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

January 2008 to December 2012

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 perennial streams and rivers present a natural potential for the establishment of micro hydro schemes. This enabled the targeted 45,000 people in the three countries to access environmentally friendly energy annually.

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.

Lack of access to modern energy services is a major obstacle to the delivery of socio-economic services such as education and health in most developing countries in general. This is particularly so in Southern Africa where the population living in sparsely populated rural areas are out of reach of electricity which makes it technically and economically costly to extend the national grid electricity to serve them

In response to these challenges, Practical Action Southern Africa implemented the Catalysing Modern Energy Service Delivery to Marginal Communities in Southern Africa (Regional Micro Hydro) project.

The five year project funded by the European Commission sought to improve energy access through community managed decentralised micro hydro systems focused on poor marginalised rural communities in fragile mountainous regions of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.Micro-hydro power is the small-scale harnessing of energy from falling water, such as steep mountain rivers.

Overall long term objective:
To improve access to modern energy services and increase uptake of renewable energy technologies in poor rural areas of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The Micro Hydro project seeks to promote the use of renewable energy through the following objectives:

  • Creating a residue of micro hydro expertise in poor communities by equipping community members with micro hydro scheme management skills, such as installations, fabrication of equipment, among others
  • To promote the uptake of sustainable alternative energy among key stakeholders through the demonstration of 15 micro hydro units in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and their dissemination 
  •  Enhancing capacity for all relevant stakeholders from the region in planning, designing and implementing decentralized community Micro Hydro Schemes (MHS).
  • Addressing the policy barriers to promotion of decentralised community MHS in the region.
  • Strengthening local industry( rural blacksmith, fabricators and artisans ), government and finance institutions to support growth of MHS
  • Influencing the removal of barriers to micro hydro use through imitating advocacy activities with policy makers, for policies which promote the use and management of micro hydro energy
  • Promoting investments of micro hydro energy in the target communities, through engagement and partnerships with the financial sector.

The micro-hydro schemes will provide the communities with affordable, easy to maintain and long-term solutions to their energy needs. The availability of electricity generated from the micro hydro schemes will strengthen the communities’ activities in the following areas:

Agriculture - Increased productivity, value addition and agro-processing resulting in improved incomes and food security

Domestic use and livelihoods - The provision of micro hydro electricity provides benefits in carrying out domestic chores as well as increasing the scope of livelihood options. At household level, use of electricity gives a healthier home environment from using clean energy, whilst essential services such as schools, clinics, grinding mills provide more efficient service enabling the communities’ involvement in income generating activities.

This action is premised on a wide, multi-stakeholder approach and methodology using the relative strengths of each and systematically addressing identified weaknesses. It adapts the best MHS practise models used in Nepal. The technical and managerial expertise is transferred to local people and groups enabling them to run the schemes sustainably. The project is implemented through partners where capacity will be transferred to partners in Malawi and Mozambique, thereby transforming them into centres of micro hydro scheme excellence with capacity to provide technical and social support for project design, maintenance and operation of systems. These are the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (Malawi) and Kwayedza Simukai Manica (Mozambique) 

The Nyafaru Micro Hydro Scheme in Nyanga District, Zimbabwe

Green Business Award - Energy

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

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