Child labor affects around 20% of children in Africa leading many to miss school, says Yolk. At the same time, it says, 90% of Africans use mobile phones as sources of payment transfer and other vital everyday functions. Paying for electric charging is, thus, vital for energy-deprived African families.
Yolk pragmatized on the multi-functionality of renewable energy to address social problems by giving the prize of sustainably produced power batteries to school children for their attendance.
The organization’s unique solution of a solar energy reward system operates both as a game for the children and a reward for the parents sending them there by providing an “energy lantern” to the children to bring home at the end of each school day.
Such positive reinforcement methods lead to the school becoming a source of value versus a hindrance for families. The “solar cow” is milked by the children by unscrewing the stored PV energy from the installation at their school.
Designing the PV unit in this manner overcomes educational issues seen in rural areas, where a cow is a valuable commodity giving nutritional energy to a family each day – framing the need to attend school “in a new light” for agrarian communities. Children even describe the energy as “super cow milk”, giving power to their homes at night.
The co- founder of Yolk, Sungun Chang, describes coming up with the idea initially to address shortcomings in the take up of solar lanterns in such under-developed countries. Combining a resolution to increase the adoption of micro-level solar and tacking the more severe issue of child labor with one simple design solution, catalyzed the organization to receive over US$1 million in funding on their initial kickstarter campaign.
Speaking on the unique features of their design, Chang added, “Child labor, education and energy distribution are all very complex problems and are consequently addressed individually. With the Solar Cow, we can chip away at all of these problems simultaneously – this is the power of the Solar Cow and Power Milk”.
A video describing the ‘solar cow’ can be seen here: