July 27, 2017

Solar energy comes to the rescue of jazz musician

Filed under: Arts,Feature,Renewable Energy — Nhaudzenyu @ 11:58 am
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By Nhau Mangirazi

Twenty-two year  old Moses Munatsa is an upcoming jazz musician based in Caledonia Phase 10 about 20 kilometres east of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

“It used to be a challenge as I had to travel into town or visit relatives in Mabvuku where there is electricity to do my recordings over the phone. To date, I have done over 50 songs (that are) yet to be recorded officially.  I normally use my smartphone for that and the battery does not last long,” he says.

As is the case with  several youths and women resettled in Ward 25 Caledonia in Harare East, Munatsa faced challenges in accessing better facilities including electricity.

However, he now smiles in the comfort of their three-roomed house where he is recording his songs with ease and without thinking of transport fares into the city centre or visiting relatives to access electricity.

Caledonia currently faces an identity crisis with Harare East Member of Parliament Terrence Mukupe claiming it is within his jurisdiction while the local councillor Dereck Malifundi, reports to Goromonzi Rural District Council within Goromonzi South Constituency represented by Member of Parliament Petronella Kagonye.

“We currently do not have electricity here but we are using small solar powered panels to access radio (signals) as well as charging our phones. With that, I am recording my music on my phone regularly without any challenges,” he says.

Those resettled in Caledonia since 2000, have not benefited from the electrification programme.

‘We have seen the poles and wires that were installed but nothing has been done to bring power into our homes. We are getting  … alternative (energy) through small solar panels that we use as clean energy for lights, radio and charging our phones,” said a local teacher.

Thirty-three year old Gladys Banda of Phase 3, admits that lack of electricity has been a challenge for many people here.

“The majority of us had no homes of our own in the city centre. We needed a roof over our heads and we hoped that electricity would soon be connected in our area,” says Banda, a mother of three.

Councilor Malifundi agrees the ward is still developing and faces many challenges in the form of roads, clinics and schools, among others.

‘We hope things will move according to our plans. We are aware of the electricity challenges, but better days are coming,” he said without shedding much light on future plans.

Meanwhile, Kagonye admits the ward faces numerous challenges since it emerged as an unplanned settlement. The ward started off with nearly 5,000 stands in 2000. The figure has since risen to 54,000 stands and an estimated population of 100 000.

‘There has never been infrastructure provision including that of water and electricity. We have a high concentration of people … including a co-operative of the physically challenged with more than 250 members.

“As a result, women suffer more as fuel wood is no longer readily accessible. Generally, use of solar powered small panels has been the solution in most homes for lighting and charging mobile phones,” she said.

Kagonye said the community should embrace renewable energy alternatives such as solar and biogas.  This would be a better solution than having to wait to be connected to the national grid which is already struggling to service connected areas.

Munyaradzi Kaundikiza, an environmentalist, said energy is the key input in the socio-economic growth of communities and the nation at large. He said there is a close link between availability of energy and the growth of a nation.


Firewood smoke kills

By Nhau Mangirazi

HURUNGWE–  Without energy, small and medium enterprises cannot function at maximum capacity. Without energy, industry cannot survive. Without energy, women and girls will continue to spend long hours looking for fuel sources, and will not have jobs – United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, Director General, Kandeh K. Yumkella April 2013.

When Yumkella made these remarks he had many of the rural women worldwide in mind, but the Zimbabwean scenario also fits into this situation.

This is the reality gripping most women and girls in both rural and urban areas due to lack of alternative clean renewable energy such as solar, hydro or biogas which forces them to rely on firewood as a source of energy.

For  granny Chiedza Mapanga who is asthmatic, deep chesty coughs that keep her awake at night and wreck her chest even when laughing, shortness of breath among other related signs, life has been ‘normal’ as a woman living in a rural area and surviving on firewood for energy.

For the past 30 years, Mapanga, who has been battling this health problem without any signs of recovery, says she has a duty as a ”mother and grandmother” taking care of her family that includes a 22-year old daughter and five grandchildren left behind by her eldest son who died a few years ago.

She coughs deeply as she blows into the fire to lighten the rather dark grass thatched hut in Mayamba outpost village under headman Chawora and Chief Chundu, 85 kilometres north of Karoi town in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West Province.

As granny Mapanga looks up to welcome her visitors, her watery eyes tells a story of how she has suffered in the three decades she has been holed here as a communal farmer using firewood as a source of energy for both cooking and lighting during the night.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, asthma is ranked at 21 among the top 50 causes of death in Zimbabwe where HIV and Aids leads.

