Lighting Africa’s Solar Revolution

After two days of driving across the vast, roadless interior of Chad, we stumbled upon a remarkable sight: two men on camels, wrapped in robes and navigating by the sun and wind. They dismounted and offered us camel’s milk, despite the fact that they were carrying almost no food or water for themselves. But tradition dictated a gift upon greeting strangers, so they offered what they had. We politely declined and gave them extra supplies before they continued on their way. It was my first time encountering people who have never had access to any kind of modern infrastructure.

It was 2010, and I was a member of a rock-climbing expedition to the Ennedi desert in the remote Northeastern corner of Chad. The three days spent driving across the Sahel were my first time experiencing anywhere so remote. So when we met the local people living in huts in the Ennedi and herding goats, much as they had for thousands of years, it was quite a shock for someone who grew up in suburban California.

At the time, our trip to Chad just felt like simple adventure tourism. We put up new routes on untouched rock and we documented it for The North Face, our main sponsor. It was a successful trip, in that we explored a new area and did some great climbing. But the trip stayed with me — it was the first time I was confronted face first with true poverty.

As a professional rock climber, I’ve been traveling pretty much nonstop for the last decade. I live out of my van, which gives me a first-hand appreciation for power and lighting. A few years ago, I rebuilt the interior of my van to include solar panels and a battery that powers LEDs for lighting and allows —> Read More