In East Africa, Renewable World is using renewable energy to help people in remote communities transform their lives. As official charity of EWEA, Renewable World’s work in East Africa and the Songambele project in particular is the focus of the first action for Global Wind Day on 15th June.
Paolo Mele, 43, is Renewable World’s East Africa Programme Manager, who leads our projects and programme development in Tanzania and the wider East Africa region from his base in Nairobi, Kenya. In Autumn 2011, after more than 10 years working in small business development in the UK, and a further five working in micro-financing of projects in Sri Lanka, Malawi and Uganda, Paolo decided the time was right for a change.
He said: ‘I had been working in the UK creating business plans and mentoring entrepreneurs, then moved into the development of non-traditional business methods elsewhere in the world. But I had the desire to do something I thought might be more meaningful: using my skills to assist people who desperately needed new ways to change their lives.
‘When I saw Renewable World needed an East Africa programme manager, I was delighted to be able to bring my experience to assist small businesses and communities to use renewable energy to their benefit.’
‘Communities in East Africa are often in very remote and diverse locations,’ he said. ‘A very low percentage has access to energy and even in the longer-term they are unlikely to have proper grid connections. As a result, it makes sense to generate electricity close to where it’s needed, and empower communities to make decisions about what energy they want and how it’s used.’
One such project is the Global Wind Day supported Songambele ‘Maarifa’ or Information Centre in Tanzania. This project is helping to bridge the digital divide bringing opportunity to a remote community affected by drought and climatic change.
‘Working with regional partner, ALIN, Renewable World helped to develop the idea that the Maarifa Centre in Songambele could be self-financing and sustainable, powered by solar panels and a wind turbine which would belong to the community and also provide power for other community activities. We worked with the community to find a workable business model, so that they could pay for the upkeep of the Centre and its power system.’
The Songambele Centre is already being used for some business initiatives, including the earliest stages of a scheme designed to encourage people to use biogas systems for fuel.
Paolo said: ‘The community is delighted with the scheme, which they are playing a vital part in. They’re happy to be able to use their own talents and abilities and act as a strong community to improve their lives. It’s a great thing to be involved in and I’m very happy to see it happening here, and helping the process.’