Here is a design solution for rural Mali (and beyond) that is improving lives. This portable street light is the result of an anthropological study by eLand, an institute for studies on cultures and territories, established by Italian architect and video artist Matteo Ferroni. Unlike most street lamps, this one gives light to activities rather than spaces. It can be put wherever needed most, to improve work, education and rituals like weddings, without depending on the electrical grid, available to only 45% of Mali's population. Due to the extreme heat, a lot of activities happen at night, but require adequate lighting.
Foroba Yelen, meaning 'collective light', can be locally produced by using old bicycle parts and melting down soda cans to mould the head of the lamp. There is only one technological part which has to be purchased from outside Africa, and that's the LEDs. Once this gets to the villages, the users themselves can make (and repair!) the entire lamp. This is important in order to guarantee longevity of the project and create local jobs. The attached battery is charged by the villages' solar panels, available throughout rural Mali.
The reason why the light shines straight down to the floor is because in Mali most activities happen on the floor. The posture of the final users influenced the product and has been studied in the field before coming up with the final design. The lamp can easily be moved around by kids and adults, and the hight adjusts according to the situation. It also respects the UN and World Bank's regulation for lighting in Africa.
In a way, it is not so much a product design than a Product Service System (PSS), run by women's collectives. Communities manage their Foroba Yelen and lend them out to those who request a light and fulfill certain requirements. This system is nothing new in Mali. Mills to grind grains are also owned by the community and work in a very similar way. This seems to be a great example of how open design, local production and sharing can fight poverty.