‘Solar Lamp’ Social Enterprise Pollinate Needs Our Help For Its COVID-19 Work

Pollinate Group, solar lights and COVID-19

Pollinate Group distribute solar lights in India & Nepal. Those communities are being hit hard by COVID-19.

Regular readers will recall that SolarQuotes is a supporter of a remarkable enterprise called Pollinate Group, which supports communities in Nepal and India with solar lamps (comprising a 3.3 watt solar panel, a 3000mAh battery, 165 lumen LED and 2 USB charging ports)  to replace unpleasant and dangerous kerosene lamps.

3.3 watts of solar power doesn’t seem like much, but Pollinate Group’s Director of Philanthropy Biheng Zhang explained that it’s a multifaceted effort. The mostly women recruited to the program get to improve their income; and people who buy the solar lamps don’t have to spend their money on kerosene – and don’t have to breathe the fumes.

That’s why Finn and the team decided last year that Pollinate deserves our support, and dedicated $1 for each genuine quote submitted through SolarQuotes to the group’s effort. That’s about $65,000 per year.

Philanthropy In A Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, because the person-to-person contact Pollinate depends on is now off the table, and right now, it can’t get product to the communities it supports.

Biheng said it’s looking likely India in particular is facing an extended lock-down, and the poorest communities in both countries will be hit hardest.

“It’s not business as usual for us,” she said. “We needed to quickly suspend all field activity and sales, for the health and safety of the field staff and for the communities.”

However, those communities still need support, so while its solar lamp sales are interrupted, Pollinate is looking for other ways to help.
Biheng told SolarQuotes Pollinate’s on-the-ground operations open a window for the organisation to help its communities during this pandemic.

While Pollinate’s model was built around distribution of goods, Biheng said that work has given the organisation access to six cities in India and two in Nepal (with a presence in a total 20 communities) – and it’s earned the trust of those communities.

Trust And Information

So the support Pollinate can offer has two prongs: goods suitable for the crisis, and information the communities badly need.

“We’re in touch with all our entrepreneurs daily, by phone and through WhatsApp. They’re asking ‘how do I get food? How do I get access to the government subsidies I hear about?’”

NGOs can deliver food packs, Biheng explained,

“but you don’t know where to find people. We help there”.

Having an existing network of entrepreneurs on the ground in those communities, and Pollinate’s people here and in India and Nepal, means the group can find and disseminate the information those communities need.

There’s also the matter of trust. Biheng told us one of the biggest challenges is trying to counter the misinformation that spreads so quickly when people are afraid.

Biheng said scams and rumours are “all over” India, with ludicrous advice like “hold your breath for 15 seconds” spreading via social media. Pollinate’s attempt to counter the lies is to stick to simple facts: “We talk about social distancing and hand-washing”.

Their contact with entrepreneurs also means Pollinate can find out when people are running out of food, (because especially in India, the severity of the lockdown has put so many of the poorest out of work), and work with other NGOs to try and get essentials to those communities.

And Pollinate has secured hand-wash, gloves, and masks, which it is also distributing to as many of its communities as possible.

But it can’t do this alone – Pollinate still needs money to keep going. We know everybody’s business has been hit hard by the pandemic lockdown, but if you can spare a few dollars, pop over to Pollinate’s donation page.

About Richard Chirgwin

Richard Chirgwin is a journalist with more than 30 years' experience covering a wide range of technology topics, including electronics, telecommunications, computing and science.


  1. I am sorry for the unfortunate people living in poverty in India and think it is shameful their government after 1000’s of years has not been able to lift them out of poverty or no desire to do so, maybe belief in karma. However, I’ll seek out the address of Pollinate group and make a contribution. So pleased to learn aout Solar Quotes donations.

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