“I have used a kerosene lantern for the last 25 years”-energy stories from Kenya

March 18, 2019

By Caroline Wahome

Kenya’s population is estimated at 50 million of whom 73% have access to electricity via either grid or off-grid electricity solutions. While the government is committed to providing electricity for all by 2022, grid extension can be slow and expensive. Hivos believes that decentralized renewable energy options such as solar mini-grids provide a key solution to electricity access for all. Hivos supports increased investment in decentralized renewable energy options, as well as strengthening of legal, policy and regulatory frameworks.

Hivos East Africa Green and Inclusive Programme had a chat with citizens based in Kisumu, Kajiado, Mombasa, Lamu and Central Kenya to get their experiences in relation to access to energy.  We tell their stories in pictures.

Jackline Anzazi, 12,

I am a pupil at Jerusalem Star Academy, Mombasa. My mother passed away. I live with my grandmother. We began using solar power three years ago. Before that we had a lantern. We started using solar power after my grandmother was diagnosed with tuberculosis. When it rains and the solar power doesn’t have enough energy we revert to the lantern. We use paraffin to cook. My grandmother applied for electricity installation but we are yet to get connected.

Remison Barawa, 18

I am in Form 2 at Sokoke High School. I was born in Bangladesh slums, Mombasa. I am the third born in a family of five. We have used paraffin for lighting our entire lives. We spend Sh10 shillings a night totaling to 300 shillings ($3) a month.

I only study using the lantern when it’s necessary. We cook using firewood from mangrove trees that we scavenge for in the ocean. When we don’t get any, my mother is forced to buy firewood. My mother can’t afford to install electricity in our house. She does cleaning jobs to support us and she makes 200 shillings a day, when she is lucky.


Mildred Adhiambo Richard, Fish Vendor: 54 Years

I sell cereals and omena (silver cyprinid) in Kisumu. I spent 18,000 shillings ($180) to install solar lighting in January 2018. I took a loan from our women’s welfare group. I ran my shop using koroboi (tin lantern) for 15 years. I used to spend 3,000 shillings a month. Solar is better. The lighting is good. There is no smoke. I use the same solar in the house because it is mobile.  I make a profit of 10,000 shillings a month.


Salim Ahmed, 27: Fisherman, father of three

I have been a fisherman for 20 years. l started going to the deep sea when l was 12 years old. I quit school when l was 13 years old, and in class six, and l became a fisherman. I have been using the lantern for five year. The lantern is used to attract and spot fish. When there is a full moon, we don’t use the lantern. We prefer the lantern because it has a stronger light and makes noises that attracts fish. We use one and half litres of paraffin every night. It costs 130 shillings (Slightly above a dollar).  When we are lucky we make between 6,000 and 10,000 shillings a night. Sometimes, however, we go to the sea and come back with nothing. There is no guarantee we will catch fish. Fishing is not like formal employment where salary is guaranteed. I rest on Fridays.

Mohamed Mbwana, Fisherman, 38

Life is hard and that’s why l chose to have one child. I am from Lamu and l grew up next to the ocean. I never went to school. I attended Madrassa classes. I started fishing at the age of five. I started with a hook. I have used a kerosene lantern for the last 25 years. I have fished for 33 years. I have seen the price of kerosene go up. I have heard of solar power but l have never used it. I have seen solar lights but they’re not strong enough to attract fish.



Milcah Wambui Njeri, 29 year-old mother of three. Small scale farmer

I farm and sell sukumawiki (kale) and maize in my village in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County. The maize takes three months to mature. In a year, l make Sh6,000 ($60). My husband is a small scale trader. His income supports the family. I use solar power because we don’t have electricity. I use it to charge my phone and for lighting. I don’t have a converter for my radio. I am forced to use batteries. I use gas to cook because I don’t have firewood. Our farm is small, and we don’t have any trees left. If we had trees, l would use them for firewood. Gas is good because it is not that expensive; it cooks fast, and doesn’t have smoke so my children aren’t affected. You can use gas during the day and at night.


Patrick Mutunga, father of two, Kitengela Kajiado County.

I have lived in Kitengela, a few metres from the National Park for the last three years. I have used Solar for slightly over one year. It has helped me greatly to reduce the cost of paraffin. l watch news, charge my phone and listen to the radio. Solar isn’t like electricity, “it’s free”. I purchased my solar system through a loan repayment.  It comes with four lights, 50 watts solar panel, 24 inch Tv and a battery to store power. It also comes with a solar powered torch and radio. The initial cost was Sh5000 ($50). I pay sh99 daily totaling to sh2772 monthly. The repayment is spread through two and half years. Before I purchased the solar I can say we lived in darkness. My budget for paraffin was Sh450 for one lantern and we live in a four-roomed house. I am a builder and l farm chicken and till vegetables.

Margaret Wamuyu Mwangi,  65

I am mother of four and l have seven grandchildren. Nyeri is my home. I don’t have electricity. I have cooked using firewood my entire life. I use firewood because l cannot afford gas. I buy firewood from my neighbors which cost me Sh1,000 shillings every month. I, together with some neighbours have tried to put in an application for electricity but they say we are too far from the connection post but that is a lie because there is a house 500 metres away that has power.