I have walked out of Kaphuka into the surrounding fields to get a feel of how things were before the village got electricity. It is night time and the blue jagged peaks that cradle the village have disappeared in the gloom. I flick the switch off on the storm lamp that is lighting my way and am enveloped by the darkness. It is not the kind of darkness one often meets in the developed world, where the ambient luminescence from a town or city is usually present somewhere on the horizon. This darkness has a different, impenetrable quality, as if it has a weight and substance. The unplaceable sounds of people moving and dogs howling punctuate the stillness. When I flick the switch back on and make out the shadows of the thatched mud huts nearby, I find myself exhaling with relief.
Until two years ago Kaphuka was a typical isolated rural sub-saharan village. People rose with the sun, spent the daylight hours working, and slept when darkness came. There was no artificial light and so there was little time for the children of the village to read or do homework. If someone became sick after nightfall, as they often do in a region that is rife with malaria, trying to get to a hospital in the darkness down potholed dirt roads was almost impossible. There were no phones, no television and no music.