Wednesday, 18 December 2013

CEDP website live!

The CEDP now has a website! To access the website visit www.communityenergymalawi.org or follow this link here

Positive impact already seen at Machinga!

Mavuto, the Development Officer for the Southern Region recently gave an update on the project progress for Umodzi CBO, Machinga District.

Umodzi CBO are planning to install solar PV panels in their community schools and word has spread about this upcoming development to the surrounding communities. So much so that the school register has increased from approximately 900 pupils to over 1700 in anticipation of the solar PV installation!! When asked about why this was, Mavuto said that people in the surrounding community were keen to go to a school which had electricity as they could study in the evenings.

One of the school buildings in Machinga District where Solar PV will be installed under the CEDP.

It's really exciting to hear this type of news from the field. The project is not yet installed and already we can see the potential positive impacts that the CEDP projects may have. Stay tuned for more news from the field!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

New Blog from University of Strathclyde

Over the last two weeks 3 members of staff from the University of Strathclyde (the University of Strathclyde are the MREAP project coordinators) travelled to Malawi to catch up with the MREAP partners on project progress and outline what the on going strategy will be for MREAP.

(l-r) Peter, Damien and Magnus from University of Strathclyde

During their trip, Damien, Peter and Magnus put together a fantastic blog which outlines some of the work going on in the CEDP as well as projects being carried out by other strands of the MREAP programme. (For a refresher on MREAP and how the CEDP sits within MREAP you can visit this website.).

You can access the University of Strathclyde Energy for Development Blog here.

Building a biogas digester in Mchinji District. This project is being developed by Mzuni University in Mzuzu, one of the MREAP Strategic Partners. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

CEDP at Community Energy Scotland Conference!

On the 5th and 6th of November Community Energy Scotland, CES, held their annual conference in Glasgow. The topic of this year's conference was how innovative technology can link local renewable energy generation to local consumption of energy. This topic is of particular relevance for many communities in Scotland where access to the main electricity grid is not possible due to constraints or expensive grid upgrades being necessary.

For many communities in Malawi, looking at off-grid solutions for their energy needs is also common since the national grid only services 9% of the population of Malawi. In this way, communities in rural Scotland have things in common with communities in Malawi. Both are looking for off-grid solutions for their energy needs.

International Development Officer, Sarah Jones, discussing the CEDP with Scottish community groups and proudly wearing her CEDP t-shirt!

A number of Scottish community groups were interested in being informed of the activities of the CEDP and were interested in developing a partnership programme between communities in Malawi and Scotland. Watch this space for more details on the partnership programme!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

New Issue of Newsletter Published!

To access the second CEDP newsletter go to the Community Energy Scotland website here.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

CEDP's first batch of cook stoves ready for use!

On November 24th I accompanied CEDP Central Region Officer Blessings Mbendera to carry out the final part of the cook stove production training for Nzona CBO in the district of Dowa. The journey took around 2 hours from Lilongwe and on route we picked up a Social Sciences student from Chancellors College who was keen to find out more about the Community energy sector together with Janet Msiska from Area 55 Consulting who the CEDP in the Central Region has been working together with to carry out the cook stove training programme.

On arrival we were met by an incredibly enthusiastic cook stove producer group who were singing and dancing in celebration. During the day I discovered that the work involved in the production of a clay cook stove took a great deal of commitment and was overwhelmed by the eagerness of the community to make their social enterprise a success! In this blog I will describe the process of clay cook stove production used by this community from clay selection right through to firing.  

Villagers from Nzona CBO in Dowa district surrounding a clay cook stove firing chamber.

Preparing the raw materials

The first stage of cook stove production is to figure where you will get your clay from and decide where your production group will be working from. I discovered that day that extinct ant hills often provide the right quality of soil for producing the cook stoves and after clay analysis from several sites it was discovered that Nzona CBO are fortunate enough to have two sources of clay only ~200m from their production bases.  Given the demand for cook stoves both within the CBO and neighbouring areas it was decided that two production groups be set up in neighbouring villages. Fortunately both are situated close to the clay source.

