Our latest project in East Africa was officially launched on 10th June 2013. Here, our East Africa Programme Manager Paolo Mele reports from Lake Victoria about what we are doing in Kenya, and why we are doing it…
ON THE North-Eastern shores of Lake Victoria, Kenyan fishing communities work to eke a living from the water, and the often-dry nutrient-poor soil which meets it.
Luanda Rumbo, Lake Victoria
Indeed, the indigenous communities on Kenya’s Lake Victoria shoreline are amongst the nation’s poorest, with almost 71 per cent living below the poverty line.
But on Monday 10th June 2013, we officially launched RESOLVE (Renewable Energy Systems for Lake Victoria Ecosystems): an exciting new project to improve health, education, incomes, and crop production in the region.
RESOLVE is a three-year programme which will work with the 17,605 people living in the communities of Mohuru, Got Kachola, Sori, Oodi, Nyandiwa and Luanda Rumbo – the last of which was where Monday’s launch event took place.
The event was attended by me, Regional Programme Manager for East Africa, Travis Marshall (RESOLVE Project Intern), Jo Kelly (Global Programme Development Director) and Louis FitzGerald (Chairman) from Renewable World; local dignitaries including the chief of police and District Commissioner; representatives of our partner organisations Access Energy, FASCOBI and OSIENALA; and the guest of honour, the local Member of Parliament the Honourable Millie Odhiambo.
The programme will last for three years, focussing on Luanda Rumbo and Got Kachola in the first, and extending to the other four communities in the next two years.
Each community currently relies heavily on fish for food and income, but their remote, off-grid locations deny them the energy they need to lift themselves from poverty and hardship.
The initiative is funded by the communities themselves, partners and significantly by a grant of £268,000 from Comic Relief.We are working to install solar/wind hybrid power production systems in each community as well as enable critical training to support development of businesses and business ideas once the energy services are in place. Together, these deliver vital opportunities for the local populations to access improved incomes as well as health, nutrition and education.
Our systems will produce 4-5KwH of electricity per day and will enable irrigation of fields to improve crop production and nutrition; water pumping and filtering to improve provide safe drinking water to reduce rates of water-borne disease and infections.
It will also power lighting, which will enable people to stop burning kerosene in their homes. This is an important target because kerosene is expensive, and also because the pollution created by domestic kerosene burning kills around 2m people – mainly women and children – every year. More reliable, less expensive lighting will also enable children to complete homework, thus improving their educational achievements.
Current catch operation, Luanda Rumbo
The programme will also enable the refrigeration of fish. This is vital to prolong the ‘shelf-life’ of the catch, enabling fishermen to maintain a higher quality product and, thus, have a greater power for negotiation at point of sale. Previously, the inability to refrigerate fish in the hot climate meant every catch had to be sold within a matter of hours or it would become worthless. With fish stocks dropping, it is vital that fishermen obtain maximum benefit from the catch and that incomes are diversified.
Through the simple provision of power from renewable resources we are enabling communities to tackle these challenges head on, and lift themselves from poverty and hardship. The scheme will also provide electricity for other local businesses and services.
Although Monday was the official launch, we have been working in Luanda Rumbo since mid-April. In this community of 1,185 people, we have set up the Renewable Energy and Auxiliary Services community-based organisation, led by Florence Olleche.
Working with this organisation, we have completed a baseline household and energy survey, completed leadership, business and entrepreneur training with 30 community members, and made links with a small loan facility to help people start their own businesses.
We have also constructed the energy hub building, where the wind turbine, solar panels, inverters and batteries will operate (they will be installed before the end of July) and where 8-10 businesses will be based, including restaurants, a barber shop, chemist and solar light rental centre and an ice production centre.
And the launch event was a great opportunity for us to visit some of the sites where the next initiatives will take place. We were able to visit the Super Farmers’ and Emmanual Women’s Groups’ fields, where the first crops (of cow peas, squash, tomatoes, and watermelons) which will benefit from the new irrigation system will be planted in August.
Millie Odhiambo said: “It is a wonderful project and we offer all our support”
I agree. This is an opportunity for people in a remote area to improve their lives, and it’s an exciting opportunity to ensure they have the means to help themselves.