahr Ani, head of West Laut Island Division at the Kotabaru Regency.

“Prior to the 20by2020 installation, the fishermen brought flashlights or lamps with kerosene, which cost more money.

“With the help of these clean lighting solutions, the overall expenses for our fisherman will definitely be reduced.”

A local fisherman from the Nelayan Teluk Kemuning village said the solar lights made his job safer at night.

“Now I can see the trees drifting in the sea and can avoid them when fishing,” said Jahrani.

“The lights can be charged simply by exposing them to the sun, making it easier when I am in the middle of the ocean.”

Parents said the project was beneficial to their children, who no longer had to rely on natural light for study.

“The light helps my child study at various hours of the night,” said Santalia, a resident of the Lontar Timur village.

“With this solution, reading, and doing homework are easier because this lamp can also provide enough lighting to support the current ‘school-from-home’ situation during the pandemic.”

The project was carried out in collaboration between two Zayed Sustainability Prize winners: D.light, which won in 2013, and Kopernik, which won in 2016.

US company D.light delivered the solar-powered solutions while Kopernik, an Indonesian non-profit organisation, oversaw the implementation on the ground.

Since it launched in 2008, the Zayed Sustainability Prize has rewarded 86 winners, whose solutions or school projects have directly and indirectly affected 352 million people around the world.

Through direct funding, the annual award supports social initiatives that harness new technologies to change lives for the better.

The $3 million (Dh11m) prize fund is divided equally between the winners of the five categories, with each allocated $600,000 (Dh2.2m).

The Global High Schools category recognises six winners, from six world regions, with each winning school eligible to claim up to $100,000 (Dh367,000) in funding.

The 20by2020 initiative was launched in December 2019 to export winning projects to 20 places around the world by the end of last year. The initiative has since expanded and is now known as Beyond2020 to continue its work beyond last year. Projects are currently under way in Costa Rica and Bangladesh.