Despite making it look easy I know that the harvesting of clay is not an easy job. Luckily Blessings has a Nissan pick-up which the community were able to take advantage of to transport the clay from the collection site to where the clay was to be cured. Had we not been there with a vehicle that day I am told that the community would have carried the clay in bags to the production sites.

Members of the energy committee harvesting clay for cook stove production.

In preparation of the clay arriving, a hole had been dug measuring 1m wide x 2m long x 1m deep. Black plastic sheets are then positioned as lining within the hole, the clay is added and covered on top by the sheeting. The purpose of the black plastic sheeting is to act as an impermeable layer so that any living organisms are killed off during the curing process. If this is not done the quality of the clay will be poor and the stoves are likely to crack during the firing process.

Hole being dug which will be lined with black plastic sheeting for curing process.

The process of curing takes 14 days. During the process once every three days water (40 litres approx) is added and mixed in with the clay so that by the end of the curing process the clay is malleable enough to shape into stoves.

Taking shape

Some groups shape the clay stoves by hand, however the approach this community has taken is to use a pedal mould to create standard ‘Chitetezo’ stoves (Chitetezo in Chichewa means Protection). The uptake and roll out of Chitetezo stoves is also being encouraged by the Government of Malawi and the cost of a pedal mould is in the region of 50,000 MK (£100).

A pedal mould for making Chitetezo stoves. The mould comprises of three separate parts, base, cup and pedal.

Once the general shape of the stove has been moulded it its taken out of the mould and a hole is cut at the base which will allow an entry point for fuel. The holes are purposefully kept on the smaller side to encourage use of smaller branches rather than tree trunks, thereby reducing number of trees felled.

Handles are also added manually to the side of the stoves together with three sections on top which allows for pots of different sizes to be used. Small tools made from pieces of wood are used at this stage to ensure even sizing and positioning attachments to the pots. Every pot also has a unique code engraved on it so that a buyer knows where the pot came from. Often the creator adds their name to the base along with their own unique artistic flare - many stoves had patterns engraved around the edge.

One of the first cook stoves produced by Nzona CBO as part of CEDP training.

Once moulded the pots are put in shelter, protected from wind and direct sunlight to partially dry for 1 to 2 weeks. Unfortunately as the group do not yet have a purpose built shelter (this will be funded from the CEDP capital grant once approved) they had to use the tobacco drying sheds which do not have adequate protection from the wind and as a result some of the stoves cracked.

Me with the Dowa cook stove production group in the temporary drying shelter.

Firing the stoves

The stoves that were still intact were then placed in the firing chamber which had been built especially for this purpose. Sizes of firing chambers vary, however the one that were deemed suitable for Nzona CBO were approx 2m in diameter, 1 meter high and took around 5000 bricks to build (half of which were supplied by community contributions). Apparently each chamber is able to hold up to 120 stoves per firing session and there is one at each cook stove producer group.

Before building the structure a hole is dug and a foundation made which comprises a mix of sand and quarry stones (1 wheelbarrow full each, also supplied by the community as part of their contributions towards the project). The main purpose of the foundation is to provide a drainage system for the chamber during the rainy season however it also has the additional benefit of acting as a heat store during the firing process.

The structure is made with openings and channels for wood to be inserted at the base of the chamber. The stoves are stacked on top of one another within the chamber, the top sealed with grass and mud, and only then is the wood added and lit. For a chamber of this size I am told that 1 ton of small branches are required (equal to approx 1 ox cart full). The actual burning of wood takes 6 – 7 hours and you leave the chamber for a day or two until the temperature of the stoves have cooled enough to enable handling.

Inside of the cook stove firing chamber

All that was left to do was take the stoves out from the chamber and start using them.

The first batch that were taken out from the chamber the day I arrived had been produced during the training period and were considered to be a ‘test batch’. These stoves will be dispersed among the cook stove producer group and before the next batch is ready the producer group together with the energy committee have some work to do on their business plan to determine how the stoves will be marketed and sold and at what price.

