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2015-03-06 | project

Evaluating the Socio-Economic Impacts of Solar Lanterns and Education Campaigns in Tanzania

In countries such as Tanzania, the vast majority of the rural population does not have access to basic household electricity. Could solar power serve as a substitute? We evaluate the socio-economic impact of distributing solar lights to households, with a particular emphasis on children's educational attainment. The first project objective is to see if free solar lanterns could make a major contribution to educational attainment in rural Tanzania by allowing more effective study at night. The second project objective is to see if the effect of solar lights can be enhanced through awareness raising. The project will be implemented in the rural region of Lindi in southern Tanzania during the years 2014-2015 in collaboration with a local NGO, Twaweza, and an international solar lighting NGO, SolarAid. We survey 1,200 students in 80 schools before and after the solar and education intervention that Twaweza and SolarAid implement. Between the surveys, we distribute free solar lights and raise awareness about education in randomly selected treatment groups among the 1,200 students. Since the methodology is a randomized controlled trial, we can observe if solar lighting and awareness raising have effects on educational attainmentof students in the treatment groups relative to the control group. If the outcome is positive, then solar lanterns offer an expedient and readily scalable policy intervention. If the outcome is negative, then donors, governments, and non-governmental organizations should focus their efforts elsewhere. To our understanding, this will be the first randomized controlled trial on the combined effect of solar lanterns and an education campaign on the socio-economic benefits of providing solar lighting to rural households without access to electricity. The study offers information on the use of a sustainable energy resource to alleviate poverty. The findings are of interest to development economists, energy scholars, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and entrepreneurs.