The conference was held to provide a platform to officially launch Community Energy Malawi, launch the Community Renewable Energy Toolkit for Malawi but finally (and possibly most importantly), to bring together representatives from the 12 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) that have been involved in the Community Energy Development Programme and other key stakeholders for the first energy conference of its kind in Malawi.
Packed conference venue!
It was an action packed day with a full programme which can be accessed here. Community Energy Malawi was honoured to be hosting a number of high profile speakers and guests including the Key Note Speaker, Director of Administration for the Ministry of Energy, Mr Maxwell Tsitsi; Mr Raphael Kamoto, the CEO of Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority; the Deputy Director of Energy Affairs; Community Energy Scotland staff Nicholas Gubbins (CEO) as well as Community Energy Board Members Kelvin Tembo, Yamungu Botha and Dr Arnold Juma.
The top table! (L-R) Edgar Bayani, National Coordinator; Kelvin Tembo, Community Energy Malawi Board Member; Deputy Director of Energy Affairs, Joseph Kalowekamo; Maxwell Tsitsi and Nicholas Gubbins
It was noted by many of the speakers and attendees that all of the honoured guests were taking lots of notes and they were all still present when the closing remarks of the conference were being delivered. It is testament to the quality of the presentations and discussion that the attention of so many of the "movers and shakers" in the energy industry was maintained for the whole day!
This conference was also about giving community groups the opportunity to present their projects, share their experiences and ask questions directly to senior figures in the sector. This is the first time that community members in Malawi have had such a platform to do this and several members of the community took this opportunity to ask thought provoking questions to the speakers.
Lloyd Chiwaya, a community member from Balaka who was presenting his experiences of community energy projects installed by Concern Universal.
Mr Hevvens Theu from Fwasani CBO giving a fantastic summary of the projects involved under the CEDP.
Central Region Development Officer - Blessings Mbendera said "It was so great to see the intra-community group networking, group members from Balaka (in the Central region) speaking with groups members from Chitipa (in the Northern region), it was a very special day". And as Sithembile, Northern Region Development Officer noted, "it is so often the case in Malawi that we hold discussions about the community in their absence, it is a great thing that the community is here today with us to be involved in the discussions".
Sithembile, Development Officer for the Northern Region and our Director of Ceremonies
And of course there was the unveiling of Community Energy Malawi (CEM) by our National Coordinator, Edgar Bayani, the Board Chair for CEM, Kelvin Bayani and our guest of honour, Maxwell Tsitsi. There was much applause and many of the community groups and assembled stakeholders have already pledged their wish to become members of CEM and contribute what they can to make the organisation a success.
The official unveiling and launch of Community Energy Malawi!
The launch of the toolkit was also a great success with the majority of the published material being distributed to the community groups and key stakeholders by the end of the conference. The material will all be uploaded to the Community Energy Malawi website and a note will be put on this blog when this process is complete.
Community members from Dowa District being interviewed by the national press. Watch this space for how CEM hits the headlines!
Perhaps one of the most thought provoking presentations was given by Dr Arnold Juma, a lecturer at Mzuni University in Mzuzu, in the Northern Region. Dr Juma carried out a PhD into what makes a Solar PV system sustainable in rural Malawi. His findings were very interesting with the key points being that it is possible for rural PV systems to be sustainable but that the systems should be decentralised systems and that the strategy for installation should be based on "selling" as opposed to "donating" the technologies on part of the project sponsors and "buying" as opposed to "receiving" on the part of the beneficiaries.
All of the presentations from the conference will be uploaded to the Community Energy Malawi website in the next few weeks.
Packed Conference Venue!
Blessings looking at some of the exhibitors at the conference
And finally the day was rounded off with traditional dances from the Gule Wamkulu - traditional dancers dressed in amazing costumes who entertained the attendees on the lawns outside the conference venue. As Yamungu Botha, a member of the CEM board commented, the inclusion of the communities at every stage of this conference 'really added value to the word "Community" in Community Energy Malawi', with such a positive unveiling, we are all really excited to see where this momentum will lead.
Example of the Gule Wamkulu