A Passion for Improving the Lives of the Poor

October 27, 2011

Jason Morenikeji gave up a career as a Product Designer to set up The Clean Energy Company (TCEC), a sustainable enterprise based in Mozambique which develops small scale, off grid renewable energy solutions.

TCEC specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of micro-wind systems which can be combined with other renewable energy sources to bring power to rural communities. He explains why he has such a passion for improving the lives of poor people through renewable energy.

I was a successful product designer in the UK for 14 years but towards the end of this time I began to question the sustainability of modern Western consumption and the industry which propagates it. Having been brought up in West Africa, I decided I wanted to use my skills and passion for design to improve the lives of some of the poorest people on the continent. So I enrolled myself on an MSc in Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales. This led to the decision to set up the Clean Energy Initiative in Pemba in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in East Africa and the vast majority of the rural population still live on less than US$1 a day. Fewer than 14% of the population have access to electricity, even less in the rural areas, which seriously limits development but with 2,800km of coastline and robust trade winds, the country is an obvious choice for off-grid small scale wind.

Although expansion of the national grid is underway by the national power utility, electrifying remote rural locations is prohibitively expensive. Decentralised power generation through small scale, community based renewable energy systems is a promising strategy for electrifying rural parts of Mozambique as it is flexible and cost effective. Added to this the country's long stretch of coastline, inland lakes and highlands which contribute to it's localised wind patterns make it an untapped source for small scale wind generation.

More than 80% of poor households in Mozambique live in the rural parts of the country and lack basic services such as clean water supplies and access to health and educational facilities. Subsistence farming is the main source of food and income with small-holder farmers depending on traditional farming methods, low yielding seed varieties and manual cultivation techniques.

Over 95% of food crops are produced under rain-fed conditions in Mozambique leaving communities further exposed to changes in rainfall patterns which affect crop production. Alternative sources of income aside from agriculture are very few and this increases the vulnerability of rural poor people to natural disasters, crop failure and food insecurity.

In Western societies, the use of renewable energy is often viewed as an ethical lifestyle choice but in the rural areas of developing countries like Mozambique it's often the only choice. Decentralised power can produce electricity for isolated areas and can power water pumping systems, appliances at health centres and schools and provide energy for lighting.

My hope is that with time, my initiative will grow in scale and it will be possible to make a positive contribution to the Millenium Development Goals commitment to ending poverty. Access to energy is a crucial element in delivering the services and resources necessary for meeting each of the MDG's and doing this in a way which is clean and sustainable makes even more sense.

Read more about how we are supporting The Clean Energy Initiative to improve the livelihoods of rural farmers in Mozambique