''Taken from The Times
December 26, 2009''

It is a cruel irony that some of the sunniest countries on the planet spend so much of the time in darkness for want of a cheap source of energy. More cruel still is that the remedy is so easily available, if there were just enough seed money for Africans to be able to harness it: solar power.

SolarAid, one of the charities supported by The Times in this year’s Christmas Charity Appeal, is slowly providing the seed money to exploit this inadequately tapped resource. Money that will allow children who have ambition but no classroom lighting to stay at school beyond sunset, to use computers and listen to tapes while they are in their classrooms, and to do homework when they get home. Money for doctors in hospitals to be able to work in well-lit wards and operating theatres, to ensure that no more mothers have to give birth in the dark, and to power fridges in which to store vital vaccines.

The charity’s work in spreading the use of solar panels helps villages to pump clean water; and enables families to avoid respiratory diseases resulting from the use of toxic, polluting kerosene-powered lamps. It also lessens the risk of their homes being razed by accidents from kerosene-fuelled fires. The lack of electricity means that in rural communities, villagers fell trees to make charcoal for cooking, in the process accelerating deforestation and soil erosion. By funishing power for mobile phones and radios, SolarAid helps remote villages to reach the outside world.

SolarAid may be only three years old, but already it has reached 150,000 people. With the help of Times readers it hopes to reach more than 400,000 of Africa’s poorest within a year, and 1.5 million by 2012. It deserves your support.

Find out more about SolarAid here