Rural School Powers itself with Water

July 16, 2015

Hivos Southern Africa Hub, in partnership with Practical Action, Oxfam, ZERO and Zimbabwe Energy Council (ZEC), recently conducted a tour of mini hydro projects in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands regions aimed at showing media professionals the benefits of sustainable energy, especially for marginalised communities.

The 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.

Students attending Nyafaru Secondary and Primary School, located in a remote area in Nyanga in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands, are now in the light thanks to a micro hydro project that is providing access to clean, renewable energy.

Despite being far flung from the national electricity grid, the school is benefitting from an innovative project which is harnessing the perennial water supply in the area to generate electricity. 

Established in 1995, the micro hydro station in this isolated and remote area is also supplying electricity to a clinic and providing essential services such as printing, photocopying, and charging batteries to the local community

Small hydro plants offer the chance of energy independence to rural communities that are not connected to the electricity grid.

A key advantage of the micro hydro project in this remote area is that it is a ‘run-of-the-river’ system that relies more on gravity and nature than on concrete and infrastructure. Thanks to Nyanga’s undulating landscape, gravity transforms the energy from flowing water into electricity in a process that is at once clean and carbon free.

Once installed, the running costs of the small hydro scheme have been very low, meaning electricity can be supplied to the school for 24 hours a day.

Piripija Sapabwe, 73, a headman in the area, is ecstatic about the project and wants it extended to the rest of his community of approximately 359 households.

“The electricity is helping a lot. In particular, it is helping school children to have access to education. As a result of the electricity, students are able to put in more time into their studies,” said Sapabwe with a wide smile.

Dzingirwa Matura, 56, a teacher at Nyafaru Secondary School, said that the school was now able to use refrigeration.

“Our children are now in the light. We are now able to refrigerate things like meat and other perishable foodstuffs. In addition, the electricity is powering the local clinic. As a result, patients are getting better treatment,” he said.

Hydropower has played an essential role in the global energy mix as the largest clean and renewable energy source. According to the World Bank, small hydropower is one of the most suitable renewable energy solutions for productive use and rural electrification because it is a mature technology that can be easily constructed, operated and maintained locally.