THREE regional countries are set to benefit from mini-hydro-power stations being developed by a local non-governmental organisation.
Practical Action has started pilot projects in Manicaland to ensure communities and farmers in marginalised areas have access to electricity.
The project involves generating power from small sources of water such as waterfalls and perennial rivers.
This is a regional programme aimed at benefiting Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.
The project came after a realisation that energy was a major challenge in most communal areas with some areas being marginalised and failing to access conventional electricity.
Speaking at the Harare Agricultural Show, Practical Action project manager Mr Fungai Matahwa said Manicaland was identified as the most suitable area because of its terrain and availability of perennial rivers.
“The project is localised, electricity is transmitted over a short distance making it cheaper than conventional electricity or even generators that require fuel.
“It is costly for people in these mountainous areas to have electricity so we want to ensure the communities benefit from local natural resources in their areas.
“The hydro-energy source is environmentally friendly and renewable,”said Mr Matahwa.
He said the project had resulted in the electrification of local boarding schools, clinics and households with some people now being able to operate their grinding mills using the power.
“The response from the community has been overwhelming. In Zimbabwe we have three projects in Nyanga, Cashel Valley and Nyamarimbire and we are looking forward to starting a new one in Chipendere in Mutare.
“The people are so much interested in irrigating their crops, processing them and storing them under refrigeration and this can only be made possible by the availability of power,” he said.
Mr Matahwa, however, said the introduction of the projects had led to developments in the area and improvement in health and education delivery systems.
The project manager said he hoped the programme would be expanded for it to be commercialised.
“We would want to see a situation where the community continues to generate the energy source and even sell it to other nearby areas.
“In countries such as Peru and Nepal, rural communities generate electricity from the minor sources of water and sell it to urban communities improving their livelihoods in the process,” said Mr Matahwa.
The beneficiaries of the projects pay a tariff, which is channelled into a fund used in the development of the communities.
Locals can borrow from the fund to develop their enterprises.
“We also want to venture into training of the local people to manufacture parts of the machine used for the power generation such as turbines and this is set to create employment for the community,” said Mr Matahwa.
Practical Action aims to target 15 projects set to benefit about 45 000 households.
The NGO is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Zinwa, Environmental Management Agency, Zesa Holdings and local authorities among other organisations.
Source: Agriculture Reporter, The Herald