Walter Nyamukondiwa in MHONDORO
At least 300 000 rural households are set to be solar-powered under a $4 million facility aimed at eliminating use of non-renewable energy sources. The project roll-out will start with an initial 24 000 households in Mhondoro-Ngezi, before it spreads to other districts of Mashonaland West Province and the country. It is a partnership between Mhondoro-Ngezi Rural District Council, Zonful Energy and other partners.
Modelled around the prepaid system, this is set to complement the rural electrification programme and bridge the energy gap between rural and urban communities.
Speaking at the launch of the project at Mamina Business Centre in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West Minister of State Cde Faber Chidarikire said it will help in safeguarding the environment.
“The product will go a long way in the conservation of our environment. That is, forest conservation and reduction of pollution from burning kerosene,” he said.
“It is relevant to the nation’s energy policy as it responds to some of the policy’s objectives, which are increased access to affordable energy services to all citizens, including rural communities.”
This, he said, will contribute to the eradication of poverty and stimulate sustainable economic growth.
Minister Chidarikire said the initiative will stimulate economic activity in rural communities, thereby increasing their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product.
“This ties in well with the objectives of Zim-Asset aimed at improving the lives of all Zimbabweans,” he said.
“It will leverage on the country’s abundant sunlight, translating to about 300 days of sunshine in a year.”
Minister Chidarikire said the project was set to change the lives of the Mhondoro folk and called for more investment in technology to improve the lives of the people.
Zonful Energy chief executive Mr William Ponela said the project was a commercial idea that addressed social problems.
“We are solving energy challenges in rural communities by providing affordable solar systems while also helping to conserve the environment,” said Mr Ponela.
“This will also help create employment as most of the people who do installations and basic repairs will come from the community.”
Under the project, villagers will get an entry level package of lamps and cellphone charging system, a television and radio for a deposit of $5 with the remainder payable over a maximum of 36 months.
It is being financed through a $4 million Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe sustainable energy for rural communities revolving fund.
The entry level unit costs about $54 and a centrally controlled prepaid system will subsist until the unit is paid for in full.
Thereafter, the prepaid system will be removed and the unit becomes the owner’s, with a five-year warranty.
An upgrade will be made to the system after assessment of a customer’s adherence to agreed terms.