When working to improve the productivity of peasant farmers’ associations, we identify solar technologies suitable for their activities (e.g. arable and livestock farming) and so increase their independence and energy autonomy. We are mainly working on increasing the accessibility of equipment for processing and storage of agricultural products.
Examples of the technologies include mills, grinding and hulling machines for the various grains, solar pumps for crop irrigation, solar dryers, and cooling technologies for storage.
TECHNOLOGIES APPROPRIATE FOR LOCAL CONDITIONS
The foundation works closely with manufacturers, to adapt equipment to solar technology and to integrate the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) system on which distribution is based.
Most agricultural equipment is at present designed for use with three-phase electrical power supply. It is more difficult to manage variations in consumption of energy by the equipment. Most technical information reflects average consumption, which does not provide a basis for measurement of dimensions suitable for solar systems. For example, a grain mill will create a peak in demand for electricity when it is turned on, then demand less (and more consistently) while in operation.
The alternative for solar systems is to store electricity with a larger quantity of batteries. We avoid this solution wherever possible, as batteries are the most expensive item in a solar system, they have a limited life and it is not always possible to recycle them in the most disadvantaged areas.
Following work with manufacturers to adapt the equipment, Antenna finances, imports and distributes it and brings it into operation. Monitoring and support are provided to the associations to ensure that the technology operates correctly and is useful.
DISTRIBUTION WITH COMMUNITY MICRO-LEASING
We have developed a community micro-leasing system to ensure sustainable access to solar technologies. Innovation is based on a combination of micro-financing methods and “Pay-As-You-Go” (PAYG) technology. The PAYG system allows remote operation and blocking of technology. The Antenna Foundation provides advance finance for the technology, which is then put in place locally and reimbursed little by little by the associations.
For example, a mill is loaned to a women’s cooperative, which allocates a percentage of the income it generates to pay for it. If the mill subsequently breaks down and requires major repairs, payment by instalments can once again be implemented, using PAYG technology.
Community micro-leasing involves community stakeholders in distribution. Guarantors are appointed to manage loans for the equipment, and their repayment. The associations take on responsibility for the management of the loans and raise awareness of them in their networks. This community involvement enables distribution to be “tailor-made” for local needs and allows for scaling up.
Distribution based on community dynamics means that the community has a shared commitment. If, for example, a member is unable to repay his/her share, the mutual fund provides assistance. There are prosperous periods when the associations pay several instalments simultaneously. There are also some periods during which the PAYG system blocks the kits because of excessive delays in collective payments. Kits are blocked after discussion with the associations, when they decide that access to energy is no longer a priority. Resources are put to other uses, such as celebrations or to offset the effects of poor harvests. The distribution system adjusts to reality in the communities. It is resilient because it is flexible.