A tonic for development


June 27th, 2017

Lack of access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the rural population remains a challenge in Zimbabwe.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2000, the country currently has a national electrification rate of 41.5%. Mashaba schoolWhile electricity has reached 79% of urban households, rural electrification is still below 19%, and only 32% of the population has access to modern energy.

With such statistics, having electricity in rural areas like Gwanda District is like a dream.

In 2015, Practical Action in partnership with SNV and the Dabane Trust, with funds from the European Union, are implementing the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project in Gwanda District in Matabeleland South Province to provide sustainable energy in the area.

The project has established a solar powered mini-grid generating 99 kilowatts.  It is based on the premise that energy is a requirement for the development of rural communities and a precursor for meeting national and international development goals such as the sustainable development goals.

This mini grid is expected to benefit at least 10,000 people, powering Mashaba Primary School, Mashaba Clinic, as well as three irrigation schemes and two business centres.

Delight Ncube, age 12 from Mashaba ward 19 in Gwanda applauds Practical Action for the mini grid project.Delight Ncube

“Before the SE4RC project, we used candles at home for lighting and this made studying difficult, but this is the thing of the past now,” he said. “We now have access to electricity at school and this is helping us a lot when it comes to studying.”

Ncube’s friend and classmate, Letwin Sibanda, adds: “I am very happy that we now have electricity at our school. I had never used a computer before, but now, we are using them thanks to Practical Action.”

Without a doubt, the power being generated by the solar mini grid is transforming the lives of most, if not all, communities in Gwanda.

“The establishment of the solar mini grid in this area has turned dreams into reality.” says Mashaba deputy headmaster, Obert Ncube.

“Students now have unlimited access to electricity and this enhance education. Villagers are also using solar powered irrigation to feed their families. I believe the solar mini grid will provide a test case to demonstrate that decentralised energy systems can tackle energy poverty in Zimbabwe and ensure that off-grid rural communities have access to sustainable energy to improve their lives through increased production, better education, health and improved incomes.”

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