Solar Cow Project
Solar Cow rewards parents with free access to electricity in exchange for sending their children to school. YOLK installs the Solar Cow systems in schools and distributes “Power Milk”, a portable power bank. In the morning, children can plug their Power Milk into the Solar Cow and study at school while waiting for it to be charged. After the bell rings signalling the end of school day, Power Milks are charged and ready for children to take them home. This serves as an incentive to parents to send children to school rather than workplace.
150 million children worldwide are suffering from child labour, making them deprived of childhood and educational opportunities. Solar Cow Project aims to help prevent the serious issue of child labour and provide educational opportunities instead. It is a social engineering project that rewards parents with free access to electricity in exchange for sending their children to school.
We understand that child labour is essentially a wealth problem. According to report from 2008 by International Labour Organization (ILO), poverty is the single largest cause of child labour. Therefore, the solution to child labour should compensate the aid value that is at least equivalent to or larger than the economic benefit of child labor wage, that discourage parents from sending children to school.
The First ‘Solar Cow’ Setup in Pokot, Kenya
In this project, we partner up with schools in rural areas of Kenya with little access to electricity. Inside school areas, we install solar-powered charging stations in a steel frame of a cow – thus the name “Solar Cow”. At school we also provide students with “Power Milk”, portable batteries shaped like milk bottles.
Students come every morning to school and charge their Power Milk through Solar Cow. While they are waiting for Power Milk to charge, they receive quality education. After the classes end, they can take home a fully charged power source that can serve their entire households.
Power Milk portable batteries contain enough capacity to meet the most of electric needs of an average local household – charging cell phones and powering a flashlight, radio or other gadgets. By providing free access to electricity, in practice, we help families save up to 20% of their average monthly income, that they used to spend for electricity.
The analysis of our preliminary project in Pokot, Kenya, has shown the increased time value as a product of the Solar Cow. Our project saves locals 4-6 hours of walking to the nearest charging station (which was previously one of their very limited means of getting access to electricity). Saving such costs we use as a financial compensation for parents to send children to school instead of to a workplace.
Small Budget Big Impact
Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) provides cash to families if their children attend school, and this program has shown to be the most effective solution on treating social issues caused by poverty (e.g. child labour). However, its benefit is only available to a very limited number of children because its cost increases linearly with time. To sponsor 1 student’s primary education, CCT requires $1,080 ($15 x 12 months x 6 years) while the Solar Cow only needs 5%. Such drastic reduction of the cost is due to the sustainable nature of solar energy. Solar Cow system only requires the financing of the initial manufacturing and set-up, since the sun will rise every day and deliver the energy for free.
- Components of Solar Cow
Power of Innovation
The problems of child labour, education, and energy infrastructure are complex and widespread among developing countries. It is common to see these problems addressed separately. YOLK recognized these three are deeply intertwined. Through the Solar Cow project, YOLK is able to chip away each from these problems, simultaneously.
Creative solutions based on love and dedication can result in real change.
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