Filibaba Assessment – Day 3
Today we returned to Filibaba to meet with the entire community (as opposed to the smaller sample we met with yesterday) after a short detour to visit Mr. Fulaulo’s house and the chicken hatchery that he and Likonge have recently started. The 5-day old chicks were pretty cute but smelled a little fowl. It was then time to return to the Filibaba schoolhouse for the community meeting, which was held in a nice shaded area outside. Matt and Emily joined Likonge, Mr. Fulaulo and Mr. Chanda at the front of the group while Steve handled the roaming photographer/videographer duties. After a brief round of introductions, we opened the floor up to questions from the community.
There were a number of general clarification questions related to the usage of the kits and the scope of the project – what will they charge, why is the station in Filibaba, why not place solar panels on individual houses, is a deposit necessary, etc. These were answered satisfactorily with ease. The greater concerns from the community were primarily related to (a) the limited scope of the battery kits and (b) the procedures for rolling out the program. In the first case, some of the more affluent community members were concerned that (for example) the kit can only charge a few bulbs and not a personal TV. This led to a long discussion which conveyed that we start the project with a simple, baseline kit which satisfies the primary focus of the project – providing light. Then Mr. Chanda gave the analogy that developing this project is like developing a farm – first you start with one acre, then when you do well enough you build up to a second, etc. This was received very well. The procedural questions came from community members concerned about being left out, perhaps because they live far from the charging station or because they were not questioned in the initial survey. This was addressed by describing that the community surveys were just representative data, and that while we need to start small to gauge community interest, the more demand from the community will allow us to soon provide enough kits for everyone. At this point the community insisted that we provide them paper for them to register their names to show their interest – we learned that members from over 230 houses had attended the meeting. The meeting ended with a play put on by the adult education group which depicted the impact of the lights on the community.
Our overall takeaway was that the community is inherently committed to the project, and that likely their biggest concern is that there will not be enough kits or enough options – ie, they are asking for more from us. Furthermore, we have learned that Likonge is the ideal person to be running this project on the ground. She blends a strong technical knowledge with a fundamental understanding of the community values and desires, and was able to clearly communicate with the group today. The combination of a motivated and committed community, an involved city council, and the vision and leadership of Likonge point to this being a highly successful project.