Sustainable Energy 4 Rural Communities (SE4RC) 2015-2019

The project evolved from lessons and experiences of past projects on rural electrification and sustainable agriculture in Southern Africa. The project is designed to serve poor rural communities, whose needs are not met by the current rural electrification modus operandi.

Lessons were drawn from rural electrification projects led by the consortium, including Practical Action’s EC-funded regional micro-hydro project (2007-2012), which established 11 micro-hydro mini-grids using community based models in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Important lessons around ownership and management of off-grid systems and the economic social and technical impacts of RE mini-grids in isolated areas, have informed the design of SE4RC.

This project shows that unless mini-grids are anchored to productive end use, financial viability is a challenge.

Locations of the project: Nsanje, Chikwawa Districts (Malawi); Gwanda District (Zimbabwe)

Total duration: 48 months

Overall objectives:

  1. Contribute to the attainment of the SE4ALL goal that aims to ensure universal access to modern energy services in rural areas of Malawi and Zimbabwe.
  2. Improve access to modern energy services that contribute to better well-being (economic and social) of rural men and women in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Specific objective: To create an enabling environment in Malawi and Zimbabwe that allows public and private sector energy actors to engage in the rural electrification market

Target groups: Rural District Authorities (Gwanda Rural District Council in Zimbabwe, and the Nsanje and Chikwawa District Assemblies in Malawi); Government policy & regulatory authorities (Ministries of Energy, Ministries of Agriculture, and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, ZERA & MERA); Rural Electrification Agencies (MAREP and REA); Private sector (Energy consultants, IPPs, agricultural companies).

Final beneficiaries: 30,000 men, women and children in isolated rural Malawi and Zimbabwe (including two primary schools and one clinic; four Irrigation Management Committees (one in Zimbabwe, three in Malawi); 16 Rural Entrepreneur Kiosk Operators;  four Community Energy Service Companies (CESCos) and nine small businesses)

The areas which the project is being implemented from are so poor and remote. They are not connected to the national electricity grid and unlikely to ever be connected because of their remoteness. Even if they were, the cost of the electricity would be exorbitant.

However, using the abundant, free resource of the sun for solar voltaic panels to power pumps, water can be drawn from significantly deeper depths than a treadle pump that were being used before.

Instead of spending up to six to seven hours incessant pumping to irrigate their farms per day, farmers can be using this valuable time to do other things like household chores, start small businesses, and attend to their children. Furthermore children can also attend school.

With this technology the farmers can be sure of a viable and consistent supply of water for their crops.

Further information

Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities

This project is helping families survive future droughts, put food on their tables and sell surplus crops to earn a living by connecting irrigation schemes to solar-powered mini-grids.

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