The World Health Organisation says air pollution, second-hand tobacco smoke and indoor mould and dampness make asthma more severe in children, elderly persons and people with compromised immune systems.

”In households without access to basic services, such as safe water and sanitation, or that are smoky due to the use of unclean fuels, such as coal or dung, children are at an increased risk of diarrhoea and pneumonia,” says the report released in March this year.

It further states: ‘‘Harmful exposures can start in the mother’s womb and increase the risk of premature birth. Additionally, when infants and pre-schoolers are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke they have an increased risk of pneumonia in childhood, and a lifelong increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma. Exposure to air pollution may also increase their lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.”

WHO adds that every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under five years globally.

She is among several thousands of rural Zimbabwean women who have seen clean renewable energy eluding them since independence. Instead they carry the burden of health complications.

Her homestead situated about 10 kilometres from Mayamba business centre in Hurungwe, together with the majority of villagers in that area, relies on firewood as the only source of energy.  Only a few use small solar panels to charge batteries for radios and lights.

This is one business centre that was not on the cards of the government sponsored Rural Electrification Agency programme that was initiated at Chitindiva business centre about 25 kilometres away.

Mapanga says although she cannot afford medication for her condition, she still has to fend for her grandchildren.

‘‘I have endured these hard times with this asthmatic condition. Women must be strong against all odds,’’ she says her face contorting with the pain she has endured.

She is a silent victim of indoor pollution, killing millions of women and girls globally.

According to the International Institute of Sustainable Development, IISD, report in 2013, illnesses from indoor pollution result in deaths of more women and children annually than HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition combined.

The World Health Organisation, WHO says 4.3 million people die every year from exposure to household air pollution.

‘‘Of the estimated two million annual deaths attributed to indoor air pollution generated by fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal and dung, 85% are women and children who die from cancer, acute respiratory infections and lung disease,’’ says the report.

Wellington Madumira of Zero Regional office says there is need to capacitate the rural populace in renewable energy use. ‘‘It is sensible that we must have sustainable energy as it props our livelihoods at family and the community at large. It further boosts businesses to grow and create jobs thereby securing a viable economy,’’ says Madumira.

According to the Ministry of Energy, the main sources of energy used in Zimbabwe are coal, fuel wood, electricity, petroleum fuels and renewable energy.

Blessing Jonga, the Principal Energy Development Officer in the Ministry of Energy says Government is promoting clean and sustainable energy that does not pollute the environment and is not a health threat.

He added that the Ministry is advocating for use of domestic biogas digester systems to provide energy for cooking, lighting and refrigeration, among other uses.

”There are institutional biogas programmes targeting institutions like boarding schools and hospitals for cooking energy as well as efficient wood stoves to construct this technology that uses less wood and directs smoke outside, leaving the kitchen clean’’ says Jonga.

He says that they are also promoting portable tsotso (twigs) stoves, a technology that uses less firewood, produces less smoke and enables communities to preserve trees.

However, the real challenge still remains that of  providing clean and modern energy to the remaining 67 percent of the country’s 13 million lives in the rural areas, according to the 2012 national Census.

Until then, for granny  Mapanga, renewable energy remains pie in the sky. As the case with many women and children among the country’s rural populace, she is being slowly smoked to death.

Windmill boreholes change lives for Hurungwe community

By Nhau Mangirazi

Forty-six year old Reverend Agnes Chida does not regret being transferred from Harare to the rural outskirts of Hurungwe in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West province in 2014.

Rev Chida is married to Rev Shepard Chida and both serve under the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. They have twin sets of children aged 13 and 19. They live at Chivakanenyama about 60 kilometres West of Karoi.

‘We are enjoying a good life as we are assured of clean water anytime of the day as long as there is wind. Water is readily available and life is simple for us. We have an all-year irrigation facility for our garden, maize field and chicken run,’’ she said beaming with pride.

About 100 meters from their homestead, is a windmill borehole that was installed in 1996 by the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.  Nearly 200 households are benefitting from the windmill borehole.

Livestock is also benefitting from the available water trench.

As an alternative source of clean energy, the windmill borehole has proved that it can sustain the livelihoods of communities through access to clean water for domestic use and irrigation among other needs.

The windmill borehole which is situated a few meters from the main tarred road linking Magunje and Zvipani under Headman Matawu is a source of inspiration for communities benefiting from renewable energy here.

It captures the visitor’s eye as it is visible from a distance. “Even tourists going to either Nyaminyami or Gokwe, pass through here and get water. No one is charged for the water as water is a God-given natural resource,” added Rev Agnes.