The retail price of cook stoves such as these within towns and cities in Malawi is currently 1000 Malawi Kwatcha (approx £2). I am told that the producers are unlikely to get more than 500MK per stove produced, however the good news is that demand currently far outweighs supply and so provided they can continue to produce them and have a sound marketing strategy they can continue to sell. The hope is that once all the CBO members have adopted the technology the CBO can work with marketers such as Area 55 consulting who supply retailers and towns and cities. 

I was fortunate enough to buy one of the stoves from the first batch from them... I just hope it makes it through customs!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Georgy Davis arrives in Malawi!

CEDP Programme Manager Georgy Davis has finally arrived in Malawi having battled through lengthy flight delays to get there.

Georgy will spend 6 weeks in Malawi catching up with CEDP Development Officers, the Strategic Energy Partners and other CEDP staff. This is a particularly important time for the CEDP as the 12 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) which the CEDP has been working with are finalising project designs and applications for capital funding will soon be submitted.

Georgy's visit will also give her the opportunity to meet with Edgar Bayani who is setting up and registering a community energy organisation in Malawi and with Martin Ketembo who is developing a community renewable energy toolkit for Malawi. Both pieces of work are vital in ensuring that the wider support network and resources necessary to support community energy in Malawi are in place. Watch this space for updates from Georgy!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Edgar Bayani - Development Coordinator in post!

This has been a very exciting week for the CEDP as the new Community Energy Malawi (working name) Development Coordinator started work on Monday 2nd September. Discussions with Strategic Energy Partners (SEPs) in Malawi had revealed that there was a real need to create a new, independent, nationally based organisation whose remit was to drive the Development of the Community Energy sector in Malawi. This is considered crucial in ensuring continuity for the Programme after March 2014. Edgar's principal role will be to set up and register the organisation which will take forward Community Energy in Malawi.

On starting his new role Edgar said:

'Giving ordinary Malawians a chance to influence policy and have better energy sources is a task for us all but it’s an honour to be tasked with setting foundations for CEM as a means of providing Malawian Communities that chance. Providing sustainable energy solutions is a MUST for Malawi. It is a challenge I am prepared to take with passion because as Donald Trump Said, “without passion, you don’t have energy and without energy, you simply have nothing”'.

We're all really excited to have Edgar on board, welcome to the team!

Friday, 23 August 2013

CEDP Newsletter launched!

The inaugural newsletter has been created and can be accessed on the Community Energy Scotland website here. It is hoped that this will become a bi monthly newsletter with Programme updates as well as interviews from communities involved in the Programme and notifications of upcoming events. Let us know what you would like to see in the next editions!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The End of the Trip

Following the trip to Mzimba and Mzuzu, there have been a handful of meetings to attend before I head home today which has given me some time to think back over the past fortnight. It’s interesting that regardless of the region, all of the communities which I have visited can already visualise the improvements and development opportunities a renewable energy system can bring.

Baobab, Dowa district.
Malawi is an incredibly friendly and welcoming country that really does deserve it's name of "The Warm Heart of Africa". It’s been a great opportunity to meet with the brilliant DOs who have achieved so much in a short period of time as well as the other CEDP and MREAP partners.

It has also been fascinating to see the number of domestic scale solar installations as you travel through Malawi. It is quite common to see solar panels outside small shops offering a phone/battery charging service or selling refrigerated cold drinks. It is obvious that for those not connected to the grid, solar PV in particular offers real business opportunities for Malawians.

One of the many households I saw with small solar panels which power a light bulb.
It has also been interesting to hear of previous renewable energy programmes run by other organisations which have followed a model focussed on gifting a renewable energy system to a community. In these programmes there is often no community contributions, no training on system maintenance or how to develop a business plan to ensure sufficient funds to maintain the system once the NGO has left. This model is what some communities now come to expect from development programmes and it’s really exciting to see the different approach that the CEDP is taking being accepted so warmly by communities. I feel that this is testament to the hard work of the DOs.

Very few of the people that I have met over the last fortnight have wanted a renewable energy system handed to them on a plate. The next few months will see a phase of intensive training with all of the communities followed by the systems being installed in October. The Programme Manager, Georgy Davis, will be out in Malawi during this critical period and I can’t wait to see how the projects progress. From the work that the DOs have done with the communities already, plans are already being made for what will happen once the systems are installed. Watch this space for more updates!

