During the night, majestic lights illuminate the business centre. In the homesteads, villagers enjoy watching television and cooking on electric stoves. They say they are better off than those living in cities and towns as they enjoy an uninterrupted supply of electricity – independent of ZESA’s outages, breakdowns and load-shedding.
Practical Action, a local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), implemented the Himalaya Small Hydro Power Project with funding from the European Union.
Besides generating hydro power, Himalaya’s abundant rivers are being harnessed for irrigation.
Farming forms the backbone of this rural economy as the people in the area are now using the hydro power to power their water pumps, which they use to irrigate fields of beans, wheat, maize and tomatoes, among other crops.
This powered domestic irrigation has enabled them to extend the amount of land available to cultivate and they are able to generate an income from selling the extra produce.
In addition, a cold storage facility at the energy centre has kept the produce fresh and in better condition. This means it lasts longer and can fetch a good price at the Sakubva and other urban markets.
The chairman of Himalaya Small Hydro Electric Project, George Njobo, said the project had used appropriate technology to challenge energy poverty among rural folk who had been marginalised for a very long time.
“The project aims to increase access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the poor people in this community. We have been looked down upon for many years, but, with this project we have greatly sustained our lives,” he said.
“The community has had great potential to improve crop productivity, environmental benefits and other socio-economic activities for sustainable development, as the people have managed to use the renewable energy in their agricultural operations.”
He confirmed that the small hydro project successfully completed the first 14-hectare irrigation scheme and a pole treatment plant benefiting 30 households.
“Communities in Himalaya can now harvest and treat timber in the area, getting more income and moving from subsistence to commercial agriculture,” he explained.
He added that even business people at the business centre, the public institutions and household activities had greatly improved.
Elisha Mukombero a shop owner said: “The electricity being generated is primarily enhancing my business enterprises. I now have refrigerators for storage and processing of perishable products.”
He said he had been realising great profits as people were now buying in large quantities to store in their household fridges.
“Many people are now buying meat, fish and milk from my shop to store at their homes and this has greatly improved my income,” said Mukombero.
“There is no more travelling to buy or recharge batteries for lighting, radios or television. We are just switching on and enjoy television and programmes,” said Joseph Chigumbura a local villager.
A major observation is that many households have satellite dishes, where they said they were enjoying various international programmes at the expense of the local television.
“We are the same as those living in the cities and even better because we do not experience the load shading. We are enjoying movies and English Premier League in the comfort of our homes,” he said.
Gutaurare Clinic, which used to face operational problems at night due to lack of lighting, was one of the first beneficiaries of the project.
“The clinic is now able to treat people at night and store medicines. The biggest problem we used to face was with women who gave birth at night. They had to provide their own candles or lamps, but now they can deliver at any time because we now have electricity,” said a member of the nursing staff, who cannot be named for protocol reasons.
Less than a kilometre away is Gutaurare Primary School, which also benefits from this micro hydro installation. Admire Chiware is in grade seven at this school of 500 pupils.
“Studying or doing assignments at night were a challenge for us before, but now we are no longer using paraffin lamps” said the enlightened Chiware.
With the grade seven examinations approaching, Chiware and his fellow students now have a fair chance of success and progressing with their studies.
The project has also seen a women’s irrigation group – Himalaya Greens – engaging in meaningful economic activities and contributing to the development of the area.
The group of five women is growing vegetables and fruit with irrigation. “As a group we have a tender to supply our produce to local secondary schools and to individuals in the community. This project has changed our lives,” said the leader, Patricia Huni.
Zimbabwe has significant hydro power resources that remain untapped in due to lack of appropriate and affordable technology. The Ministry of Energy and Power has said the Himalaya project would be used to influence the promotion of mini-grids in Zimbabwe.Post published in: News