LEN is providing reliable, clean, inexpensive solar lighting to the people of Liberia, where currently no one has access to reliable electric power. Following 14 years of a brutal civil war the country is one of the poorest on the planet. With access to affordable and reliable electric power comes change and development, improving individual Liberian’s health, education and the Liberian economy.
Liberia faces almost insurmountable challenges following 14 years of civil wars in which 750,000 of its 3.6 million people were killed and most of its basic infrastructure, including its electric grid, was destroyed. Liberia’s hospitals, schools, businesses and households suffer complete darkness or cope with minimal light from expensive generators or toxic kerosene lanterns or wood fires. Without safe, reliable, and affordable power, Liberians will not be able to rise out of poverty and realize their true potential.
The distribution of solar lighting throughout Liberia by LEN and its local partners will transform the country: lighting in clinics will allow doctors to treat patients after dark, saving lives and improving health; students from elementary through university years will be able to study at night; businesses will be able to stay open after dark; and for the first time people will have safe, affordable lighting in their homes. LEN’s network of partnering Liberian organizations will generate income to support their work and improve their members’ lives.
BENEFITS FOR WOMEN
Women and their children will realize life-changing benefits from LEN’s solar lighting program: their health will be dramatically improved when they are no longer subjected to toxic fumes from kerosene lamps and fires, educational opportunities will be opened up to them when they can attend school in the evening which they have been prohibited from doing because their day is occupied with performing house chores, and traditional market women can increase their earning power by extending the hours they conduct business
into the evening.
LEN’s History and Organization
LEN grew out of a 2009 meeting between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Richard Fahey, who was then a practicing attorney and former Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia. Following that meeting Mr. Fahey, who had maintained close relationships with leaders in Liberia, left his position with a major law firm to start an enterprise that would bring solar power to Liberia.
Soon after his meeting with President Sirleaf, who had studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School of government, Mr. Fahey became a 2010 Fellow at the Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI), a Harvard graduate school program that works with leaders who are preparing to transition to second careers in community service. LEN matured into a reality during Mr. Fahey’s Fellowship at Harvard. From 2009 through 2011 Mr. Fahey conducted market research and focus-group surveys in Liberia, established relationships with Liberian civil society organizations, and conducted a pilot project to test the business model. In early 2011 Robert Saudek, another Fellow at Harvard’s ALI program and also a lawyer, joined Mr. Fahey as Vice President, Treasurer and Director of LEN. In early 2012 Abubakar K. Sherif became LEN’s Liberian Manager and Chief Operating Officer, overseeing day-to-day operations in Liberia.
THE ECONOMIC MODEL
LEN was formed in August, 2011 as a not-for-profit corporation in the State of New Mexico, USA. LEN registered as a not-for-profit in Liberia in February, 2012. As a US and Liberian not-for-profit, LEN will sell lights to local Liberian individuals and organizations on a break-even basis, with revenue being used by LEN to take the solar lighting program to scale and reach economic sustainability. This allows it to reach the poorest Liberians who are at the base of the World’s economic pyramid and bring solar energy to them on a scale that meets their basic needs and is affordable.
LEN took important steps toward reaching sustainability and scale in late 2013 with receipt of the first container of solar lights to ever be received in Monrovia. Building upon the foundation the Liberian staff had built up in 2013, over 6,000 lights have been distributed by June of 2015, moving LEN from the start up phase to the large scale importation and distribution of lights throughout Liberia. LEN built out its network partnering with groups and organizations which are successfully operating in Liberia such as the 7,000 member Firestone Agricultural & Workers’ Union of Liberia (FAWUL), Save the Children, and Mercy Corps Liberia. LEN conservatively projects that over the next 5 years it will distribute more than 100,000 solar lighting units at a value of over $5,300,000 USD which, with an average of over 5 people per household in Liberia, will provide safe, reliable lighting for nearly 15% of the country’s population.
LEN will utilize a variety of different methods for distributing solar lighting
- Some lights will be sold by LEN to its partner organizations for use by the organizations in fulfilling their missions
- Some lights will be sold by LEN to partner organizations and the organizations will resell the lights to their members or constituents, who will use the lights in their businesses or homes.
- Some lights that are resold to members of the organizations will be used by the members to set up entrepreneurial businesses that will sell solar lights in their communities; training kits will be prepared by LEN to assist in setting up these businesses.
- Some lights will be sold directly by LEN to members of the public at open market places and at LEN's retail showroom.
THE LEN NETWORK
To reach Liberian communities, especially those in the remote interior of the country, LEN is building a network by establishing partnerships with Liberian organizations that are already successfully serving various segments of the population,including:
- Save the Children is the largest provider of maternal and child care in Liberia, with clinics and health workers operating in all of Liberia’s 15 counties. None of its clinic clinics or health care workers had any access to electrical lighting or phone charging to support communications until they partnered with us. LEN has provided solar lighting to all of its clinics in three counties, as well as solar lanterns with phone chargers to all of its health care workers in those counties. Based upon the success of the initial project LEN is working with Save the Children to provide solar electric power to all of their clinics and health workers throughout the country. This program is providing a model for other public and private healthcare providers in Liberia to meet their lighting needs.