To the North

The final phase of my trip saw me head north to Mzimba and Mzuzu, about 400km north of Lilongwe. As I headed north on the bus the landscape became much more vegetated, Brachystegia woodland became more abundant and the air temperature dropped noticeably.

Africa's largest plantation on the way to Mzuzu

I was heading north to meet with Sithembile, the Development Officer for the Northern region. We headed out to visit Fwasani CBO (which translates as “be patient”) in the community of Kamiloaza, 45 minutes from Mzimba on roads which seemed to have been made of corrugated iron.

Fwasani have already achieved a lot in their community having already built an orphan training centre, a HIV/AIDS testing and counselling centre and a hostel for out of town students to stay during the week to ensure that everybody has a chance at receiving an education.
Fwasani CBO and the wider community

This community has 2 primary school blocks, several secondary school blocks and a number of administrative/store buildings to support the school. This community places education as key in ensuring a better future for its people.
One of the Secondary school blocks at Kamiloaza
Fruit juice made in the wider community using a solar powered juicing machine and fridge (installation from World Vision)

Sithembile is working with this community to put together an application for a solar PV system at the primary school, the secondary school and at the administrative centre for the CBO. A revenue generating activity is being planned for the CBO admin centre (potentially phone/battery charging) which will ensure that sufficient funds are put aside for maintenance and repairs. Improved cook stoves are also planned for this community.

Sithembile speaking with the Fwasani CBO

During the welcome meeting with the community the Group Village Head, Yesaya, outlined some of the expected benefits from installing the PV system. With the electric lighting, students will feel safer in the school. It is also hoped that students will get better grades, the drop-out rate will be lower and that in the future it may be possible to get a computer for the school. They are also hoping that through lighting being available in the evenings, more people will come to the school buildings in the evenings which may give scope for increased access to education for other groups in the community. It's been interesting that some benefits from the system are named by all communities whilst some benefits are only highlighted by one community. Fwasani is the only community was has stated improved access to education for other groups
Paraffin lamps which were used for lighting in the school blocks (now broken).
Solar powered water pumping station installed by World Vision

Everybody that I met in this community was very enthusiastic and obviously motivated to achieving their goal of bringing electricity to the village. This community has already worked with international donors to develop a solar powered water pumping station which provides clean water for the community which has reduced disease in the community. The community has worked hard to make this scheme a success and I am confident that the same enthusiasm will ensure that the solar PV and cook stove projects will also be a success in this community.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Water Pumps and Fuel Efficient Stoves

Having travelled back up to Lilongwe with Penny George (Scottish Government) on Saturday, I had Sunday to catch up with emails and plan for the week ahead.  

On Monday I met with Blessings, the CEDP Development Officer for the central region. We spent Monday talking through what Blessings has done to date and confirming what the priorities will be between now and September. Over the next few months, all of the DOs will be involved in intensive training programmes with each of the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) which they are working with ahead of applications for project funding being submitted and projects being installed October/November time. It’s been so interesting being able to talk through the training programmes with the Development Officers and getting a sense for what training is required by communities in Malawi

With Kiyembe CBO
On Tuesday Blessings and I went to visit a CBO called Kiyembe in the village of Nkanakufa, Dowa District.  When Blessings conducted a needs assessment with this community, the community identified reliable access to clean water as a top priority for their community. Whilst neighbouring villages have clean, closed system bore hole wells, this community collects water from a number of traditional wells.

Members of the community next to their primary water source. Local livestock also drink from this pool.

A traditional well in the community.
Water drawn from these sources is of poor quality. When Blessings asked residents how many people within their family had suffered sickness during the past 2 weeks, over 80% of people answered that somebody in their family had had diarrhoeal disease within the last 2 weeks. With such a high incidence of disease in the community, people frequently have to take time off from work to recover, something which many Malawian families cannot afford to do. 

Debris fallen into the well - the wells are open system so are often contaminated.

