A village transformed by solar power in rural Zimbabwe will provide the blueprint for a new wave of energy access for thousands of people in the country.
A speech by Zimbabwean Deputy Minister for Energy, Magna Mudyiwa was read by a representative at the handover of a solar mini grid to the community of Mashaba village, Gwanda District.
She said investment in renewable rural energy can create major rural economic regeneration by creating new local business, boosting crop production and improving social services.
Ms Mudyiwa said The Zimbabwean Government has now made off-grid solar provision part of its national energy strategy and the Mashaba solar mini grid will act as an example to follow elsewhere in the country.
She said: “This project provides solutions today, not in 20 years. I feel motivated by this project which has become a benchmark for future projects of a similar nature in this country and beyond.”
Practical Action implemented the project, supported by partner organisations, SNV, Hivos and the Dabane Trust.
Together the organisations overcame a number of challenges and ensured that access to energy was accompanied by other vital inputs, such as improved access to markets, better agricultural techniques and the stimulation of demand for electricity.
They are now calling on private sector actors and mobile phone providers to invest in dozens more mini grids like this in a bid to improve connectivity and mobile phone charging amongst rural communities in the country.
Regional Director Kudzai Marovanidze said “The mini grid has been working for some time and, combined with our other solutions, it has totally transformed local trade, the economy and local social services of the village.
“It hasn’t been an easy journey, but now businesses are flourishing, children have access to computers at school and nurses have lighting for emergencies at night and refrigeration for vaccines.
“What has happened in Mashaba should inspire others in the private and public sectors to replicate our example and experience and benefit many more communities like Mashaba.”
The event was also attended by representatives from the European Union, who funded the work along with the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).