Lux is the Latin for light.
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process of being updated: this may cause intermittent access problems.
2000, Faith and Anthony Harckham visited the village of Norung
in Nepal. When we met with the village council we learned that one of the
chief needs of the community was lighting to replace their expensive kerosene
lights and their dangerous open wick oil lamps.
investigating various lighting methods we decided to provide a solar based
light-emitting-diode (LED) system for the villagers. This system was obtained
from a supplier in Kathmandu but we carried out the installation of solar
panels on the school roof and mounting the lights in individual homes whilst
also celebrating the wedding of a friend from that Norung.
We would have
liked to take others back there with us to share the wonderfully warm
reception we had in Norung, for there are many
similar villages in that area which is well off the standard tourist
itinerary. However the disturbances there deterred us from returning in the
Instead we did
take a group of trekkers to install similar systems in two villages in
Bolivia, but we had to design the lighting system from scratch since there
was nothing similar to our Kathmandu source located in La Paz. This trip took
place in September 2002.
In April 2003 a
small group went to Guatemala and installed a different lighting system in a
community of persons who had been displaced in the civil war. A larger group
came to Shimshal in Pakistan in the fall of 2003
and installed lights in three villages there as well as trekking to the Shujerab high village.
In May of 2004
we repaired some of the lights previously installed in Bolivia and installed
new lights in an additional village there. We then travelled to Peru and
installed lights in two villages in the Huayhuash Cordilerra region.
On each trip
the lights had been different as we evolved and improved the design of the
lighting systems and took advantage of the changing technology. But it was
whilst we were in Peru that we realized that what people really need is a
lantern that they could move around, and fixed wiring and solar panels were
poor solutions for the real needs. This led to a radical redesign and the
development of our first lantern.
lanterns were installed during our biggest trip undertaken when we had
seventeen people in Arusha, Tanzania. We installed
400 lanterns in a rural community there and immediately learned how the Local
people used the lanterns in part for keeping a check on their cattle at
In May 2005 we
installed lanterns in another community in Peru and started an ongoing
relationship with that region mediated by Val Pitkethly who guides in that
area and with support from the Juniper Foundation in the UK. We have a
trained support person in Huaraz who can build and
maintain lights for us.
In January 2006
we took a group to Ethiopia and installed lights in communities who live on the
edge of the Blue Nile gorge. In 2006 we were contacted by a person who was
then living the US but who would like us to assist in getting light to his
home communities in India. We took two parties there and installed 330
lanterns in two communities. In September 2007, Faith and a friend, returned
to these villages to replace the batteries in the lanterns, some of which had
turned out to be faulty.
This was the
point at which our approach changed. We had changed the lantern design to use
NiMH batteries instead of lead-acid batteries since we considered that the
lead batteries represented a significant environmental problem. We had up to
this point funded the lanterns as gifts to the communities and to assist us
in this each of the trekkers who accompanied us made a significant
contribution to the cost of the lighting systems. We were very grateful for
this support and our frequently returning trekkers told us that they
considered that they had obtained a unique experience in exchange for their
of managing large groups was becoming a burden and in addition we felt that
people should pay for their lanterns so that they would feel more responsible
for maintaining them. We also knew that cheap solar systems were in the
market and creating frustration for purchasers who found that their lights
failed and there was no way of getting them fixed. We decided that we would
train local people to build lights and help them to establish a business for
selling lights and maintaining them.
In September 2007, Luxtreks worked with Cynthia Hunt of Health Inc. in
Ladakh, Northern India to teach a group of rural villagers, mainly from the Dhamkar valley how to build solar lanterns. This proved
to be the start of an ongoing relationship which was renewed in September
2008, April 2009 and June 2010. It has resulted in one business being run by
nuns in Sani, Zanskar,
and one business being set up by a women࣯-operative in Turtuk. In addition, Health Inc
has been directly supplying some of the trekking companies in Leh, the chief city in Ladakh, with these lights. (See
the Ladakh Relief link
for information about the recent floods and damage in Ladakh.)
In parallel with this we
have worked with Women for Human Rights in Kathmandu, Nepal to train single
women in building and selling lanterns. A first workshop was held in October
2008 and further training was done in April 2009.
A company, Paru Powerlink, has been set up
in Kathmandu by a Nepali friend to further extend the reach of lanterns both
in rural communities and in the urban environment which is plagued with power
outages. Trekking companies here have also bought lights.
A major issue for us has
been the cost of importing components into different countries. At present
our batteries come from China, from NEXcell who have provided a high quality
product. All the rest of our major components come from India and so we do
not face import duties for our work in Ladakh but we do in Nepal and we are
working with Paru Powerlink to address this. This import duty issue is a
major problem with countries giving lip service to ⥥n㯮siderations but
imposing duty rates of up to 88%, based on actual cost plus transportation
The early stage companies we
have helped to start in Ladakh and Nepal are trying to use microcredit where
they can to ensure that the lights reach the most needy part of the
community. For a light which costs 2000 rupees in India, the payback period
against kerosene or candle costs is less than one year. This makes
microcredit a fully viable option. To help in this we have received funding
from the St.
Albert Rotary group.
This is a brief overview of
the history of Luxtreks: we will provide additional
information to anyone who wishes to contact us. This can be done through
email to faith @ luxtreks.com (if you are human leave the spaces out) We plan
to add material to describe our technology and other support material. Come
again and see if we have managed to live up to our plans. A link is provided
to the historic website for as long as that remains relevant!
In October 2010 a group was
established by Faith in Canmore to promote awareness of international
development issues and the work that is being done at a grass-roots level. http://www.cidag.ca/
Last updated January 6th 2011