Drawing water from a well in the community.
For this community, the proposed project is a solar powered water pumping facility. When asked what the community hopes to gain from this project, there was unanimous agreement that the community wanted safe drinking water and that having a clean water source within the community would mean a reduced incidence of water borne diseases and less distance to travel to access safe water.
After discussing the water supply for the community we went for lunch at the Chairperson of the CBO’s house and then went on to see some fuel efficient stoves. Within this community (and the wider region), tobacco growing is one of the principle sources of employment and members of a local tobacco farming group have been given fuel efficient cook stoves by tobacco processors. These improved stoves have proved themselves to be highly effective and so many other households have expressed an interest in the stoves.

Central region Development Officer, Blessings, with the Chairperson of Kiyembe CBO and his family.
These stoves are of the same model which are being made by Concern Universal, one of the Strategic Energy Partners of MREAP. Penny and I visited one of the sites where the fuel efficient stoves are being produced in Balaka district and we were both quite disappointed that we couldn’t find a way to get one home!

One of the improved cookstoves next to a traditional 3 stone fire used my most Malawian households. 
Concern Universal improved cook stove producer group at Phalula, Balaka District

The cook stoves being made at Phalula, the producers are having trouble keeping up with demand!
There are numerous benefits to using one of these stoves. They use significantly less wood which is of huge benefit in a country which is battling deforestation. They also produce less smoke which produces a healthier cooking environment, due to their heat retaining properties, they can be used to heat homes in cooler weather and using the stoves is far safer than having an open fire (which small children can easily fall into). There is the added social benefit that through using less wood, people don’t have to spend as much time collecting firewood which frees people up to engage in other (potential business) opportunities. All in all, there are multiple benefits to having a fuel efficient stove in your home, I'll have to come back with a bigger rucksack next time!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Machinga with Mavuto

On Thursday and Friday I was able to finally meet up with Mavuto, the CEDP Development Officer covering the Southern region of Malawi. We spent Thursday in the office which gave us a great opportunity to talk over what has already been achieved, how it's been achieved and what the next few months' activity will be.

On Friday, Mavuto had arranged for us to visit one of the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) - Umodzi (Yao for togetherness) in the community of Mpiranjala which the CEDP will be working with to develop a renewable energy project. Mpiranjala is in Machinga district, some 4 hours north east of Blantyre. The community lies close to Lake Chilwa, a designated RAMSAR site which has dramatically reduced in size in recent years due reduced rainfall in the surrounding area but is still internationally renowned for the wildlife there.

Travelling through Machinga district
Following over 4 hours of driving on roads of varying quality we arrived at Mpiranjala. The community is a Yao community, descendants of Muslim traders which populated the region, and being a Muslim community, arriving at lunch time on a Friday meant that the majority of the community were at lunch time prayers! But no matter, we were made to feel extremely welcome when we arrived.

At the welcome meeting (complete with new red CEDP t-shirt)

This was my first introduction to community meetings in Malawi and they follow a set protocol. The guests and figures of note from the host community sit in a group and a prayer to welcome everybody is said. There is then a round of introductions including who you are, where you are from and why you are there  followed by an opportunity for both parties to ask questions. The atmosphere is very respectful and I was mindful that using particular body language and phrases were incredibly important.

Following introductions, we were shown around the community and Mavuto explained why this community had been selected to participate in the CEDP programme and what the community were hoping to achieve.

Inside one of the secondary school blocks. Even in the middle of a hot, sunny day it was quite dark inside the classroom

The community currently has several primary school blocks, two secondary school blocks, a teachers house and a health centre. Mavuto is supporting the community in their application for grant funding to install solar panels on these buildings (which buildings will ultimately receive the solar panels has not been decided). The community already has a small solar panel on the roof of one building in the health centre to provide electricity for a fridge which enables the centre to stock vaccines and other medicines which need to be refrigerated. The community are therefore already aware of the benefits of having solar panels in their community.

