Saturday, August 21, 2010

Burkina Has Talent #2

Last week, as our Centre employees were leaving work, I noticed that one of them had several burned-out fluorescent light bulbs tied to the back of his moto. “Herman!” I said, “What in the world are you going to do with those?” Herman’s French isn’t very good, so he had a hard time communicating what he wanted to say. But I finally understood that people take these bulbs, cut them into several chunks, and make lamps out of them using batteries!

Really? This I had to see! So I asked Herman to bring me one, saying that I’d reimburse him for the cost.

On Friday, he did just that. And while I could quickly see ways to improve on it, I thought it was a pretty cool device. What they did was cut the long tube into several shorter lengths of about a foot long each. Then they took two LED bulbs and stuck one in each end of each of the shorter tubes, embedded in a piece of foam rubber that served at the same time to plug the ends of the tube.

To power the LED bulbs, they built a case out of wood scraps, big enough to hold three D-cell batteries. A scrap piece of metal formed one contact, and a nail formed the other. Wires tied around the contact ran to the leads of the LED bulbs, with a switch in between to be able to turn the lights on and off.

According to Herman, these little units (batteries not included :) sold for 750 francs (about $1.50) and were used by people living in the suburban squatter areas of Ouaga when there was not yet any electricity. I tried it out and the unit puts out just enough light to be able to see what you’re doing.

In any case, I thought it was a pretty creative way to recycle fluorescent light bulbs!

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