- Published on Friday, 03 August 2012 04:23
- Written by ISSA YUSSUF, Zanzibar
- Hits: 1250
THREE middle aged Zanzibar women have marked a milestone in rural electrification by distributing and connecting solar power devices in their village of Kandwi, north Unguja.
This can be a model to other communities that do not have reliable electricity supply. ‘Illiteracy’ did not prevent the women from becoming admirable technicians. They travelled to India in September last year for six-month training on solar electrification and rooftop rain water harvesting.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) initiated the idea and motivated villagers to accept the project. On its part, India provided scholarships and also supported training at Barefoot College. The women are now working as ‘professional technicians’ to connect solar electricity in all households in the villages!
“It was not easy for us to cope with the training at the beginning because we had no knowledge about English and Indian language, but fortunately, it was 95 per cent practical training, we successfully completed the course,” said Ms Fatma Juma Haji (45). Fatma with her colleagues namely Mrs Patima Ali Adam (38), Mrs Mwashamba Khamis Makame (46) communicating was almost impossible in India, “we communicated with our tutors through signs!”
The women are now volunteering to install solar electricity in 100 households in Kandwi village. There are about 480 households, all without electricity. “We are housewives, therefore, we have to work at home for some hours before coming to the work shop to organize equipment including solar panels, batteries, and lamps,” explains Patima. She says that with availability of all required tools, installation takes only one hour in each house.
Each Household is entitled to have solar panels, batteries, and three lamps, and a wire for charging mobile phone. Despite poverty, almost all households on the Islands have at least one mobile telephone; therefore, the donor (India) considered providing wires for charging mobile phones. “This is simple technology to have electricity in our villages. We are the only women in the whole village doing the work of electrification. Everyone in the villages is eager to have the power,” said Mwashamba.
However, the solar power is only for lighting and charging phone, it is insufficient power to use it on radio and television set. But the Kandwi community leader (Sheha) Mr Khamis Haji Khamis says, “This is just the beginning of bright future. We have solar power now, as we wait for the electricity from national grid, or the upgrading of the solar panels.”
Khamis said that gradually, with support from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), villagers were told about the importance of solar power and accepted to contribute 10,000/= in cash monthly to sustain the project. The collection is submitted to the Kandwi village development committee.
The India Consul General Mr Pawan Kumar said his government was committed to bring changes in villages without electricity, “we want all households to benefit from the project. The available devices are only for limited power supply.” He said the cost of gadgets to enable a house to have electricity is about US 500 dollars, which include solar panels, batteries, connection wires, and three lamps.
Consul General said, “There are two more women named Ms Patima Othmani Juma and Ms Mize Juma Othman both from Matemwe village being trained at the same college in India on solar electrification and rooftop rain water. The two women are expected to return home in September this year. Five women in the villages will really bring change, and useful in the planned project to harvest rain water.”
“I am very happy because we are starting to change the life of the whole village in different ways,”Technician Mwashamba pronounced with a sense of happiness, as a family man Mr Ali Mgeni expresses joy to be among the first beneficiaries. “We have minimized use of kerosene, firewood, and reduce smoke. But fortunately the biggest benefit are the children to have light for doing their school homework and reading at night,” said Mgeni.
He also mentioned that with growing technology, people are unable to buy and use television, radio, refrigerators, air condition due to insufficient solar power, “we ask the donors to boost bring solar power so that we can enjoy the modern technology.” Mgeni pointed out that he was grateful to India and UNESCO, but said absence of electricity radio remains a big challenge in life because radio is the only source which keeps the people connected with rest of the world in villages.
Another villager in Kandwi village, Mr Ibrahim Kombo expressed excitement about having solar power in his house, while his children are overwhelmed that their compound is lit and they are able to play and read at night. Moyoni Juma, a standard III male student at Kandwi primary school joins her mother Mwanaisha Majaliwa to celebrate the first electricity light in their house. “This is good chance to concentrate on reading and doing my school home work,” the young says.
“We are very happy to be the first to have the electricity lights in this village. Costs incurred on kerosene will reduce,” said Mwanaisha with a smile to express her happiness for the light as neighbours look on. Houses in Kandwi villages have started to benefit from electricity from solar power, the project targeting to make sure that all households without power in Kandwi and Matemwe villages use solar energy. The impact of the women’s knowledge is felt beyond their village of Kendwa, and nearby villages without electricity is asking the mechanic women to extend their services to other villages.
According to Ms Kathrin Legg, ‘Women Empowerment project in Zanzibar’ coordinator, the women technicians in Kandwi will use the same technology to electrify other villages without electricity earmarked for the project such Matemwe. Legg is working with Ms Meagan Carnahan- project manager. She said that replacing kerosene lamps and firewood burning with solar electricity reduces carbon emissions, protects trees, and increases productivity.
The villagers started to benefit solar electricity in July this year, and the women says that they do not get financial benefit from the project yet, but they are satisfied that the knowledge they got from India is helping people. “We hope to benefit financially in future, because the villagers have started to contribute monthly to support the project,” said Fatma Juma.