Solar panels for the fridge at the medical centre

Essential to the CEDP programme is the training which the DOs will carry out with the community before the installation of the technology. Training session topics will include leadership and group dynamics, renewable energy technologies, village savings and loans and CBO management. Groups will also be supported to develop ideas for revenue generation from the renewable installations. The idea being that an income from activities such as phone charging and selling drinks refrigerated by the solar panels can be used to pay for service and maintenance of the system.  This particular community is looking at starting up a battery charging business (households often have small batteries which they use for household electricity but they currently have to cycle for over an hour to the nearest charging point).

The training sessions and support to develop a business idea around the renewable system is essential for the long term sustainability of the system. There is little merit in installing a system which the community does not have the capacity to manage, service and maintain themselves. Sadly I have heard of a number of examples where renewable technologies have been installed only to break after several months. Communities have often not had the training to fix the system nor the funds to employ somebody to come in and fix the system and so the system lies unused. This is the cycle which the CEDP is looking to break.

I was shown around the school blocks and the health centre. The community felt that if the primary school block could be fitted with a solar system for lighting, the 1066 children which attend would be able to study for longer into the evening and would hopefully achieve better grades. The head of the primary school described how they should have 14 teachers but they currently only have 9. Part of the reason for this is the lack of electricity at the school, some teachers arrive and only stay one week before deciding to go to another school which is better serviced. With the provision of electricity, the head teacher hopes that better quality teachers can be attracted to stay for longer at the school which again, will benefit the students.

I then visited the health centre which currently has no electricity for lighting. If somebody becomes sick at night, they must be seen to by candle light. I also visited the maternity block where there were a number of expectant mothers waiting to go into labour. Because some women live some distance from the centre, when their time is near they come to the maternity block and live in an accompanying building so that they can be closer to help when they go into labour.

The maternity unit. Soot marks from the candles used for lighting can be seen on the walls.
Currently, there is also no electricity in the maternity unit. If a woman goes into labour at night, she must give birth by candle light. Every expectant mother is told to save up enough money to buy 3 candles (which should provide enough light to see her through the night). The mums to be often cannot afford matches and so use embers from the fire to light their candles. This story in particular really struck a chord with me. I cannot imagine how difficult and scary it must be to give birth by candle light which will inevitably waver and go out if the weather is bad.

Expectant mothers with their candles in front of the maternity block

Demonstrating the need for embers to light their candles

Before leaving for Blantyre, we had a "closing" meeting where the community thanked us for coming and expressed their thanks for the CEDP programme and for all the help and support that Mavuto had given them so far. What struck me as we left the community was that this community could see the numerous benefits of installing solar panels in their village. I could see that from the work Mavuto has done with the community, they are already thinking long term about how they can manage the system to ensure it's longevity which is exactly what the CEDP is about.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Bondo Hydro Scheme - Mulanje

On Wednesday I travelled from Blantyre, Malawi’s second city, down to Mulanje in the south-east of Malawi with a group of representatives from Scottish Government. As we drove further south the landscape began to change from the relatively arid, red landscape I’d seen so far in Malawi. Dramatic granite peaks started to appear and vegetation became much more lush and abundant. We were heading down to Mulanje to see an operational hydro scheme that has been developed by MuREA – Mulanje Renewable Energy Agency in conjunction with Practical Action. With MuREA being one of the Strategic Energy Partners (SEPs) of the MREAP programme it was a great opportunity not only to see the hydro scheme but also to meet people who are on the ground, developing community led renewable projects in Malawi and see what issues they face (see first blog if acronyms are becoming overwhelming!).

