Milking the Sun’s Rays to Reduce Child Labour in Africa

Everyone knows CES for the next big thing in luxury tech – halls filled with rows of gadgets and gizmos all promising to make our first-world lives “easier”.  However, one of the best stories to come out of CES 2019 is the product that won this year’s Innovation Award: the Solar Cow by Yolk. 

Yolk is an electronics company based in Korea whose mission is to make unlimited, pollution free, solar energy available in daily life. We would like to not only develop innovative products combining technology and creative design, but also provide solutions for social and energy challenges.

The company saw three pressing issues that are prevalent in the developing world and connected the dots to create a solution that would help address not just one, but all three problems:

  1. Low enrolment in education
  2. Limited and costly access to electricity – 10-20% of income
  3. Child labour crisis

In developing countries where extreme poverty exists there is often no incentive to pursue education.  Children need to help provide for their families, so then end up in child labour. 

Another factor is that the commodity of electricity is scarce.  It is definitely not wired into everyone’s homes and may not even be available at all in some villages.  Cell phones are widely used for communication, but a wireless device is only as good as its battery life.  People travel into towns four or more hours away from home where they then pay to charge their phones.

Yolk installed their Solar Cow at a school in Pokot, Kenya as a pilot project.  Children attending the school are given a power bank, which when charged can be used to charge or run other devices.  Before entering school in the morning, kids hook up their family’s power bank, which is shaped like a milk bottle, to the underside of the cow.  When they’re all hooked up it actually looks like a modern-day automatic milking machine.  While the children are in class the Solar Cow produces “Power Milk” that the children then bring home to their families.

This product provides for a basic need and also has the potential to improve the standard of living for an entire generation.  The Solar Cow is a viable solution because the access to electricity saves families more money than they would earn from sending their children to work.  Instead, their children receive an education and the cycle of poverty and child labour is broken. For more information, check out their website here

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