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Energy starved communities in rural Zimbabwe are set to benefit from small-scale micro hydro schemes which are being implemented by Practical Action Southern Africa
According to Practical Action's Lasten Mika, his organization has implemented small-scale micro hydro schemes to demostrate cases for decentralized energy systems for isolated, rural communities in Zimbabwe.
"These systems which are designed to operate for a minimum of 25 years are usually run of the river systems which do not require a dam or storage facility to be constructed and therefore are much cheaper to develop," Mika says.
Mika adds that a system with a capacity of 6KW is big enough to drive a mill and provide electrical lighting for up to 20 families. One such project has recently been implemented in Chipendeke in Mutare district in Manicaland province of Zimbabwe.
According to Mika, the micro hydro scheme provides 25KW of electrical power which serves almost 130 families.The quantity of energy provides enough electricity for domestic needs such as lighting, as well as providing power to a health centre, school and numerous small businesses being run by community members.
Boost for farmers
"There has been a boost in farmers livelihoods in Chipendeke as a result of this scheme," Mika says.
Mika says that Practical Action believes it has a vital role to play in greening the economy through energy projects.The organization provides services in countries where communities' livelihoods are extremely vulnerable to environmental degradation and change, including those caused by climate change.
According to Practical Action, decentralized small-scale micro hydro schemes between 10KW and 100KW are an attractive and highly possible energy option. The organization says that the lack of coordination of grid electrification and decentralized power development is a source of great risk for investors when considering decentralized options.
"There is a strong need for policy and strategic coordination in rolling out both central and decentralized energy services," Practical Action says.
Practical Action also reports that in Africa, four out of five families live without electricity. The organization says that energy poverty is critically undermining the achievement of the MDGs.
"As long as hundreds of millions of people remain deprived of the basic energy services needed to stay fed and healthy,earn a living and allow the time needed for learning and fulfillment, the MDGs will remain out of reach," says Practical Action.
The organization also reports that in Southern Africa, access to electricity in rural areas remains low with Malawi at 0.05 per cent, Mozambique 0.7 per cent and Zimbabwe 19 per cent. lt adds that this severely curtails essential value addition economic activities such as agro-processing and light engineering.