Posted by James F. Smith March 23, 2010 10:35 AM
Robert Lange, at work in a Maasai village in northern Tanzania, on one of his pilot solar installations.
A retired Brandeis University physics professor is helping to bring clean heat and light to Africa.
I wrote in Sunday's Globe about Robert Lange, who has spent more than 20 years working with villagers in Tanzania to help them use basic science and technology to make their lives better. His current work lets villagers buy very small solar-power units by building four efficient cooking stoves for themselves. It's an informal carbon-credit market that has the dual advantage of helping people make their huts less smoky, and also gives them a few more hours of clean indoor daylight from the solar-powered lights -- and they can charge their cell phones, too.
I heard the benefits first-hand: I spoke with Majuba Mohammed, a high school teacher on a tiny island off the coast of the main Zanzibar island, about the project. And Mohammed noted proudly that the phone he was using to speak with me had been charged on the solar unit that Lange's project had helped him install on his roof. That's pretty direct evidence of success. Nearly 200 of the solar units have been installed in two villages on the island.
Here are two views of indoor cooking: on the left, the open indoor fire, and on the right, the vented, cleaner stove.
For those who want to know more, here are some links to relevant organizations, as well as a number of photos that tell more about Lange's work.
Lange's small non-profit has the large name of International Collaboration for Science, Education and the Environment, which Lange runs out of his home in Cambridge. He also works closely with his friend of more than a quarter century, Robert van Buskirk, who has his own non-profit, Village Projects International, that has pursued similar stoves-for-solar programs in Eritrea and Ghana.
Lange is now hoping to expand his project to the Maasai areas of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. He is working there with Jemma Enolengila, who helps run the Noonkodin School in a Maasai area near Arusha. Villagers there are eager to move forward with a stoves-for-solar program if Lange can find the $50,000 or so he needs to make it happen.
Lange in his Cambridge home-office, photo by the Boston Globe's Matthew Lee.
A footnote: I wrote that Tanzania is in southern Africa. A reader, airline pilot and air travel writer Patrick Smith, notes that Tanzania is better described as part of East Africa. While Tanzania is a member of the Southern African Development Community, it is more often said to be in East Africa, and Kenya is certainly in East Africa. I would have been better off using the less specific "sub-Saharan Africa" -- no doubt there. Patrick has an excellent blog about air travel on salon.com.
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Worldly Boston is James F. Smith's report on people from our community who are making an impact in the world, and on people from abroad doing noteworthy things in Greater Boston. We live in the most global of communities. Worldly Boston helps share those stories.
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About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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