Many rural and remote areas of Kenya are not connected to the national power grid, though electricity is essential to help alleviate poverty and a reliance on kerosene. Unfortunately, connecting these villages to the national grid isn't feasible. But, as five Siena students learned first-hand, there is another way.
Kijiji, which means small village in Kiswahili, is a project developed out of Strathmore University's Energy Research Center in Nairobi, Kenya. The project harnesses the power of the sun, which is in ample supply on the equator, by erecting modular solar power units capable of providing energy in areas off the grid.
Jessica Salmon, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, became involved with the initiative last year. This spring, her international business management course completed a two-part feasibility analysis. They helped to prioritize locations for modular solar plants and searched for international funding for an initial build scheduled for next year. At the end of the semester, five students traveled to Kenya to explore implementation in the field.
"The students traveled for eight days, ranging from Nairobi to Nyeri to Kisii and examined off-grid hydroelectric power plants and freestanding mini-grids powering 250 households. The scholars got to see and experience first-hand the advantages and disadvantages of mini-grids. One of the more powerful moments was learning about all the productive uses the electrical energy has contributed to - several small businesses have sprung up around the mini-grids, people's ancestral homes now have power so as to make cooking easier, and even a freestanding cyber cafe now provides internet to those without."
Jessica Salmon, Ph.D., assistant professor of management
"It was such an enriching educational experience. We didn't just see the location, but we got to see how it impacts the community. We got to see the pride they take in generating their own electricity."
Justin Kenyon '20, G'23
"I nerd out when I see renewable energy projects. In these developing countries, they have so much potential. There's an entrepreneurial spirit in this country, One of my goals when I complete this MBA is to do something with this degree to help others who are less fortunate, but have the drive to be successful. If you give electricity to brilliant people who have the ambition but not the means, they'll be able to work longer and more efficiently."
Libby DiPaola '14, G'22