Rural folks cherish access to solar electricity

04Sep 2019
Jenifer Gilla
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Rural folks cherish access to solar electricity

FORTY-five kilometers from Korogwe town of Tanga region lies Mpale Village, a two-hour ride on a bodaboda through a dusty road. The village’s people do not know anything about national grid electricity supplied by Rural Energy Agency (REA).

In this indigenous community lives Mahmud Athumani , a carpenter by trade and uses a modern timber machine for his work.

With a happy face and enthusiasm Mahmud explains his successful work thanks to presence of off-grid solar energy. He often gives directions on how to use solar devices to his assistants after acquiring the system in November last year from, a company known as Ensol.

“The cost of this machine is Shs.430,000, I was given the solar system as a loan and I am paying in instalments,” says Mahamud who pointed out that since he started using the device, efficiency has increased as now completes customers’ work which has also increased his income unlike before when he used manual equipment.

“I thank God now I finish customers’ orders on time. The machine I have now, works three times faster than the manual one,” he says noting that as a result his earnings have more than doubled to Sh.50, 000 per day from 20, 000.

Mahamudu is not the only beneficiary of the solar project that was set up by the Ensol village in 2017. There are a total of 156 residents benefiting, with neighboring villages such as Mali,Tewe and Kwemanoro, with access to solar electricity.

Bashiru Fenyang’e says used selling motorcycles and bicycles only, but now uses a special electrical device, filling flat tyres and charging villagers mobile phones for Sh.200 each. This has increased his customers from the average of three to 10 now daily. Bashiruhas now earns on average Sh.225,000 per month by filling flat tyres and another Sh.60,000 from charging his customers’ phones.

The solar project has also encouraged tax compliance in rural areas for local governments as has been testified by Mpale Ward Executive Officer, Augustine Mganga who says last year they collected a total of Sh.1, 702,895,040 in taxes, a record for the first time.

Challenge?

As a Swahili saying goes, every good thing has its bad side of the story. Although availability of solar energy has been a blessing to many, some villagers are complaining about the cost of the system being high as one needs to pay Shs.11,000 per month in instalments to acquire it hence people are requesting REA to influence suppliers so that the price is lowered. Yushid Saidi says the Shs.11,000 per month payments is very high because he only uses it for lighting.

“It would be better if we were to pay the same as REA electricity tariffs because the solar energy price is too high for us,” Saidi lamented.

Some of the villagers however hold a different opinion because they can manage to pay the monthly bill as it also means efficiency.

“As for me, I think the cost is affordable, because I pay for what I use in my business,” says Mahmud.

Responding to the cost of electricity, Prosper Magari, Project Director from Ensol, says that they supplied off-grid electricity to village in order to reduce consumption costs and make the resource affordable.

“We investigated the village before and found that the lowest consumer was paying on average Sh.30, 000 per month to get energy from traditional sources such as charcoal, paraffin,” Magari said noting that the Sh.11,000 that Ensol charges per month is quite low due to the fact they use it unlimitedly.

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