The European Union (EU) has selected a consortium of non-governmental organisations that includes Hivos Southern Africa to establish mini-grid energy systems for rural electrification in Malawi and Zimbabwe. The four year pilot project will provide access to energy services to approximately 30,000 men and women.
The seven million dollar project is being implemented within the scope of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative that seeks to ensure universal access to modern energy services, enhance energy efficiency and increase uptake of renewable energy.
Hivos Southern Africa will implement the project in partnership with Practical Action, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD), Dabane Trust and Environment Africa.
The project also aims at facilitating public and private sector energy actors to engage and invest in the rural electrification market. Lessons drawn from the pilot project will be used to inform energy policy making processes.
Despite the fact that access to energy can lift communities out of poverty, only twelve per cent of rural areas in Malawi and Zimbabwe have any access to electricity. Conventional sources of energy are costly, unreliable and inaccessible and many rural communities are located far from power grids.
As a result, clinics and schools offer poor services due to lack of lighting and refrigeration for medicines. In addition, agriculture – the economic mainstay of rural areas – is negatively affected.
“Improved access to energy will improve availability of water for irrigation facilities thereby boosting agriculture, and when linked to markets this will enhance sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” said Lastern Mika, Hivos’ Energy Project Manager. “It avails opportunities to all segments of the community from farming, food security, better education and health services to affordable power and improved living conditions.”
The target communities will benefit from improved access to electricity that will provide adequate and reliable power for pumping water, lighting, radio, communications and refrigeration. In addition, they will receive training on entrepreneurship, and operation and management of mini-grids and energy kiosks.
Mika added that the integration of water, energy and agriculture is critical for both Malawi and Zimbabwe, whose economies are based on agriculture. He said that rainfed agriculture is the common way of food production, and introduction of irrigation powered by the mini-grid will help to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, including droughts and floods.
Hivos and its partner organisations are currently campaigning at national and international level to reduce climate change and alleviate poverty by opting for 100% renewable energy. Decentralised energy systems which rely on small-scale generation from renewable energy sources are a driving force for mitigating climate change and local economic development.