The Future’s Bright for Lake Victoria

17th May 2017

The RESOLVE project came to a close in November 2016 and to celebrate the achievements made over the last three years, we thought we’d take a look back over the highlights so far…

Background

In May 2013, Renewable World launched the Renewable Energy Solutions for Lake Victoria Ecosystems (RESOLVE) project in Kenya. With our partners FASCOBI and OSIENALA, and with funding from Comic Relief we set out to install six microgrids on the shores of Lake Victoria. The aim was to improve the health, income, education and to diversify livelihoods for six of the fishing communities in Ng’ore, Got Kachola, Ragwe, Resira Beach, Tabla and Luanda Rombo by the end of 2016. The long-term project goals were to work in partnership with these communities to help give them access to clean energy, reduce pollution, reduce household energy costs, increase income from micro-businesses, improve access to information and telecommunications and establish the energy hubs as community run enterprises.

The communities on the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya are among the poorest in the country, with approximately 71% of the population living below the poverty line. Most of these communities heavily rely on fishing to generate an income but without access to electricity they are unable to keep their catch fresh therefore have to sell their stock immediately at unfair prices. Because there is no/very little access to electricity households, fisherman and businesses have to use kerosene lanterns or candles for lighting which is known to cause dizziness, headaches, eye and lung infections from the fumes, as well as being expensive and damaging to the environment. Our aim was to supply these communities with an alternative, clean, cheap and renewable energy source.

What We Did

With support from local project partners FASCOBI and OSIENALA, we installed six solar microgrids in the six communities we were working with. Solar Microgrids (also referred to as Energy Hubs) are a small discrete solar energy system, with energy storage and distribution systems, which are owned by the community to provide electricity to households and small businesses. The ones we have installed have a capacity of between 1.5kw and 2.0kw which can support up to 30 connections. We help to establish a Community Based Organisation (CBO) at each community, as a fully engaged, elected and registered executive committee which manage and maintain the Energy Hubs. CBO’s have been set up in all 6 communities, consisting of 11 members, elected by and from the communities, 30% of which are women. With ground work help from OSIENEALA, we provided business management and financial training to the CBO members so they can run the energy hubs as an independent business.

During the three years, we worked alongside these six communities to establish 97 new energy connections which are now being used to power 52 households, 45 business enterprises including 6 Beach Management Units (BMU), 2 youth owned information and communication centres and one women’s agricultural cooperative which has benefited over 1600 individuals.

Linet at work in her hairdressing salon in Got Kachola

PROJECT OUTCOMES

During the three years, we tracked the impacts of the project within the communities. The key outcomes we were tracking were improvements to income, health, and information and telecommunications. There were a few unexpected outcomes, like the formation of the CBO, the SACCO and the investment in solar lanterns for fishermen, all of which were incredibly positive. Below we have summarized our key outcomes and achievements which have been assessed by an external consultant SAWA, as well as by our own M&E team ACCESS.

IMPROVED INCOME

Households are spending a significantly smaller proportion of their income on energy bills, with the average monthly expenditure on energy for lighting decreasing by more than 50%. Some micro-enterprises have reported of a 150% increase in income.

The establishment of the CBO’s as a management entity for the energy hubs means that the communities are in control of the cash flows and operation and maintenance of the hubs. This means that the energy clients can track their input/output of energy against their running costs more closely.

 IMPROVED HEALTH

The removal of polluting fuels from the home has a significant impact of the health of the communities. There has also been a reduction in the number of kerosene spills and related accidents since the installation of the energy connections. The introduction of a suitable solar-charged lantern for night time fishing is also expected to greatly improve the health of the fishermen by removing the kerosene pressure lamps from boats.

INCREASED INFORMATION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Mobile phones are used across Kenya even in the most cut off communities, and are a necessity for business, fish trading, communication and M-Pesa (a mobile payment system). Since the energy hubs were set up, mobile phone charging micro-businesses have become the most common new business to arise. Now charging phones is quicker, more accessible, much cheaper and puts the income in the hands of the community.

Six enterprises have invested in a satellite TV and show the news and other programmes, improving access to information.

In Ng’ore and Got Kachola we have helped to establish youth-led communication and information hubs. These centres are set up with three computers, a printer and an internet connection. This provides access to ICT services, internet, and the chance to learn about modern communication technology and to connect with the wider world.

SOLAR LANTERNS FOR FISHERMEN

A total of 20 lanterns have been deployed in Ng’ore community with the Ng’ore Mtakatifu Women’s group who are the owners of a new solar lantern rental business. The women’s group rent the lanterns to boat owners for KES 50 a night, earning the women’s group KES 1000 (£7.70) a month, and cutting costs for the fishermen too. They have developed a business model which means they will have recoup the cost of the lanterns within 10 months, and then profits will be reinvested into buying more lanterns generating an extra source of income for the women’s group and greatly improving conditions for the fishermen as well.

ONGOING PLANS

We want to continue work on our Light Up Lake Victoria Programme and have already launched the Energy Hub Project. We have installed a second round of Energy Hubs in Ragwe and Ng’ore and we are laying the groundwork to bring Energy Hubs to the communities of Mirunda, Kiwa and Wakawaka.  We were delighted at the results of the RESOLVE project and we cannot wait for the new round of connections to be installed.

Find out more about our Lake Victoria Appeal and how you can help more people have  access to clean energy.

Read our full report on THE RESOLVE PROJECT here