Kenya

Renewable World has supported small scale energy projects across East Africa since 2008. Recently, we have focused on improving access to renewable energy for fishing communities through our Lighting up Lake Victoria programme. This began in 2013 with the Comic Relief-funded ‘Renewable Energy Solutions for Lake Victoria Ecosystems’ (RESOLVE), and later, the ‘Energy Hubs Project’ since 2017.

Impact

  • 7,427 people reached to-date
  • 10 renewable energy systems installed across 10 communities in 4 districts
  • 25 kilowatts of renewable energy capacity
  • 242 people reached through livelihood training
  • 72 institutions, micro-enterprises, and agricultural co-operatives reached
  • 32 tons of CO2 mitigated each year

Need

Kenya ranks 142nd in the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI). As one of Africa’s basin countries, Kenya has access to the region’s largest lake by area and the world’s largest inland fishery, Lake Victoria. Despite the vast resources Lake Victoria offers, Kenya still suffers extreme poverty. Today, 43% of Kenyans live on less than $1.25 a day. In addition, it is estimated that only 65% of households in the country have electricity and 86% lack access to clean cooking sources.

The expansive waters of Lake Victoria, whilst being a potential source for development, also form the basis for hardship faced by its communities. Due to limited agricultural experience and a lack of available irrigation, crop cultivation around Lake Victoria is tough and production only covers basic subsistence levels. Given the difficulty of cultivating the lake’s soil, fishing provides the main source of income. However this is not without its problems, for as soon as the fish is caught, there comes the question of preservation. How do you prevent fish spoiling in temperatures in excess of 35oC? With little or no electricity, fish traders struggle to preserve the fish and therefore its value, forcing them to sell at highly deflated prices. Many women become fish traders, but like others, they struggle to sell at a fair price and desperately resort to exchanging sexual favours just to close a deal. Unfortunately there are few alternatives for earning a living, and the extreme levels of malnutrition, unemployment, and HIV/AIDS have led to the area becoming known as ‘the belt of poverty’.

Our Action

In the first round of action in Kenya, our RESOLVE programme provided six remote, lakeside communities with access to clean energy through community-owned solar microgrids. Through these microgrids, energy harvested from sunlight is captured, stored, and distributed as clean electricity. To aid community ownership, we helped establish six legally-registered community-based organisations, who after appropriate governance and financial training, were able to manage their renewable energy systems. As a result, 1,734 people, 64 households, and 32 businesses gained access to energy.

The second round of energy provision around Lake Victoria came in the form of the Energy Hubs Project. Through this project, Renewable World used its lessons learned from RESOLVE to improve programming and build new microgrids in four additional communities. Through a series of consultations, in addition to access to electricity, each community voiced the need for improved water access to make farming a viable livelihood alternative. As a result, four new microgrids were installed, complete with a water-pump, storage tank, pipework, and drip-irrigation kits in addition to household connections. This supported improved crop cultivation in each of these communities.

Renewable World built on the existing women’s agricultural cooperatives by providing additional agricultural training, thereby improving understanding of the best crops to grow and techniques to use, and maximising the benefits of the irrigation system. This has helped communities such as Mirunda maximise their agricultural potential. Following the installation of the irrigation system in Kiwa, the Kiwa’s Women’s Group grew an astounding 30,000kg of tomatoes in their first harvest, and now expect an additional two harvests each year, effectively giving them the ability to triple their already record-breaking yield!

The impact of RESOLVE and the Energy Hubs Project has translated to a reduction of people’s average monthly spend on lighting by over half to 470 Kenyan Shillings (£3.41), as well as an increase in average income by 18.9%. The benefits have been in various forms, and one welcome change has been the reduction of indoor air pollution and combustion-related injury as reliance on traditional, polluting kerosene lamps has decreased, with over a quarter of beneficiaries reporting less illness or injury. Additionally, the work has helped in empowering women, keeping them front of mind in the implementation process. As a result, from the 10 community based organisations managing the microgrids, 38% of people in decision-making roles are women.

Funders and Partnerships

We have chosen our strategic partners carefully to ensure we deliver impact which can be taken to scale.

Acre Properties, Bentley Systems, The Charles Hayward Foundation, The Dulverton Trust, The Green Room Charitable Trust, Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa (MCFEA), Paul Foundation, The Peter Sowerby Foundation, United States African Development Foundation, The Pickwell Foundation

Next Steps

Our current focus is on system optimisation and innovation within our existing microgrid communities. This includes working alongside communities to increase energy capacity and extend connections to 90 more households and microbusinesses. In addition, our work will support the establishment of additional irrigation systems and agricultural training. Lastly, in Kiwa Island, we plan on piloting an innovative solar-powered ice-making programme. This programme will involve the most vulnerable members of the community, such as female fish traders. Depending on the outcome of a post-completion evaluation, Renewable World hopes to roll this out to a further 2,450 people in 17 poor fishing communities.

Over the next few years, our broader goals include scaling our work, installing 50 solar microgrids in new fishing communities around Lake Victoria. These grids will each have a capacity of 7kW-15kW, which will power an estimated total of 4,500 households and 500 micro-businesses. By trialling new community-private sector ownership models, our target is to introduce clean, renewable energy to around 64,000 people in East Africa by 2022.

By developing bold partnerships, particularly with companies and financial institutions, we will utilise community contributions through affordable finance and enable enterprises to become equity stakeholders. The result will be less reliance on grants and subsidies, bringing community-centred renewable technology to even more people that truly need it.

Click here to read more about our work in our 10 Year Impact Report: 2008-2018.