“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day,” the proverb says. “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
In Uganda, where electricity is often absent or, at best, illuminates homes or classrooms for just a few hours a day, one could change the word fish to solar panel and get the same feeling of accomplishment. And that is what Neal Waters, a San Francisco-based documentary photojournalist, has begun, visually recording the efforts of a Silicon Valley group—teachers, students and professionals—to bring more electricity, and more light, to Uganda, where 88 percent live without any electricity at all.
This organization, called Energy Made in Uganda, is focused on teaching Ugandans how to make solar panels and solar lanterns through a summer school program. Currently, members of the organization are at the stage of working out the methodology by which instructors, materials and everyday supplies reach Uganda so that the effort can begin. Part of this methodology involves getting vital information and advice from solar energy professionals.
When the group has completed its training of Ugandans, it is hoped that their instruction will give rise to a grassroots effort in which Ugandans train their countrymen in the processes needed to transform silicon, wire and steel, for example, into a solar panel or solar light. As the number of trained individuals rises, it is further hoped that the solar cottage industry transforms into an authentic solar energy startup, with employees ranging across the Ugandan landscape installing solar power where it is needed.
Funding this enterprise through Kickstarter will allow Waters to document, via two new high-def camera kits, the group’s progress meeting with local (Ugandan) suppliers and the government officials whose approvals Energy Made in Uganda needs to move forward. When Waters leaves Uganda at the end of the summer, the cameras will remain behind, operated by students trained in their use who will continue to document the transformation of Uganda.