Juabar, what is it anyway? Solar phone charging, a micro business? That all sounds exciting, but really, what is it?

It’s been a question on the tip of all of our tongues as we work to codesign and develop “juabar” here in Dar Es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania and a hub of creativity in East Africa. Although we were confident coming to Tanzania that initial juabar excitement was in the air, we were still working with numerous different possible designs prior to arrival. Once on the ground we were able to spend time co-designing with fabricators and future juabar users and finalizing the design for our first prototype. juabar prototype #1 is almost complete and out into the world.

juabar’s on wheels!

It has been an inspiring journey designing, building and collaborating with our team here and the response so far has been amazing.

Here is a little taste of what I mean:

We have been working with a man named Benard, the solar supplier for ARTI, our partner organization on the ground. Early on we purchased a solar panel from him and I was in the process of purchasing other solar supplies from him over the phone when he asked a common question in the solar industry.

“Where is your site located? I’ll need to bring a technician out to check it out and then I can tell you a price for what you need.”

I explained that it was a mobile solar installation and that it was currently located at the ARTI headquarters.  He seemed a bit confused, but said he’d see me there in a few hours. He arrived and when I told him more about what we were working on he was intrigued, but still a bit perplexed until I proceeded to show him the set-up. At first he looked astonished and then smiled, laughed and said, “This is creative! I had no idea what you were up to, but now I see it! Wow, it’s great, it is not a question of if this will take off, it is a question of when.” We exchanged more laughs at his initial confusion about “what is juabar?”,  he excitedly complimented our work once again and promised to update me on the availability of the components I needed from him.

And with another vote of confidence the juabar team went back to work.

coming together one weld at a time

My favorite juabar moment to date came during a conversation with Ronney, the man who works as the driver for ARTI and speaks fluent English, Swahili, Ugandan and a few other languages.

We were busily stenciling juabar to get it one step closer to completion when Ronney came over to say hello and check on our progress. Olivia looks up at him and asks, “What do you think of juabar?” He is silent for a minute and then responds with, “What do I think of juabar? I wish I could buy one and start my own business. I’d be my own boss and I would set it up at the market in Mwenge.”

I could not have anticipated a more validating response.

There is much work still to be done, but juabar is already coming into its own. We should have juabar1 finished in a few days and out into the world and we’re already designing the next iteration.

Olivia gets down to details with juabar

That said, I have learned not to anticipate that things will happen too quickly. In the context of electricity outages and sourcing components in an unknown environment sometimes things take a little longer than expected. In the meantime I’m basking in the glow of abundant juabar energy and taking each day in stride.
In anticipation of juabar’s entrance into the world, I’ve snuck in some sneak peeks of “juabar” to date. Enjoy and stay tuned for full juabar #1 photos coming very soon.

juabar says: “charge your cell phone with solar here” in kiswahili