On the Road in Tanzania

The Rough Road to Matipwili Part 1

Mason Huffine is Little Sun’s laugh-a-minute business and sales manager for Africa and he’s just returned to Berlin from another solar light-bringing adventure in Tanzania, a country close to his heart after living there for four years.

He wanted to share with us his stories and pictures from the road, working with Little Sun’s distributor in Tanzania, Strategic Energy, who recently received financial investment from a SunFunder loan.

Dear Comrades,

With my new, sporty crewcut, driving a Landrover Defender, it may appear from some of these images that I have been involved in some clandestine activities in Tanzania but I can assure you I went in peace to bring sunshine and good energy!

With over 80% of the population unable to access electricity, our involvement in Tanzania is particularly crucial. After food, toxic fuel-based lighting expenses rank the second highest expense in the average Tanzanian household budget. Our work with Strategic Energy aims to improve that situation for Tanzanians.

On Sunday, I organised a trip to the village of Matipwili to visit a mini-grid project to see if there was opportunity there for distrubuting Little Sun lamps.  It was situated about 210 kilometres out of Dar (es Salaam), down a treacherous, winding mud road, that sometimes disappeared altogether.

We certainly had some adventures along the way, stopping off and talking to villagers about energy access and getting to know what it is that they need. Admittedly, our chats were usually done simultaneously with the classic Tanzanian car repair technique consisting of a good strong tree branch and pre-cut strips of inner tubes…

We began to wonder if we would even arrive, as the Land Rover slipped through the mud and practically dug its way to the village.

Then, twenty clicks out of Bagamoyo, a historic town on the East African coast, the annoying rattle of a broken weld brought us to a mechanic serendipitously named Sun and Steel. The owner had long been wanting to get involved somehow with solar energy, now that solar is seen in Tanzania as a legitimate industry to do business in, and he saw our arrival there at his shop with our Little Sun lamps as a ‘miracle’. He knew very well about the need for mobile, reliable lights in those parts and wanted to become a Little Sun dealer on the spot.

Repairs done, we finally rolled into Matipwili, a small fishing village just above Saadani, a beautiful national park on the Indian Ocean coastline.

Once there, my experience was completely different to how it was in the region five years ago…