Burkina-Faso Posts

Building in Burkina Faso with Remar

Posted Thursday 27 February 2020 by Lorin Symington.

We launched a new project with Remar International in Burkina Faso to empower women entrepreneurs. As always we fabricated the solar units locally, in cooperation with local metalworkers. Our chief builder Lorin was in Burkina for 2 months to facilitate the first phase of this project.

I first visited West Africa in 2007 when I spent 6 months in Mali. During my research at the time, Burkina Faso jumped out at me as a place that was in desperate need of Lytefire technology. And now, finally I get to bring our solar concentrators to Burkina Faso!

Lorin and the Remar apprentices measuring and marking.

The country of people of integrity
That’s what Burkina Faso the means and it was named like that by President Thomas Sankara, in 1984, in his courageous attempt to free the country from French colonialism. It is a landlocked country of 20 million people, devoid of any petroleum wealth and with few other resources. Burkina Faso is ranked 182nd out of 189 on the Human Development Index, which is to say that it is one of the least developed countries on the planet. There’s a 9 months long dry season and an incredible amount of dust. It is “winter” now, but the temperature hits nearly 40°C every day and during my first month I didn’t see a cloud. If ever there was a country that could profit from direct access to solar energy, it’s this one.

People in the capital city Ouagadougou (pronounced wah-gah-doo-goo) are friendly and often dressed in brightly coloured traditional fabrics. There are bananas and avocados for sale on the side of the road, and strangely enough, many apples, strawberries and grapes, the origins of which are still a mystery to me. The country is an ex French colony, and one of the many ways that the colonial legacy lives on is in the daily consumption of bread.

GoSol has been contracted to build a Lytefire 5 baking oven for Remar International, a Spanish NGO that has been working in Burkina Faso for over 20 years. They’re planning a bakery training centre at their compound in the Nioko 2 neighbourhood and their intention is to empower a group of women to earn a more consistent living.

Bako, head welder at the Remar garage, learning to calibrate mirrors.

Remar, our new partner
Working with the Remar workshop crew is fun and challenging. On the one hand, Bako, their main welder who they have supported since he was a boy, is well experienced and a real stand up guy. It’s great to see the structure Remar has put in place to provide a safe learning and growth experience for these youngsters. His spirit is one of Hakuna Matata, to borrow a phrase from our Swahili sisters and brothers. He’s always smiling and eager to learn. On the other hand, he has a handful of apprentices who are… a handful. One is nicknamed the ‘minister of losing stuff’, another is the minister of breaking stuff, another is the minister of confusion… you get the idea! No build is complete without a few tools burning out and some unexpected delays, but with a little luck and perseverance we’re making it work and in the end everything went just fine.

The team, proud to see it all starting to come together.

I’ve never had a more challenging time finding the materials to build Lytefire than in Burkina. For the first three days we heard ‘impossible’ many times when it came to finding sheets of stainless steel. I now know two shops that sell them. Likewise for fiberglass or mineral wool insulation, though eventually we managed to find the one place that sells it. I estimate that it took me 12+ hours of hunting to find fiberglass mat (which we use to protect and hold in place the window on the oven). 2 or 3 mm mirrors were simply impossible to find and we were eventually forced to get those mirrors from neighbouring Ghana where, it turns out, they are cheaper than just about anywhere else I have ever bought them. I bought enough for 5 Lytefires because I have a good feeling about the future of Lytefire in Burkina Faso.

On the hunt in the Ouaga Steel Market.

The Lytefire is now installed at Remar’s training center for women so stay tuned for the next updates from this project. On a side note, Lorin met some very interesting entrepreneurs while he was in Burkina Faso and we are starting a small crowdfunder for them to equipt and train them with Lytefire. Please have a look here: https://lytefire.com/adama-and-issaka?var_mode=recalcul


 

 

 

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