Green Business Award - Energy

In November 2013, Practical Action won the Green Business Award, for our work in renewable energy.

Lack of access to modern energy services is a major obstacle to the performance of rural socio-economic ventures such as agro-enterprises, shopping centers, education and health. Decentralised options such as Micro-Hydro electricity mini grids play a pivotal role in reducing both transmission and distribution costs, promoting use of clean electricity at the expense of conventional sources of energy.

In Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe Practical Action managed to demonstrate the potential of small scale hydropower schemes and offset more than 1,000 million tonnes of CO2 equivalence through eliminating diesel powered generators, paraffin lamps and candles. The project also promoted the use of improved cook stoves instead of inefficient open fires.

Practical Action Southern Africa’s Energy Access Programme, with funding from European Union, implemented a five year project on renewable energy access and technology titled Catalyzing Modern Energy Services Delivery to Marginalised Communities in Southern Africa.

Implemented January 2008 to December 2012, the project demonstrated options of energising isolated rural communities without access to electricity by applying community led initiatives for the development, construction, operation and maintenance of small scale decentralized energy schemes.

The project applied community based management models in the establishment and running of Micro Hydro Schemes and sustainable rural development planning approaches in Mulanje and Manica districts of Malawi and Mozambique respectively, and Manicaland province of Zimbabwe. The action also adapted financing products and models that had been tested and proven by Practical Action and other agencies.

The project installed 8 new micro hydro schemes and rehabilitated 5 micro hydro systems with a design capacity between 20kW and 30kW to serve remote rural communities living in mountainous areas of the three countries. This was necessitated by a combination of rugged terrain and perennial streams and rivers which presented a natural potential for the establishment of micro hydro schemes.

The project targeted 45,000 people across selected districts in the three countries to access environmentally friendly energy options annually. The project also sought to remove the policy, technical and institutional barriers that limited the development and use of renewable energy sources to meet the energy needs of off-grid communities.

The project created a facilitatory environment for the commercial uptake of the technology and stakeholder participation. An effective financial management was established to ensure affordability by users (commercial and domestic). A reserve fund for repair and maintenance costs was set-up to ensure long term viability of the systems.

Other energy services which allow communities to adopt income generating opportunities like milling, refrigeration, phone charging have been made possible in the communities. Local people were capacitated on technical and managerial expertise hence enabling them to run the schemes sustainably. The engagement of local technicians provided local independence and new job opportunities. At household level use of electricity and improved stoves gave a healthier home environment from using clean energy. There was a reduction on woman and child drudgery hence allowing more domestic and income generating opportunities to be adopted. Small-scale schemes and appropriate location cause minimal impact on local waterways and populations leading to sustainable river systems.

Archive content: This project has been completed, and the information is retained here for archive purposes. Current project work in Southern Africa can be found here.

Catalysing modern energy service delivery to marginal communities in Southern Africa (regional hydro)

This five-year project, funded by the European Commission, aimed to rehabilitate six existing micro hydro schemes and establish nine new ones, targeting the mountainous regions of Manica in Mozambique, Mulanje in Malawi and Manicaland in Zimbabwe - where a combination of rugged terrain and perenn...

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Green Business Awards

The Green Business Awards celebrate excellence in green practice, strategy and products, complimenting the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s efforts on greening the economy. They seek to recognize the most innovative, ambitious and effective initiatives by Zimbabwean business and individuals for achieving environmental sustainability, and implementing smart business practice. The 2013 Green Business Awards were held under the theme: ‘Greening the Economy for Sustainable National Prosperity’.

Energy transforming communities, Bondo, Malawi

Miriam Saurohwe is 24 years old. Her husband is a farmer and they have two daughters, aged 4 and 2. She and her husband assisted in the construction of Chipendeke’s micro hydro scheme.  Miriam describes her day: “I wake up at half four or five and that’s the time...

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Energy transforming communities, Ndiriri, Mozambique

 A year ago Ndiriri was a very different place. Located in Mozambique’s Manica Province, this was one of many rural settlements in Southern Africa region with no access to electricity. Now, 63 year old Mupfarinya confidently turns on the turbine valve. There is a sudden gush of wate...

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