ONE is inviting friends and supporters to share ideas on how to provide energy for the world’s poorest people as part of our Energy Poverty Challenge. In this piece, Ernest Mupunga, Southern Africa Director of international development charity Practical Action, discusses how small access to energy is challenging poverty and offering life-changing opportunities in Africa.
“We can now study at night at the school and our schoolwork has improved significantly as we no longer have to use paraffin lamps to study and do assignments at night,” says Chipendeke Primary School pupil Madeline Bofu. “When I complete my education, I would like to become a lawyer.” Read her story here.
“Our clinic is now able to treat people at night and store medicines,’’ said William Chanakira, from the Chipendeke Clinic. “The biggest problem we used to face was with women who gave birth at night. They had to provide their own candles or lamps”.
These voices are from villagers from Chipendeke, one of the rural communities in Southern Africa that Practical Action have been working with to develop small scale micro hydro schemes– harnessing water to provide them with energy.
Community workers at the micro hydro scheme
Chipendeke is situated 64km south east of Mutare, a province in eastern Zimbabwe. The micro hydro scheme uses a local stream to power a turbine, providing electricity to the area.
It is owned and operated by the community it serves, with maintenance carried out by trained members of the community. As a result, it provides employment, as well as providing the power to re-energise the entire community.
Much of the community’s income is generated through farming crops such as maize, wheat, potatoes and tomatoes. Introducing electricity in the area has improved the efficiency of the farmers and the quality of their produce. Farmers can now power workshops to repair damaged tools and can also power grinding mills, which vastly increases their productivity and income.
Social life has been greatly enhanced. Communities can now watch TV and listen to the radio, keeping them in touch with the rest of the country, and can recharge their mobile phones.
A clinic with a catchment area of 25,000 people can now sterilize drugs in cold rooms and provide maternity services for expecting mothers, including live saving cesarean births for complicated deliveries.
Mother and son wait for vaccination against TB and pneumonia
The school block, including teachers’ houses, has been electrified, increasing its chances of retaining qualified teachers. Children are now able to study at night.
Local shop owners can refrigerate their products and a number of small business enterprises are emerging, such as peanut butter processing.
Woman with her peanut crop
However, for four out of five families in Africa, access to modern energy is still a pipedream.
There are political, economic, technical and institutional barriers that limit the development and use of renewable energy sources to meet the energy needs of poor, off-grid communities.
Zimbabwe and Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most off track regarding progress on the MDGs, yet the geography and climate make it ideal for renewable energy systems that can provide marginalised people from rural communities with the resources they need to fight their way out of poverty.
Practical Action is a leading NGO an ‘Energy for All by 2030’ initiative working to raise public awareness and political will to make energy access a development priority. You can find out more about Practical Action and their work on ‘Energy for All by 2030’ here and help us achieve this aim by making your point about energy access for all.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.