MALI, Sikasso – In 2010 small solar lanterns were quite new on the Malian market. They can provide a handy solution in off-grid rural areas. Rural Energy Foundation Mali had built a stable network of solar retailers who were keen to sell these lanterns. But how to reach the customers in such dispersed areas?
The solar retailer in Sikasso was also interested in selling these solar lanterns. A good friend of his was the ‘milk man’, who went round every morning on his moped to sell fresh cow milk to the villagers. The solar retailer and I joined him a few times to show the solar lanterns and explain their usage. The milk man was a perfect broker to connect us to the villagers, and was even willing to bring some lanterns with him on his next rounds in case villagers would want to buy them.
This creative solution made the solar lanterns accessible in remote rural areas, and generated more awareness about solar energy in general. There was also a clear increase in sales, not only because the retailer in Sikasso was selling these solar lanterns, but there was also more interest in the larger solar systems he was selling thanks to his greater visibility in the region.