Life can be changed by access to energy and water

October 16th, 2014

In Zimbabwe 37% of households have access to grid  electricity of which 83% are in urban areas and 13% are in rural areas, these are mainly schools, growth points, business centers and mission stations.  There is significant  inequality  between  urban and  rural access to electricity. Most rural households depend on traditional fuels for their energy needs, resulting in deforestation and hazardous indoor pollution.

Mashaba Solar Mini-Grid, Gwanda, Zimbabwe

In rural Zimbabwe the economic driver is agriculture, both dry land and irrigated. Having seen this Practical Action is promoting the use of decentralized renewable energy schemes (off-grid) which have potential to meet the social and economic energy demands of the rural population in a sustainable manner. In electricity, off-grid can be stand-alone systems (SHS) or mini-grids typically to provide a smaller community with electricity. Off-grid electrification is an approach suited to communities with little access to electricity, due to scattered or distant populations such as Mashaba – Gwanda, Zimbabwe.

The ‘Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC)’ project will be implemented in Gwanda in Matebeland South in an effort to meet the key energy needs for the targeted communities. Mashaba is a rural area about 140km from Gwanda Town and has no access to grid electricity, which is 15km away. The area is an agro based region which is highly dependent on irrigation agriculture which currently uses diesel irrigation pumps which are expensive and dirty. The area has two irrigation schemes (Mankonkoni and Rustlers Gorge) with a total of 56 ha irrigable land and there is potential of adding another 60 ha irrigation scheme (Sebasa). There are business centers, a clinic, and a school which all need energy.

The Mashaba solar mini-grid is an exciting project that has the potential to greatly improve the socio-economic status of Mashaba communities. This will go some way in redressing the inequalities of rural energy access.

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