Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Neno District Project Visit

Earlier this week Mavuto (Southern Region Development Officer) jolted and bumped his 4x4 along the hilly and dusty road to Neno District with me in the passenger seat. It was going to be the first time that Mavuto had visited Chididi Community Based Organisation (CBO) since the installation of a series of Solar Photovoltaic systems in the community funded through the CEDP.

Long and winding road to Neno!
The installations included 4 solar PV systems in school teacher's houses, solar PV in 1 school block and head teacher's office and finally 1 solar PV installation in the office of the CBO. It was so exciting to be able to see one of the projects that I have been reading about on paper for so long!

Installations on 2 of the 4 teacher's houses in Neno

Installation on the Head teacher's office
All of the systems have only been installed for a matter of weeks so it is quite early to be discussing impacts, however, when I asked the head teacher, Maxwell, what difference it had made to him having a light in his office, he said that it had made a huge impact on him being able to work late into the night with good lighting.
Moses Gadama from the Energy Committee also said that “we are in the light, we no longer have to travel long distances to charge phones or to get our hair cut, this can now be done in our community thanks to the electricity from the solar, these new business opportunities are exciting.”

Chididi CBO well lit by the solar PV installation in the school block

The head teacher, Maxwell, with his wife in their newly lit home. 

What I found particularly interesting during this visit was the attitude of the community. They were obviously all very interested to hear what I had to say in terms of future "donations" to the community. Whilst Mavuto has repeatedly made it clear to the community that these systems will not be supported by further donations but instead by revenue generating ideas that Mavuto has helped them to establish, since I was visiting the UK the community thought they had better double check "straight from the horses mouth" on any further funding!

Mavuto further reinforced that no further funding was available at this time and that the community should instead look to the revenue generating ideas that Mavuto is supporting them to establish. In this community these ideas include mobile phone charging and a barber shop, both of which will utilise electricity from the newly installed solar PV systems. Profits from these enterprises will go into a maintenance fund that is managed by the community Energy Committee to fund the ongoing costs of all of the systems in the community. It is hoped that any additional funds can be used to set up further revenue generating activities in the community - we're all very excited to see how this will develop!

Travelling back to Blantyre behind a lorry laden with charcoal to sell in Blantyre. Is it not the local use of firewood that is causing the huge deforestation in Neno District, but the huge demand for charcoal from towns that causes so many of the Neno trees to be cut down.

On closer inspection, a LOT of charcoal being transported to Blantyre. The need for fuel efficient stoves in urban areas is therefore just as big a priority as it is in the rural areas. 


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