Solar mills increase rural resilience in Vanuatu
Many villages in Vanuatu lack access to electricity, relying on expensive and unreliable fossil fuels to support basic household needs. If electricity is not available, villagers, particularly women, spend up to an hour a day manually processing food crops, such as grating cassava and coconut, shelling corn, grinding flour and hulling rice.
Since 2017, the Australian Government has partnered with Village Infrastructure Angels Australia through its Business Partnerships Platform to provide solar energy solutions to 3,000 poor and remote off-grid households in 60 villages in Vanuatu. Australia's contribution of A$500,000 over two years towards the initiative has helped supply solar agricultural mills to 30 of the country's 60 inhabited islands, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and boosting rural incomes.
The use of solar mills means villagers are spending more time on income-producing activities like weaving baskets, and some villagers have even started making new products like vacuum-packed cassava flour and coconut oil, which have a higher profit margin compared to raw crops. Plus, the more reliable power source provides better lighting for children to study by at night and will help communities recover faster after disasters, such as 2015's devastating Tropical Cyclone Pam.
The initiative is structured as a shared value business model with the private sector, so the communities will eventually own the solar mills and lights once they have been paid off, encouraging remote villages in Vanuatu to pursue sustainable development pathways that are more disaster and climate resilient.