Village Infrastructure Angels (VIA) was incorporated in 2012 with the mission to make poverty-alleviating infrastructure affordable to everyone through long-term loans.
Many small, rural villages and towns are off grid, with limited or no access to reliable sources of electricity. Agro-processing is a productive end use of electricity for which a large gap currently exists. These small villages typically do not have access to a diesel mill for crop processing, and must rely on manual processing, or travel long distances to use a mill.
VIA plans to install solar mills in villages in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and Vanuatu. These mills will deliver services to up to 10,000 households. Small mills will be installed, with an appropriate capacity for the village, through a microfinancing program. The mills will be used to process staple crops, such as rice, corn, and cassava, that require processing before eating, and make up the majority of the diet of rural villagers.
Use of solar mills will decrease the amount of manual processing required and may also reduce reliance on diesel-fueled mills. The time saved in manual labor can be redirected to other efforts that will increase income, particularly for women who are the primary source of labor for agro-processing. Cost savings will be realized in the reduced consumption of diesel fuel, and reduced time spent traveling to mills in remote villages.
From a target of 200-500 solar mills, VIA and its main partner, Project Support Services, have delivered over 100 solar mills to market to date, and have more shipping to various countries. From a target of $3 million of investment to be mobilized over the award period, VIA has secured over $500,000 and has over $1 million more in the final stages of negotiation, which will enable fast progress in 2017. The solar mills were launched at Intersolar in Munich in June, which has raised interest from more potential partners beyond the original Asia-Pacific focus geography, and the first solar mills have now reached Africa.