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iShack Has Solar Panels Fitted

South Africa has 14 per cent of its people living in shacks in various parts of the country providing very basic accommodation. However, researchers at Stellenbosch University have utilised solar panels to provide power to a shack on a settlement 40km from Cape Town.

(image credit: nist6ss)

The iShack (“improved shack”) is one of 2,000 shacks located at Enkanini near an industrial estate at Stellenbosch. This is an unserviced settlement of dwellings where people light their homes by candlelight.

However, this is not the case for the Mthalo family who are participating in the research by Stellenbosch University. The shack was built by Victor Mthalo in May 2011 for his family. In October 2011 Victor agreed to participate in the iShack experiment that included his zinc-sheeted shack being lined with empty cartons of milk that had been flattened plus cardboard sheets. A window was also made bigger and a solar panel was installed on his roof. A light bulb was fitted together with a socket so that he could charge his mobile phone.

Victor commented: “My shack became much more pleasant. It used to get very cold in winter and so hot in summer – 45C – that you could not stay indoors in the daytime. Now it is bearable.”

Recently the university researchers returned to add further solar panels capable of powering a DVD player, television, outside light, radio and also a fridge freezer. It is questionable whether the family will be in a financial position to fully stock the fridge freezer but it just shows what can be done.

Mark Swilling, who is Stellenbosch University’s professor of sustainable development pointed out that it is about showing the potential of what can be achieved. He said: “Getting people organised around their own wellbeing and improvements builds capacity. Building them houses with no input from them does not.”

In addition the researchers are also looking at developing eco-friendly sanitation projects in the locality.

It is expected that, as the iShack project expands, people will be able to obtain the solar panels on a hire purchase basis.

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