BEMBA SOLAR PROJECT COMPLETE AND SET FOR COMMISSIONING SOON
The Bemba mini grid solar system, in Matabeleland North’s Tsholotsho district is complete and the project is set commissioning soon as beneficiaries are now enjoying electricity.
The 60 kW Bemba solar project, about 70 km south of Tsholotsho administrative centre in Matabeleland North province is the first of its kind to be undertaken by the Rural Electrification Fund since 2002.
Planning and Technology Director, Eng Cliff Nhandara said that all the 27 households were connected and the beneficiaries were enjoying electricity through the use of their gadgets like radio, television and stoves.
“We have now switched on electricity and the community is enjoying” he said.
Eng Nhandara said that in addition to households, the Bemba Rural Health Centre, the primary school and the business centre were also connected.
To capacitate the Bemba electricity beneficiaries, the Department of Agritex in partnership with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) cleared an area stretching for about two hectares to enable them to embark on irrigation farming and REF provided electricity to the pump.
In addition to electrifying the pump, REF installed a 10 000 litre tank for water storage for the irrigation as well as providing piped water to the cattle drinking trough. The chairperson of the Bemba Electrification Committee, welcomed the initiative taken by REF to provide electricity in the formally marginalized community.
“As Bemba community, we are blessed with the coming of electricity and you have transformed our lives with this solar plant,” he said.
“We are now set to start irrigation and we are also happy that our livestock have access to water,” he added.
While beneficiaries of mini-grid solar systems were enjoying free energy mainly for lighting, cell phone charging and entertainment, the enhanced Bemba solar project produces electricity for both domestic and commercial purposes and consumers are required to pay.
“We have two payment systems for our consumers that is the purchase of a vouchers and payment using one’s cellphone,” said Eng Nhandara.
Consumers of electricity produced by the mini grid solar system are expected to use appliances like stoves while businessmen may operate some machinery at the business centre like a grinding mill.
REF Chief Executive, Eng Mashamba once visited the project to acquaint himself with the progress and was impressed by the level of work exhibited by members of the community who were engaged to help in building the plant.
“This is your project and it will benefit you,” said Eng Mashamba making reference to members of the community recruited to take up construction work.
From Bemba in Tsholotho, the Planning and Technology Department is moving to other seven provinces of the country to build similar mini grid solar systems as REF is geared towards providing access to energy to people who live in the rural areas of Zimbabwe by 2030.