Mulanje Mountain
As we left the main road in Mulanje, we wound up a dirt track between the tea plantations at the base of the Mulanje mountains to reach the hydro scheme at Bondo village. As we bounced our way over boulders and skirted large pot holes I couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed at how the civil engineering kit managed to get up the track. Later discussions revealed that materials had been taken up the track by hand and that very little machinery had been used in the construction of the scheme. Just goes to show that where there’s a will there’s a way!
Emmanuel from Practical Action with children from Bondo. Note the newly installed electricity poles!
On arrival at the site we were met by Emmanuel, a Technician with Practical Action who has been working with MuREA on the hydro project for a number of years. The first idea for the hydro project came about in 2007 with work starting in earnest 2/3 years ago. The project was finally operational on the 9th July and now provides electricity to the health centre and some 14 households in the community of Bondo, Mulanje.
The village chief, Mr Salupi (left) and his friend (right) at the Bondo community hydro project
Children at Bondo at the canal which transports water to the hydro scheme intake
Penstock pipe from the canal down to the turbine
The 88kW scheme utilises a Pelton turbine manufactured in Zimbabwe which uses a canal system to transport water some 600m from the river to an appropriate intake point. The head of the scheme is in the region of 150m and the system is designed to take flows in the region of 1000 litres/second. Householders which are connected up to the scheme need to pay between 7,000 – 15,000 kwatcha (between £15 - £30) to install the necessary wiring in their homes. A pre paid meter will then be installed which householders will top up with credit to pay for the electricity.

Even though the hydro scheme has only been generating electricity for a few weeks, the significance of this project and how excited the community are is already tangible.

Now that the health centre is connected up to the hydro scheme, vaccines can be stored there reliably giving increased access to essential medications for this remote rural community. The provision of electric lighting also means that health workers and patients no longer have to rely on candles which are often blown out during important procedures in inclement weather.

Householders are utilising the provision of electricity to launch new business opportunities. One householder has already built a screening room onto the side of this house where he will connect up a projector and sound system to provide a community big screen – just in time for the world cup!
Bondo children in front of the grass and canvas house extension which will support the big screen powered by the hydro. 
Nicholas Dzadza from Practical Action, Zimbabwe showing where the big screen will be.
Other enterprising householders that have connected to the hydro scheme have purchased maize mills to process locally grown maize and turn a profit from the milled product.

What was apparent whilst talking to members of the community is how excited everybody was about the introduction of reliable electricity to the area and that there are now significantly greater opportunities for development within these communities. This scheme hasn’t been without it’s hiccups but what is heartening from this project is that barriers have been overcome and that learning from this project can be transferred to other projects which are earlier in the development process in other areas of Malawi. An incredible achievement for all those involved.



Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lilongwe and Blantyre

A delay in the first of three flights meant that I have arrived in Malawi 24 hours later than originally planned but no matter, the schedule has been rejigged and there’s still plenty of time to see everything that I’d hoped.

On arrival in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, at midday on Monday it was a case of confirming meetings, ensuring sufficient cash was taken out of cash machines and phone credit was topped up before heading south on Tuesday. All admin tasks completed, and executive coach booked, I arrived safely in Blantyre this afternoon.
View of Lilongwe

What has been apparent from being in Lilongwe and through travelling down to Blantyre has been the importance of wood and charcoal as a fuel in Malawi. Official estimates have the reliance on biomass (wood or charcoal) as accounting for 89% of the total national energy demand in Malawi. Considering this, it’s no wonder that there are some significant loads of wood for sale at the side of the road and piled high in lorries destined for areas with less wood available. Due to high transportation costs, it can be an expensive fuel and deforestation is a big problem in Malawi. When this is combined with the health issues associated with using wood fuelled indoor cook stoves, there is a significant drive to increase the efficiency of wood consumption. The fuel efficient cook stove projects in the CEDP are looking to address this very issue and I hope to see some of these projects later in the trip.
Approaching Blantyre

This afternoon I had my first meeting with Martin Ketembo who will be developing a community renewable energy toolkit for Malawi. The toolkit will have two formats, a written resource that NGOs and community based organisations (CBOs) can use and a secondary toolkit based on visual aids and DVDs will be developed for people with lower literacy. The development of both toolkits will be a key resource for community groups and organisations looking to progress their own renewable energy projects in Malawi with the support of the locally based Development Officers. It’s hoped that the toolkit that is developed in Malawi will act as a blueprint for developing similar toolkits for other developing countries.
Solar panels providing energy for pre-election registration in Blantyre

I’ve also been able to meet with Penny George from Scottish Government and Joanna Keating, Head of International Development at Scottish Government. I’ll be travelling to Mulanje tomorrow with Penny, Joanna and others from Scottish Government tomorrow. More news from Mulanje where I will see an operational locally owned hydro project to follow!