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Mini-hydro power station changes lives

Mini-hydro power station changes lives

http://www.thestandard.co.zw

November 11, 2012 in Community News

MUTARE SOUTH — Access to modern and cheap energy remains a pipe dream for 
most families in the rural areas across the country.

REPORT BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
But that is now a problem of the past for the rural community of Chipendeke 
in Mutare South, which is generating electricity from a micro-hydro project.

The US$75 000 project, a community initiative sponsored by a 
non-governmental organisation, Practical Action Southern Africa, is designed 
to improve the lives of people living in rural areas.

So far at least 400 households, clinics and schools in Chipendeke — 70km 
south of Mutare — are already using electricity from the project for 
cooking, lighting and even to power their electrical domestic gadgets.

A recent visit to the area by Standardcommunity revealed that life had 
changed for the better for the community following the commissioning of the 
project, which has a capacity to generate 25 kilowatts of energy.

One of the beneficiaries of the project, Misheck Mukundwa (33) said the 
venture had assisted the community to raise income to sustain their 
families.

“People can now afford to pay fees for their children and buy food from the 
sale of produces from the irrigation scheme,” he said.

A smallholder farmer, Shadreck Mudiwa said the project had enabled him to 
boost agricultural production at Chipendeke Irrigation Scheme.

“The availability of electric power has encouraged us as farmers to produce 
more food for the community and for resale in the city,” said Mudiwa. “We 
used to incur losses when our perishables turned bad. But now we can 
refrigerate them before taking them to the market.”

A local environmentalist, Brian Makumbe said the introduction of electricity 
in the area had reduced environmental degradation as people now used less 
firewood for cooking and lighting.

“We really appreciated this kind of initiative because it brings development 
and sustainable management of the environment,” said Makumbe. “We expect 
villagers to save the forest because they have an alternative source of 
energy.”

A nurse at Chipendeke Clinic said before the advent of electricity, staff at 
the health centre used to light candles to enable surgical operations at 
night.

Storing drugs was also a major challenge.

“We can now operate at night and store our medicines in the refrigerator. 
The biggest challenge was that of pregnant mothers who wanted to deliver at 
night. They had to bring their own candles,” said a nurse who declined to be 
named.

A teacher at a local school, Maxwell Zenda said he expected the pass rate in 
schools in the area to improve as students would now have enough time to 
study and prepare for exams at night.

Clinics and schools pay US$0,10 per kilowatt while business and households 
pay US$0,32 and US$0,15 respectively for the electricity.

Business entities pay more because they derive profit from the project.

The project has also created employment for the locals.

A team of villagers was trained in managing the vending system, installation 
of prepaid meters and updating database for users and electrical components.

Improving access to modern energy services
The Chipendeke project is part of a five-year regional micro-hydro project 
called Catalysing Modern Energy Service Delivery to Marginal Communities in 
Southern Africa.

The main aim is to improve access to modern energy services and increase 
uptake of renewable energy technologies.

The project seeks to remove the policy, technical and institutional barriers 
that limit the development and use of renewable energy sources to meet the 
energy needs of poor, off-grid communities.

According to Practical Action, access to electricity in rural areas in 
southern Africa remains low with Malawi on 0,05%, Mozambique 0,7% and 
Zimbabwe 19%.

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