Linnet and her husband Gabrielle live in an area called Sinoko, 20km from the main town of Kitale. Kitale is on the mains power network and hosts one large supermarket, ten small petrol stations, and a hotel for the occasional Westerner who passes through. Driving out of Kitale to the West on a good tarmac road you reach smaller market towns decorated with bright green and red houses selling mobile phone pay-as-you-go airtime. Since the arrival of mobile phones, this bold and attractive colour scheme has rolled out across the Kenyan landscape.
At one of these towns we turn off left down a single track lane, into an area of farmland with small plots of land dividing the green rolling hills. There are houses dotted around every 200m in each direction, some of which are clustered in twos or threes. Each house tends to have some sort of scrap metal or barbed wire perimeter, since after dark theft is common. This occurs despite the deep-rooted and strong ties that bind villagers together.
The people living out in this area, which is called Sinoko, are happy; they are motivated to work hard on the land and sell their produce at the market. In one of these houses we find Linnet, smiling away, excited about the prospect of answering our questions:
Q: Who lives here?
Me, my husband Gabrielle and our five children.
Q: What do you do for a living?
We are small scale farmers. We have a small coffee plantation which we harvest once a year in October. For the rest of the year we rely on selling maize and we also make bricks.
Q: What lighting sources did you use before Indigo?
We used to buy kerosene and burn it in lanterns.
Q: Do you prefer solar to kerosene?
Yes, it’s inspirational, it’s changed our lives. Because of the fumes, I used to cough with kerosene but now it’s better with Indigo. Also with kerosene every evening I had to organise and go and get it at the market 1km away, or the kids would go if I didn’t have time. Now that is not my trouble any longer and I can use my time better.
“The best thing is that I don’t have to worry when I leave my children at home in the house. Kerosene was dangerous because it causes fires and if my young ones touch it they will get burnt”.
Q: How has your life changed since buying an Indigo system?
Besides the money and time savings, the best thing is that I don’t have to worry when I leave my children at home in the house. Kerosene was dangerous because it causes fires and if my young ones touch it they will get burnt. (At this point she shows me a scar on her left arm caused by kerosene).
Q: Have you noticed any improvement in the children’s grades at school?
There has been a general improvement because before regular studies weren’t possible because we would run out of kerosene about four nights per month. That’s all in the past now we have permanent light.
Q: What do you use Indigo for?
For proper illumination of the house, to prepare the bed, cooking, things like that. The children use it to read. And now we can charge are phones at home too.
Q: Do you use it everyday? How long for?
Yes everyday, I don’t switch it off! I turn the light off in the sitting room at 10 or 11pm, but in the bedroom we like it so much, we keep it on throughout the night.