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Solar minigrid overturns rural hardship in MASHABA, Zimbabwe

Solar grid keeps harvests high, hospitals lit in parched rural Zimbabwe, by Tonderayi Mukeredzi | Thomson Reuters Foundation, 11 September 2017With worsening droughts drying fields and hydropower, solar energy is providing a way forward in rural areas MASHABA,  – Until recently, farmers in this town in southern Zimbabwe struggled to water their crops, frustrated by poor rainfall and the regular breakdown of the diesel engines that powered their irrigation systems.

As in most areas of rural Zimbabwe, rain-fed agriculture provides most of the jobs in this part of Gwanda district, some 130km (80 miles) southeast of Bulawayo.

But sparse rains over the last decade, a worsening problem associated with climate change, have caused many harvests to fail, and cut into the country’s generation of hydropower, which provides much of its electricity.

In Mashaba, however, the community’s luck is turning. In 2015, the town installed a solar mini-grid power station that has helped green the hot, arid area transform into a hive of entrepreneurial activity. The off-grid power system, with 400 solar panels that provide nearly 100 kilowatts of reliable power, has made it possible to effectively irrigate crops, boosting farming yields and fuelling economic growth. Local leaders say schools have become more productive and medical facilities safer.

The $3.2 million mini-grid was funded by the European Union, the OPEC Fund for International Development and the Global Environment Facility as part of a drive to promote universal access to modern energy in rural areas. Its construction was overseen by Practical Action Southern Africa, a development charity.

The plant powers the Mankonkoni and Rustlers Gorge irrigation schemes, which cover 32 hectares (79 acres) and 42 hectares (104 acres) respectively; the Mashaba Primary School; a business centre with three shops; the Mashaba Clinic; and the Masendani Business Centre, which has four shops and an energy kiosk.

A board of trustees selected by the community is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the mini-grid, and community members have been trained to maintain and operate it.

The mini-grid will be co-owned by an independent power producer and the community through the trust…….http://news.trust.org/item/20170911111952-ei8xq/

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September 14, 2017 - Posted by | AFRICA, renewable

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