iShack: Solar-powered home transforms life for slum-dwellers

With the iShack, squatters get a solid dwelling that is fitted with enough solar panels to keep the lights on at night and provide power for important equipment such as mobile phone chargers.

alternative energyIt is an initiative from researchers at the University of Stellenbosch, which they hope can allieviate poverty across the country and beyond South Africa’s borders too.

Each shack iShack costs about R5,300 and they have been deliberately designed to be as user-friendly as possible.

Windows are placed to maximise air circulation and the sloping roof allows rainwater to be collected if a rain water tank is installed.

The walls are insulated with recycled materials, a brick floor helps keep temperatures steady and flame-retardant paint is intended to reduce the risk of fires.

About 100 iShacks are expected to be erected over the next year following a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nosango Victoria Plaatjie, a domestic worker employed once a week, has received one of the prototypes in Enkanini, near Stellenbosch.

It has already made a huge difference to her life, especially with the electricity supply enabling her to keep her phone charged, which has meant she has been able to get more work.

She told CNN:  ‘The solar lights are better. Now we don’t need to go to sleep early anymore because now we have lights.

‘My daughter must do her homework now, she doesn’t have any more excuses.

‘And I like the light outside because we can see what is going on, I feel safer.’

Source: Sowetan Live

Artificial light is taken for granted by so many people; it’s humbling to think that enabling a family to have some extra light at night can make such a difference to their lives.  Although ‘real’ houses would be better than corrugated iron shacks, we must remember that these iShacks are a vast improvement for impoverished families who may not have had any effective shelter before.  The corrugated iron rooftops are also an ideal surface for harvesting rainwater.  A great partnering initiative would be for an NGO or government agency to sponsor of subsidise the installation of water tanks and a simple gutter to collect rainwater.  This would ensure that iShack owners would be virtually self-sufficient when it comes to water and electricity provision- a rare commodity in may slums/informal settlements.  The idea of providing free energy (solar power) and free water (rainwater harvesting) is also significant.  Often, there is a drive to ‘electrify’ impoverished settlements but many of these people do not have a reliable income and cannot afford Eskom costs.  The same goes for water provision- rainwater tanks may be a better solution in the medium term.

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