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!

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