- US Peace Corps has Volunteers throughout rural Liberia teaching in middle and high schools. By providing solar lights to the Volunteers LEN is not only helping them better perform their teaching duties, but is also demonstrating the benefits of solar technology in communities throughout the country by providing students and their families with their first exposure to this new affordable and sustainable technology.
- Artisanal Fishermen along the coast of Liberia fish largely at night using poor quality Chinese flashlights and batteries on their ocean going canoes, costing them on average $25 USD a month, representing a significant cost of them doing business. The fish they catch represents the major source of protein in the diet of average Liberian. In the Summer, 2013 LEN has participated in the first empirical study of the benefits of solar lighting to the traditional fishing communities being conducted by Will Smith, a senior honor student form William and Mary College and the Liberian Fisheries Bureau. Preliminary results indicate that the lights not only save the fishermen costs, but also improve productivity of their catches and their safety by enhancing visibility when they fish at night in the busy shipping lanes off the coast of Liberia.
- USAID Advancing Youth Project trains former child soldiers and requires lights to allow for evening studies. LEN has provided AYP with lights to use in its evening classes for nearly two years and provides installation and maintenance/support services for the lights keep them in good working order.
- Mercy Corps Liberia focuses its efforts in two key areas: financial services and last mile distribution. LEN has teamed up with Mercy Corps to train young women entrepenuers and incorporate them into the LEN network in both urban and rural settings.
- FAWUL is the largest labor union in Liberia currently representing 7,000 workers on the one million acre Firestone Plantation, and organizing other plantations in the Country, none of which have electricity for the workers’ camps or homes. In early 2014 LEN and FAWUL entered into an agreement which is allowing workers to purchase lights in installments withheld from their salary making the lights accessible to all of FAWUL’s members.
- Additional Networks are being developed as LEN’s line of products becomes more broadly used throughout Liberia. LEN has an ongoing initiative to identify and develop new partners throughout the country to grow the market and create a network for the distribution and sale of solar lighting…and eventually other goods and services…to the people of Liberia.
Liberians spend an estimated 10% to 15% of their income charging their cell phones at expensive, often far-away cell phone-charging centers. Most of the solar lights sold by LEN will recharge cell phones for no cost after the light is purchased, and the solar lights will typically be paid for in less than one year by eliminating the cost of charging cell phones.
LEN is working to make Liberia the first country in the world whose people will obtain their electricity predominately from the sun.
Who We Are
Richard P. Fahey – Founder and CEO of LEN
Richard Fahey was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia from 1966 to 1968. Since that time Mr. Fahey has returned to Liberia numerous times and has maintained strong relationships with many of the people with whom he worked in Liberia during his years in the Peace Corps.
For 38 years Mr. Fahey practiced law first as Attorney-in-Charge of the Navajo Legal Aid in Shiprock, New Mexico, then as Assistant Attorney General of the State of Ohio, Environmental and Natural Resources Section, and for 29 years as Partner specializing in Environmental and Natural Resources Law at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLC, one of the largest law firms in Ohio.
Mr. Fahey has served as Adjunct Professor at Ohio State University Moritz School of Law and at Capital University Law School, has authored 19 legal publications, including a book on Environmental Law. He has served on numerous non-profit boards of directors, as well as President of the Columbus, Ohio School Board. He has also served as Chairman of the Ohio Oil and Gas Regulatory Review Board.
Upon retirement from his law firm in 2010, Mr. Fahey was selected to be a Fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative where he formulated the program to address the energy needs of the people of Liberia through a social enterprise, which became the Liberian Energy Network.
Mr. Fahey is a graduate of San Francisco State College, B.A., and Northwestern University School of Law, J.D., a 2013 Purpose Prize Fellow. In June of 2015, Rich was selected as a Point of Light recepient by the George H.W. Bush Points of LIght Foundation.
Robert E. Saudek – Vice President, Treasurer and Director of LEN
Robert Saudek has practiced law for the last 40 years. He first worked for the
Wall Street law firm Carter, Ledyard & Milburn and then spent most of his career with Morris, Manning & Martin (MMM) in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Saudek was one of the founding Partners of MMM where he represented clients in major real estate transactions for 25 years. For the last 16 years Mr. Saudek served as Managing Partner of MMM,leading its growth from an eight-lawyer start-up to one of AmLaw’s 200 largest firms in the country.
Mr. Saudek serves as an Adjunct Professor at Emory Law School and serves on numerous non-profit boards of directors.
After retirement from his law firm in 2011 Mr. Saudek was selected to be a Fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative where he joined Mr. Fahey to work on the Liberian Energy Network.
Mr. Saudek is a graduate of Harvard College, B.A., and University of Michigan Law School, J.D.
Abubakar K. Sherif – President of LEN (Liberia)
Prior to the Liberian civil war Abubakar K. Sherif was a community developer
with the Liberian Ministry of Interior. He was involved in constructing infrastructure throughout the interior of the country. During the war Abubakar supervised the distribution of food aid throughout the country. He has also been involved in several small business ventures in Liberia. Mr. Sherif is manager and chief operating officer of the day-to-day operations of LEN in Liberia. A small Liberian staff operates under Mr. Sherif’s direction.