Transforming Lives in Zimbabwe: Rural Sustainable Energy Development Project | Irrigation

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This case study contains a series of mini-reports on the renewable energy access work undertaken by Oxfam and Practical Action in the Ruti and Himalaya communal areas of Zimbabwe. The project, entitled Rural Sustainable Energy Development (RuSED), began in 2011 and will run until January 2016. It is being led and implemented in association with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development and the Rural Electrification Authority of Zimbabwe. The study details how the project has improved health outcomes
  OXFAM CASE STUDY AUGUST 2015 TRANSFORMING LIVES IN ZIMBABWE Rural Sustainable Energy Development Project JOHN MAGRATH Programme Researcher, Oxfam The renewable energy access work of Oxfam and Practical Action in the Ruti and Himalaya communal areas of Zimbabwe has: ã   Improved health outcomes; ã   Widened access to education; ã   Increased production and boosted business and enterprise; ã   Strengthened livelihoods; ã   Enhanced quality of life. It is on the way to creating green communities that are independent of the national grid and becoming self-sustaining through the model it has developed. This paper contains a series of mini-reports documenting the human impacts of the work and the ways in which the systems operate.     INTRODUCTION This paper captures the story so far of the Rural Sustainable Energy Development Project (RuSED) in Zimbabwe, and of some of the women and men living in poverty whose unflagging determination and hard work have driven it forward and who are now benefitting from it. Zimbabwe is not producing enough energy to meet the country’s demand, and is therefore partly dependent upon energy imports to provide its cities with electricity. In rural areas there are immense challenges facing attempts to extend the national grid. Fuel, spare parts and skills are all in short supply; poverty and isolation are widespread. In rural areas only 19 percent of people have access to electricity – and often not reliably. Without electricity, farmers cannot process their crops, add value or diversify their livelihoods. In schools and homes children struggle to study without light and are cut off from modern technology. Health clinics and particularly maternity wards are limited in the care they can provide, and women and infants can suffer and die as a result. This is why RuSED was conceived. Running from August 2011 to January 2016, this project has received two million euros in funding from the European Union and Oxfam and is being led and implemented by Oxfam in partnership with Practical Action and in association with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development and the Rural Electrification  Authority of Zimbabwe. The project aims to enhance the lives and livelihoods of poor rural people by harnessing the powers of the sun and running water to bring electricity to remote and isolated communities in ways are affordable and sustainable. Over the course of the last four years, Oxfam has implemented a solar energy scheme in Gutu District in Masvingo province, and Practical Action a micro-hydro project in Himalaya in Mature District in Manicaland. The Himalaya scheme was commissioned on 8 April 2015. The Gutu scheme has many elements, including a solar pumping extension to the Ruti irrigation scheme which was commissioned on 10 April 2015. RuSED further aims to bring the experiences and lessons learned to the attention of policy makers and more widely. This document contains a series of case studies that show how access to electricity improves health outcomes (which in turn boost people’s productivity), widens educational horizons and boosts achievement. Above all, these case studies show how access strengthens livelihoods. The experience of the RuSED programme so far demonstrates that access to affordable and reliable electricity from the sun or from running water is crucial to boosting enterprise and increasing production. While energy is necessary for increasing production it is not, however, sufficient in itself and the case studies highlight how energy access must be complemented by other activities – largely non-energy related – in order for people to be able to take full advantage of business 2    opportunities. The case studies also demonstrate how access to electricity improves the quality of people’s lives, and in particular, the quality of women’s lives. Access improves the social and psychological health of communities and, if implemented properly, their sense of empowerment. The process of attaining energy can literally ‘ energize’ communities. However, the story of solar equipment and hydropower projects in many countries – particularly when done with the aim of ‘development’ – is littered with examples of systems that have failed after varying periods of time. The whole basis of the work done by Oxfam and Practical Action has been to enable communities to take ownership, set their own priorities for energy use and devise payment systems such that they will be able to finance the ongoing operation and maintenance, and ultimately also expansion and improvement. These case studies highlight lessons learned from what has been achieved so far in creating a ‘solar system’ in Ruti and a ‘water cycle’ in Himalaya so that they ultimately become largely self-sustaining – far from the grid, yet at the same time intimately connected to the world through modern communications and information technology. Much remains to be done in terms of activities to complement energy access that will enable enterprises to thrive, but progress so far has been very encouraging. It is our hope in compiling these case studies that government, donors and partners will learn lessons from what has been done – and from what still needs to be done – that will prove useful in scaling up access to renewable energy across Zimbabwe as part of the rural electrification strategy and associated government initiatives. We hope too that general readers will be interested in our work, and for those particularly interested in solar and micro-hydropower, the case studies include technical annexes with equipment specifications. The world is facing the twin challenges of how to increase access to energy, particularly electricity, to billions of people who lack it and whose lives and livelihoods are poorer as a result; and the necessity to do this while reducing use of fossil fuels that emit the carbon that is responsible for man-made climate change. As technology advances, and as solar and other renewable energies become increasingly attractive business propositions, the world is witnessing an accelerating renewable energy revolution. With its abundant natural attributes of sun and, in many areas, water, Zimbabwe – and its remotest villages in particular – could be in the forefront of this ‘green energy revolution’. ‘We are seeing a total transformation from a poor rural village to a globalized community. It is changing our lives and will change the lives of generations beyond. Now we feel part of globalization and it is also clean energy so we are contributing to the environment and reducing climate change.’ – Denis Mawayo, Himalaya 3    CREATING A SOLAR SYSTEM: HOW ENERGY  ACCESS CAN BE  ACHIEVED Oxfam has implemented a ‘solar system’ in the Gutu area that aims to create a self-financing and therefore sustainable solar energy market via a virtuous circle of increasing demand and supply. The supply of energy is the key to enterprise development, and enterprise development in turn drives effective demand for more energy. The idea for RuSED grew organically. It came from using solar pumping to extend the potential of the Ruti irrigation scheme from 40 hectares to 60 and to benefit a further 96 farmers, bringing the total number of farmers in the scheme to 270. As explained later in this report, the irrigation project has been a great success – it is currently seeing farmers produce an average of 4 to 5 tons of maize per hectare, whereas on their dryland plots they have harvested almost nothing this year (2015) due to serious drought. They are also expanding into growing nutritious crops such as potatoes and valuable cash crops such as tomatoes and sugar beans. Oxfam staff began the project with a survey in Gutu district to ascertain the costs that people bear in paying for energy. The survey found that typical expenditure on kerosene and candles came to between $8 and $15 per month, or between $100 and $200 per year. As so many of those surveyed indicated, that expenditure was still not enough to enable children to read at night, for farmers to extend their working hours or for women to give birth safely.  At the same time, many people had justified suspicions of solar energy. Some types of solar lanterns on the market were cheap but unreliable and were, in fact, a waste of money. Furthermore, although the Rural Electrification Authority had installed solar facilities at several clinics in previous years, some had developed faults, ceased to function and were not being repaired. And solar programmes throughout the world have faltered because of two problems: the relatively high up-front capital costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment, even lanterns, to get programmes started; and the lack of after-sales repair or replacement services to keep programmes going. To overcome these problems and create a demand that was both keen and informed, Oxfam decided to establish a programme to enable markets to form and function successfully. Oxfam therefore next initiated a scoping study to determine the types and quality of solar lanterns on the market in Zimbabwe, and from this created a catalogue of products to which rural communities could refer. The next step was to identify solar People were desperate for reliable, affordable and efficient light and electrical power. 4
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