A collective light for rural Mali


Mali’s rural people called them Foroba Yelen . They are the new electric streetlights made ​​by Matteo Ferroni, after two years of anthropological studies on habits and actual needs of electric lighting in rural areas. The portable lamps are tools owned by the village to light activities, rather than public fixtures installed to light spaces.

Matteo Ferroni, "I considered light as a cultural phenomena rather than a technological challenge, striving for harmony between tool, culture and nature. Therefore I introduced the concept of collective light by turning old bikes into portable lampposts to be shared among villagers".

In three years, in the Commune Rurale de Cinzana (Segou), the project delivered 105 lamps to 25 villages and three health care centres and monitored their integration in village life. Lamps were manufactured in local workshops and delivered to women’s collectives. Women’s associations own the lamps and appoint a committee that establishes criteria for allocating the lamps using a rental system and they manage the income they generate. A person is appointed from the committee to maintain the lamps and charge the batteries.

Assitan Coulibaly, president of the women’s group in the village of Sanogola, "Before we used small petrol lamps or we had to rent fuel-powered generators.  Now we can have bright light wherever we need it. Near the village fountain, in the community garden, at home to make shea butter or to teach our children. We own them and share them asking a small fee, so that we can earn some money for community needs. We all benefit from it!". The lamps are rented out in the community enabling people to work, teach and worship.

Four to eight portable solar lamps can cover a village’s needs avoiding the installation of dozens of public lighting fixtures. If we consider that Mali has more than 20,000 villages, the impact on energy consumption is potentially huge.  

Fondazione eLand (studies on cultures and territories)