The borehole is used by children from the local primary and secondary schools, the local church and the community at large.

Chivakanenyama Primary School is one of the oldest schools in Hurungwe built by missionaries in 1952 while a secondary school was built in 1966. Currently, there are more than 700 pupils at the primary school and more than 300 attending the secondary school.

Rev Chida explained that the windmill borehole pumps water into two 5,000- litre tanks and another 10,000-litre tank.

‘We are mostly likely to have green maize in August as we are preparing the fields,’ said Rev Agnes Chida. They have an orchard of mangoes, bananas and guava trees.

“The water table is good for us as a community as it is 40 meters deep … so we are assured of water even during drought years,” her husband said.

Joyce Zata, 53, of Ruzende village about three kilometres away, is happy they have access to clean water.

“Unlike in some areas where the water is contaminated as people share it with animals, this windmill borehole has been a good solution to us,” said Zata.

Another villager, Theresa Mapara of Murimbika village agreed that it is good for them as women as they do their laundry chores at the borehole without any challenges.

Headman Chigango said although he is happy with windmill borehole, he is, however, worried by cases of vandalism committed by some members of the community.

‘Our main challenge is that some members of the community have vandalised the windmill of late and … this affects everyone,’’ said Chigango.

Rev Agnes Chida admitted that this was the biggest challenge they are facing.

‘Not everyone understands community ownership in its true sense and we have to endure such challenges. At one time, someone stripped it of some bolts and we had to seek donations to have it repaired,” she said.

Hurungwe Rural District Ward 25 councillor, under whom the area falls, Lovemore Mushawashi, said the availability of water to the communities proves that the some of the rural folk may achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal Number 6.

The Goal calls for policymakers to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

“We may be facing challenges about water and sanitation in our communities but the windmill borehole has proven that it can be easily achieved through natural resources and clean energy,” said Mushawashi in an interview.


March 1, 2017

Renewable energy scribes get a boost

Filed under: Enviroment,Renewable Energy — Nhaudzenyu @ 3:54 pm

By Nhau Mangirazi

HARARE- Environment journalists specializing on renewable energy stand to benefit from regional and international partnership to enhance good reportage of the sector affecting communities.
This follows a financial injection and partnership between Media Institute of Southern Africa, Misa- Zimbabwe chapter. Hivos, ZERO, Practical Action and others through capacity building of journalists from all provinces in the capital this week.

Misa-Zimbabwe programs coordinator Nyasha Nyakunu told journalists attending a training on renewable energy that the media must play a critical role in promoting the Bill of rights according to the new constitution that revolves around livelihoods of communities.
‘’It is imperative that as media we must remain as the watch dog of the society and therefore must be in a position to inform the public. Renewable energy can easily be tackled through unpacking the Bill of rights as the benchmark. We must probe stories on renewable energy on the right to shelter, clean water, health, education, among others and its impact on the society.’’ Nyakunu said.

He added that Misa Zimbabwe is working with other partners who have pulled resources to capacitate journalists and increase coverage on renewable energy as well as regional training of those who could have done better in telling a Zimbabwean story on renewable energy.

‘We hope that some will benefit in another international training later in the year in Europe by some of you who are committed on this cause’ he added.

According to ZERO website, it works in the area of universal access to energy. and civil society coordinator of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in Zimbabwe.

”The goal is to increase universal energy access through the provision of modern energy for cooking, promoting rural electrification and advocating for pro-poor energy policies that expand access to people living in slums” says the website.

It adds that out of the 12.5 million people in Zimbabwe, more than 70 percent live in rural communities without access to modern energy.
”Only 19 percent of the majority of the country population has access to electricity. The household energy sector remains the largest consumer of energy due high dependence on traditional biomass.

The journalists drawn from both national and provincial newspapers were trained by seasoned environment journalist and media specialist Johnson Siamachira who urged media to be pro active on environment stories.

”This training is just a take off point, you must be able to go to the communities and help on how renewable energy is making strides in helping communities or challenges being faced’ said Siamachira.

Practical Action is also implementing projects on renewable energy in Zimbabwe and Malawi through Rural Sustainable Energy Development in Zimbabwe, RUSED, operating in two districts.

The project is contributing towards the overall objective which seeks to increase access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the rural irrigation communities in two districts of Zimbabwe.

The project promotes the use of micro-hydro and solar energy by rural people around the Ruti and Himalaya irrigation schemes in Zimbabwe.

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