Building a future with energy


May 2nd, 2014

It is hard not to be inspired by the enthusiasm of the people of Himalaya for their project. They are able to see neighbouring Chipendeke from their homes and the lights in that valley spurred them on to create their own source of energy.

Many years previously there had been a micro hydro power system on their river, running a pump to irrigate the land, but this had broken and could not be repaired, so they knew that generation at their site was possible.  Practical Action held communitymeeting to help them work out what services energy could provide that would benefit them most and what they could afford. Irrigation was identified as the primary need so that more of the land could be cultivated.  This was closely followed by opportunities for running  businesses.women collecting sand for building irrigation system

The 87 households of Himalaya are scattered over a wide area and farming is the main occupation.  Connecting individual houses would be extremely expensive in transmission equipment.  But, as they have more than 2 million trees on their land, mostly eucalyptus which are perfect for electricity poles and fencing posts,  the community decided to build a sawmill, a pole treatment facility and an business centre where a range of businesses – a shop, phone and solar light charging centre, hairdresser will be set up. The development is set up as a co-operative to enable the whole community to benefit from the energy. 

During my visit I witnessed an astounding amount of activity.  Irrigation ditches were being built, sand gathered from the river to make cement and a concrete slab being laid at the business centre.

Climbing up to the top of the micro hydro was hard – the path was steep and stony and I felt huge admiration for the men and women who had carried loads of sand, cement and heavy pipes up this hillside.

The community were full of expectations for the ways in which the project would transform their lives and this was the motivation for the work they put in, on top of their daily chores and farm work.  The chairman of the management committee, William Mukonje, told me that he was delighted:  “It was difficult to unite people to go in the same direction, but we are proud of the work we are doing and people are now very motivated to finish the project”,  he said.

Having seen just how much this community has achieved in the last year, I can wait to find out how far they will progress in the future.

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